I want to share the single most important thing I learned in 2019.
To put it briefly, I learned to ask myself what energizes me and to use the answer to that question as a guide. This is a really simple idea, but one that I've found to be powerful.
Sometimes I have a hard time with all the noise in the world these days. It feels like millions of articles, videos, and tweets of people telling me what to do and how to behave are just a few clicks away. Sometimes that information firehose can be helpful. I've found so much inspiration and so many learnings because of how open the internet and the people on it are today. At the same time, when I think about what I want to do and how I want to grow an influx of information can be just as overwhelming as it is helpful.
To give you an idea of how my brain spins, the voice inside my head often sounds something like this:
What Energizes You?
April 29, 2020
"I want to be a better designer. I also want to be a manager one day. But I should become a better designer first. I should learn brand design. That means I should get better at graphic design and illustration. I should learn how to draw first. I'm working on search at work right now though. Maybe I should start a blog about what makes for top notch search UX. That doesn't sound like it makes money. How do I make money? Should I learn more about economics? Maybe I should learn how to connect to the Stripe API. I should keep learning Rails before I do that. No Rails is a pain. I should learn React. I'm hungry. Maybe I should make dumplings. Lets find 30 recipes for dumplings. Why are recipe sites so bad? Let's design a better recipe site. This sounds like it's going to take a while. Lets go on a run..."
Are you overwhelmed yet?
Sometimes it feels like these kinds of ideas spin in my head all day. I've come to accept that I have a stupid monkey brain, but this is how I learned to reign it in.
What I learned is to stop and ask myself: "Is what I'm doing right now energizing for me?". If the answer is yes, then I know I should continue doing that thing. If it isn't, then I know I need to re-consider it. I need to either re-frame what I'm spending my time on or I need to find a way to stop spending time on it.
It isn't always that easy, of course. When I'm doing something that I can say a loud yes to, I still find myself dissecting what I really enjoy about that activity. Still, this is a much healthier way to start assessing myself and my actions.
Even when it comes to responsibilities that I don't enjoy (or even down right despise), asking myself this question leads me to a better understanding of why skirting that responsibility might be the wrong approach.
As I'm writing this article it's hard for me to fully put into words how helpful this question, of what does or does not energize me, has been. I ask myself this question on an almost daily basis and use the ensuing thought process to guide decisions both big and small. It's a simple idea that helps me get away from what I should be doing and towards what I actually want to accomplish. That small shift is one that I'm incredibly proud of.