Designing Your Life How to Build a Well-Lived Joyful Life

Book Review: Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett

About the author:

Bill Burnett has a master’s degree in product design from Stanford University, where he now teaches and heads the Design Program. With over thirty years of experience, he is an expert who still draws, designs and builds things every day. Dave Evans also teaches at Stanford as part of the Product Design Program. After a varied career path that took him from marine biology to mechanical engineering, he worked at Apple and eventually cofounded Electronic Arts, where he still offers his services as a consultant.

About the book:

Designing Your Life (2016) is about taking control of your life by creating a plan that’ll do away with an uninspired nine-to-five routine and usher in a career that you really love. You’ll find advice and exercises that will point you toward your true calling, along with progressive ideas that challenge the limitations of traditional career counseling.

My Highlights:

Too many people are stuck in a rut, but you can design your way to a better life.

A well-designed life is one that allows you to be creative, happy and fulfilled. It helps you to avoid feeling stuck and unproductive while providing you with a sense of freedom – freedom to change and grow, in both your personal and professional life – no matter how old you are.Everything around you is designed: your house or apartment, the chair you sit on and the computers and devices you use. So why not design your life, too?

Take stock of the four key elements of life and then identify where you have problems.

…. assess four critical areas in your life: health, work, play and love.Health includes your emotional, mental and physical health.Work includes both paid and volunteer jobs.Play is any activity done simply for the fun of it.And love applies to partners, children, friends and pets.The goal is to find a healthy balance among all four of these areas, and the precise balance is totally up to you.

…. assume a beginner’s mind and start asking the questions a complete novice would. A beginner’s mind is a great perspective to have whenever you’re facing a life-changing decision, such as which career to choose.

Let your workview and lifeview guide you to a career that you’ll find meaningful and satisfying.

When entering the great unknown of your future, you can use a compass as well.In this case, the two guiding poles of your life are your workview and your lifeview.Your workview is your own philosophy on work and what it means to you.

…. your lifeview is your philosophy on life, meaning your personal values and perspectives on how it should be lived.

When you start designing your life, reflect on these two areas and write down at least 250 words to accurately describe both.

Now, the goal is to find a coherent balance between the beliefs in your lifeview and the kind of job your workview suggests; if you can manage this balance, your compass will be correctly aligned.

Log the times and activities that keep you engaged, energetic or in a state of flow.

To live a joyful life, it’s important to know what engages and disengages you. And for this, a Good Time Journal can be an invaluable tool. This is a place to write down your experiences, in both good times and bad, and doing so will help you understand what brings joy to your life. Throughout each day, wherever you are, write down how engaged and focused you feel, also noting if you’re unhappy or bored. Also, jot down what you were doing at the time.One thing to make special note of is when you experience flow.

Every day involves both physical and mental work, but some activities take a bigger toll than others. And some activities can even raise your energy levels. Use your Good Time Journal to keep track of which activities drain your energy and which ones help to sustain it.

Understanding how to stay energized and make the most of your day will be useful information for designing your life.

Get unstuck by generating new ideas with a mind map.

This is how mind mapping works. It allows you to open your mind to new ideas that you otherwise might not have thought of.

Give yourself options and alternatives by designing multiple lives and parallel paths.

… think ahead and plan, or design, many possible lives for yourself – not just one.

… charting three different paths, which the author calls odyssey plans. Life is an odyssey, with a variety of possible routes and circumstances, so it’s wise to give yourself at least three options. But don’t rank them from worst to best. Instead, have an open mind and look at them as three equal, and equally possible, plans.

Final summary

The key message in this book:You can be the designer of your own life. First, focus on your current situation, and the balance of work, health, play and love in your life. Then understand your workview and lifeview. Next, do some mind mapping to figure out three solid options of where you want to go.

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