The 7 UX Practices That Will Improve Your Business (and Life)

In this post, I share with you a 7-step framework, borrowed from my work in User Experience Design, for getting unstuck and making progress toward your goals. Learn to reduce friction, to get more done, and to be more effective. Click through to get the 7 steps!

As I was reading through emails and notifications this morning, (not an ideal way to start the day but I am slowly creating a better morning routine) I realized that I’m attracted to buying things like books, courses, and planners because simply the act of buying them feels like progress.

It feels like, “Yes! Now, if I buy this, I’ll finally be able to do [insert topic] more efficiently.” But buying doesn’t equal taking action on those topics. And, the harsh reality is that the more I buy, the more overwhelming it all seems.

Now, instead of just writing this for you, it feels like I have to finish Regina’s #BlogDirty30 course or fill out Maya’s Smart Content Planner before I’ll have the requisite knowledge and skills to write this effectively. Those products will show me how to do this better and so I should wait to do this until I finished going through them.

You see how this mindset is just a vicious cycle where you never get anything done?

Because you already know how to do it. You know how to write blog posts, to share your work on social media, to write an email to a friend (or 100 friends). The truth is that you already know what you need to do but you’re procrastinating. And, in doing so, you’ve told yourself that you need this one perfect product to do what you’ve been procrastinating on this whole time.

In most cases, you already have everything you need to do the work and you just need to do it. Think about why you’re really feeling compelled to buy this next thing and what you’ll do differently once you buy it (if anything).

I have this tendency, for example, to go through online courses by watching all the videos at first and downloading the workbooks to a folder on my computer. Then I tell myself that I’ll go back through and do the workbooks. But I rarely do. And, if I do go back into the workbooks, I often don’t remember everything from the lesson and I feel the need to re-watch it. So this flawed strategy is actually wasting my time instead of making me more efficient.

I’ve realized that I can’t buy progress (unless I hire someone to do things for me). And that’s why I’ve decided to only buy programs that either have a live group / accountability component or are screencast tutorials that I work through while watching (as opposed to watching a presentation and then having to do a worksheet). My new program The Foolproof Website Formula™ fulfills both of these criteria.

Shameless plug aside, the point here is that you need to look at where you’re getting stuck. Think about why you’re feeling compelled to buy something for your business and decided if that’s really going to move you forward.

To that end, I want to share with you a 7-step framework borrowed from my work in user experience design for getting unstuck and moving forward. Yes, as a UX designer, I use these practices to improve my clients’ websites. But you don’t need to be optimizing your site conversions to benefit from these methods.

Step 1: Define your (business) objective

*I write 'business' in parenthesis because these steps could be used for any aspect of your life that you're feeling stuck on.

But the idea here is to start with your objective (your end goal) and use that as a lens for filtering out the essential few from the trivial many (in the words of Greg McKeown). If you're not clear on your objective then you won't know when you've succeeded so don't skip this step! Your objective can be a huge goal, like increasing your subscriber list to 1000 over the next 30 days, or it can be something smaller, like publishing a blog post every Wednesday. I recommend starting with something smaller ;)

After defining your objective or end goal, it's time to brain dump all of your ideas in a notebook.

Step 2: Gather your resources

Alright, now that you've defined your objective, it's time to gather your resources. What this usually means for me is to brain dump all my ideas, all the related courses I'm enrolled in, all the relevant books I have, and any existing content that I've created that might fit. Just writing it all out. You could do this directly on Post-It notes or on a sheet of paper.

Next, create an Affinity Diagram. Don’t let the name intimidate you, it’s just a method of placing related items together in groups. You start by writing each item from your brain dump on an individual Post-It note (sometimes I self-edit here and only write the super relevant ideas from my initial list).

Now start posting your notes to a clean surface (a coffee table or a blank wall both work swimmingly). As you go to post each note, look at the previous note(s) you’ve posted and see if this one could fit into a grouping with one of the others. Once all notes are placed and grouped, go through and name each group category. This allows you to see patterns emerge or buckets or whatever you want to call these groups.

Write your tasks or steps on individual post-it notes and then group those together in an affinity diagram.

Step 3: Map it out

Grab your pen and paper, it's time for some sketching! The idea here is to write down (or map out) all the steps between where you are now and where you will be when you meet your objective. To help you out, answer these questions:

  • Where do you want to be (your objective)?
  • How will you get there?
  • What will you do first?
  • Then what will you do?
  • Then what? (keep repeating this until you've exhausted all of your to-dos).

*You can get as granular and detailed as you want with these BUT if zooming into the tiny details totally stresses you out, then don't worry. Hit the most important waypoints and keep moving forward.

Now that you've sketched your map, I want you to identify any potential friction points - any areas where you anticipate yourself getting stuck. Just mark them or make note of them.

Map out a flow chart of all the steps you need to take.

Step 4: Plan to reduce friction

Alright, now that you've identified your potential sticking points, you can make a plan to reduce the friction.

First, I want you to think about Why this step could cause friction. Is it because it's too large? If so, try breaking it into smaller chunks. Is it because it doesn't feel absolutely essential to obtaining your objective? If so, try eliminating it.

If the task is already small enough and IS necessary to obtaining your objective, then what are some other ways you can reduce friction? Can you set a reminder or calendar alert? Can you get an accountability buddy? Can you change your environment to a space where you feel more motivated to do the work? Can you integrate this task into an activity that you love or create reward system for doing this?

Sometimes the hardest part is getting ourselves to the chair. Do everything you can to reduce the friction and get yourself to that metaphorical chair.

Step 5: Test it

The only thing left to do is test your map. Walk through all the steps that you laid out and actually do the work. After all the work you've put into the planning, this step should feel a lot easier.

Step 6: Review What Happened

Once you finish, (this may take an hour, a day, or several weeks depending on your objective) take a moment to review. Did you reach your goal? What worked? What didn’t work? What steps can you remove? What steps do you need to add? What might you try differently next time?

Step 7: Iterate

Make those small tweaks and try it again. Keep an open mind and remember this is about experimenting until we find what works. But even then, you'll want to review and refine your process every once and awhile.

Are you planning or planting?

I recently watched Lara Casey give a talk on goal setting and she said we have to “plant an intentional life instead of just planning one.” We’ve got to stop living on our to-do lists and in our Asana dashboard. Get out of the planning phase and start taking small consistent actions.

Use these 7 steps to map out a plan, act on it, review what happened, refine, and do it again. My word of the year is “Sow” because I want to remind myself to consistently take those baby steps and to sow the seeds in my business and life that will blossom into something enormously beautiful.

Share this post with a friend that could use some help going from “planning” to “planting”. And let me know in the comments below, what's your word of the year?