Designing Your Work Life Book Summary - Designing Your Work Life Book explained in key points
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Designing Your Work Life summary

Bill Burnett, Dave Evans

How to Thrive and Change and Find Happiness at Work

4.2 (197 ratings)
23 mins

Brief summary

Designing Your Work Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans is a self-help book that guides readers on how to achieve a meaningful work-life balance. It shares clear insights with practical strategies to help you create a career that works for you.

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    Designing Your Work Life
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    Wherever you are in your career is good enough – for now.

    Do you remember those childhood car trips spent chorusing “Are we there yet?” from the back seat? As an adult, you probably don’t do that anymore – at least, not in the car. But when it comes to your career, it’s possible you’re still caught up in an “Are we there yet?” mindset.

    That’s because, when you're not achieving your ambitions, it’s easy to feel unhappy in your work life. What’s more, focusing on where you’re headed is a big distraction because it stops you from making meaningful changes to the job you currently have.

    The key message is: Wherever you are in your career is good enough – for now.

    Modern society has conditioned us to want more of everything, whether that’s more money or more status. Unfortunately, the thing with more is, you can never get enough of it. 

    For psychologists, it fits with something they call the hedonic treadmill. That’s when the pleasure of getting what you want leads you to repeat the same behavior over and over again. The chemical high in your brain fades, but you want more, so round you go. You’re stuck on a treadmill. 

    Burnett and Evans call the type of person struggling on this treadmill a “non-life designer.” That’s someone who wants more from her career: a bigger office, a better salary, or more authority, but she doesn’t examine why she wants these things. To get out of this relentless cycle, the authors suggest you should become a “life-designer.” That’s someone who lives with intention and knows that wherever she is right now is good enough. 

    This ability to accept that your job is “good enough for now” uses one of the most effective tools in the designer’s toolkit: the reframe. But note that this isn’t about relabelling your situation. You can’t just grit your teeth and tell yourself your job is fine. To reframe your mindset, you must restructure your point of view. That means noticing what’s good about your current role by focusing on what works well and the tasks you enjoy. If this doesn’t come naturally, try keeping a journal. 

    By reframing your perspective, you’ll be able to see your situation more clearly. You may spot ways to redesign your job so that it works better for you. Or you may discover something that’s lacking in your work life. And once you know that, you can start to address the gap.

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    What is Designing Your Work Life about?

    Designing Your Work Life (2020), the handbook from design gurus Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, teaches readers how to apply the principles of good design to their careers. Rather than change jobs, Burnett and Evans advocate for redesigning the job you already have to create the work life of your dreams.

    Designing Your Work Life Review

    Designing Your Work Life (2021) is a practical guide for individuals seeking to redefine their relationship with work and find fulfillment in their careers. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Offers thought-provoking insights and actionable strategies to help individuals discover their true passions and align them with their work.
    • Combines real-life stories, case studies, and exercises that make the book relatable and applicable to a variety of professional situations.
    • Focuses on design thinking principles to help readers approach their work lives with creativity, innovation, and a fresh perspective.

    Who should read Designing Your Work Life?

    • Uninspired nine-to-fivers looking for a total job overhaul
    • Frustrated freelancers ready for their business to thrive
    • Anyone secretly dreaming of a dramatic career change

    About the Author

    Bill Burnett is executive director of Stanford University’s Design Program and previously worked as a designer at Apple. Dave Evans is co-director of the Stanford Design Lab and co-founder of entertainment design firm Electronic Arts. Burnett and Evans are also co-authors of the New York Times number-one best-seller, Designing Your Life.

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    Designing Your Work Life FAQs 

    What is the main message of Designing Your Work Life?

    The main message of Designing Your Work Life is that you have the power to create a fulfilling and meaningful career.

    How long does it take to read Designing Your Work Life?

    The reading time for Designing Your Work Life varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Designing Your Work Life a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Designing Your Work Life is worth reading as it provides valuable insights and practical strategies for designing a fulfilling work life.

    Who is the author of Designing Your Work Life?

    The authors of Designing Your Work Life are Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.

    What to read after Designing Your Work Life?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Designing Your Work Life, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
    • Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky
    • The Long View by Brian Fetherstonhaugh
    • The Squiggly Career by Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis
    • The Best Place to Work by Ron Friedman
    • What Color Is Your Parachute? 2021 by Richard N. Bolles with Katharine Brooks
    • Big Potential by Shawn Achor
    • Eat Sleep Work Repeat by Bruce Daisley
    • The Joy of Work by Bruce Daisley
    • Pivot by Jenny Blake