I feel very fortunate for the things I have: a wonderful family, an ambitious and driven work team, supportive friends, and exciting opportunities all around my home in New York City. I make an effort to keep my work-life balance at a very comfortable level so that I’m able to enjoy all areas of my life. Needless to say, my grass is pretty green (metaphorically speaking).
But at a time earlier in my career, I felt the grass may be greener on the other side. I needed to re-instill the sense of fulfilment with my work. I wanted to help people and felt unsure if my work was making a big enough impact.
Whenever my eyes begin to wander to the grass on the “other side,” I take a step back and reframe. I challenge myself to think of things that drive, excite and delight me in my everyday life. These three things (drive, excitement and delight) serve as the “water” keeping my grass green. They are personal, and they help you set and achieve goals, measure success and maintain satisfaction.
I’m a firm believer that you can design your dream job, but once you’re in the day-to-day of doing what you love, sometimes you lose focus. Drive is about keeping your eye on the prize and not only acknowledging what you want to accomplish five to 10 years from now but rather why you want to accomplish it. Remind yourself of those reasons. If you’re anything like me, helping people is a huge motivational factor and drives me day in and day out.
I started teaching at Parsons to impact the future generation of designers and creative leaders. There are classes that run late and other late nights grading, but I’m adding value to my students’ education and that drives me through any lulls that may come. This same commitment is given to my employees, friends and especially my family. I think about all of them anytime I want to remind myself why I do what I do.
We all have days (sometimes weeks) when we’re heads down, getting stuff done, making sure that we’re moving forward. Keeping in mind the things that excite you is a way to reflect on the fruits of your labor. A trip to Europe, a weekend trip to the mountains or even just a fun night out. Reflect on whatever last gave you a feeling of excitement and thrill to help you put in perspective on just how green your grass is. All work and no play is how you burn yourself out and the key to productivity is to balance your life and add excitement when/where you can.
Motivate Design’s holiday party in December was by far the best one yet, and it’s an annual event that I always get excited for. By taking a second to look back at some pictures (we have a shared folder on Dropbox), I quickly am reminded how awesome the people I work with are. This moment of reflection helps remind me to plan events with my friends and family. Also, I am immediately refocused on whatever I’m working on because I have something exciting in the pipeline.
A simple smile is sometimes all it takes to turn a bad day into a good one. Can you recall the last time you were delighted by someone or something? Thinking back to those moments where something—no matter how big or small—brought a smile to your face can help bring back feelings of tranquility and joy. It’s easy to get caught up in someone else’s life and say it would be much easier to live a day in their shoes. But, this kind of mindset won’t help you accomplish anything. Maintaining your own satisfaction and thinking back to moments of happiness, even if only briefly, will help you reframe your everyday life.
I recently came home to my two kids playing, and as they wrapped up and prepared for bed, they asked if they could make up their bedtime story. I was confused for a second. The story began with, “There was once a group of animals who were all playing in the playground…” I was delighted and spent 15 minutes helping them craft their own tale. I was so happily surprised by this moment that I couldn’t help but smile. I’ll be using this wonderful memory to make sure I stay focused.
Keeping your grass green is all about self-reflection and understanding. It’s not meant to take up more than a minute or two out of your day and can do wonders for those who have back-to-back meetings or find themselves endlessly staring into laptops. Remembering the people that drive you, the places that have exited you and the moments that have brought you delight will keep you refreshed and ready to take on your world.
Mona is the CEO and founder of Motivate Design, a UX design, research and staffing shop based in New York City. Motivate Design helps clients discover customer needs and design solutions that meet those needs. Through her experience, Mona developed the Reframework, an 8-step process that any company can use. She recently released an Amazon best-seller, Reframe: Shift the Way You Work, Innovate, and Think, that demonstrates how this process can help companies innovate and design simple, beautiful experiences. In addition to helping clients and other Fortune 500 companies feel unstuck, Mona is also a teacher at Parsons the New School for Design.