Well, it’s here. The much-anticipated new year.

We don’t know how 2022 will unfold but my hope is that we don’t put too much pressure on it – or on ourselves.

I used to set big, bold, exciting goals in January, seduced by the blind optimism that a new year brings. But by December, those goals had become a dead weight around my heart.

So I gave up that sh*t.

I still start each new year with a vision but it’s a vision based on understanding what works for me and not based on a one-size fits all cultural norm. Instead, I use the design cycle.

It’s about thinking like an engineer.

Empathise. Define. Ideate. Prototype. Test. 

There are five stages to the design cycle approach used by engineers, as well as entrepreneurs and innovators, to find new ways to solve problems. 

The design cycle was pioneered in the 1950s by engineering professor John Arnold. He foresaw that an increasing rate of change in the world would require engineers to think creatively to solve problems that were yet to emerge.

In the future, he reasoned, there would no longer be the ‘right’ way to solve problems, but multiple ways depending on the needs of the users.

The user is at the heart of the design cycle.

  • Empathise with your users.
  • Define their problem, and your insights.
  • Ideate by creating ideas for innovative solutions.
  • Prototype to start creating solutions.
  • Test solutions.

The design cycle is non-linear. You can start anywhere and end up anywhere, then start again.

It is an endless cycle behind many of the products and services we all use (think iPhone, Google search, GE appliances).

If it’s good enough for Google…

Rather than setting new year’s resolutions, I use the design cycle.

Empathise by reading my journal for the year just finished. Without my journal, I would find it hard to see progress. I started 2021 considering a few different options after leaving a full-time job. By mid-year I’d narrowed it to two priorities:

1). Freelance feature writing and,

2). Coaching women to improve their content through better writing habits and greater confidence.

To finally articulate what I really wanted to do was a huge leap for me and helped with the next step.

Define by thinking about the kind of life I want, and specifically, what I want to be doing, as well as the legacy I want to leave. It never changes significantly – it always revolves around writing and teaching/coaching. 

Ideate plans for progress. I’ll continue to send weekly emails to build better writing habits (Thursday Love) and monthly emails with encouragement to use your voice (Sunday Letter). I’ll run more Content Writing Groups and create resources to help with good habits and beneficial thinking. 

Prototype and test by just doing it, over and over. Changing, tweaking, adapting. Abandoning what’s not working and starting with something new. No guilt or shame involved. 🥰

My version of the design cycle takes less time to do than to read about. It’s really just musing and pondering, the sort of things you can do gazing out the window. That’s my kind of multi-tasking.

I do like the design cycle, and that a left-brain thinker came up with a framework for creative thinking.

Here’s to designing our own 2022 🥂

Could you use help with your content?

Email sherene@sherenestrahan.com
 I’d love to hear from you.

Image by Cristian Escobar on Unsplash