Inside a lot of organizations, what passes for UX or Design work is really just order-taking. Everybody is overloaded; they all have their heads down just trying to get what’s in front of them done. Or get the fires that seem to keep popping up put out. So there isn’t a whole lot of time to zoom out and say, “wait a minute…is this actually what we should be doing?”

Your bosses (and their bosses) often don’t want to hear about that research we really should be doing, or why the work really takes a lot longer than they’re giving you. Or why what’s being designed and built is a beautiful example of what NOT to do to create a great user experience. Your arguments fall on deaf ears, every request for time to do it right is answered with a firm “NO.”

Now…you’re not gonna like this next part. 

If this sounds familiar, it’s as much your fault as it is theirs.

A big part of the reason you’re encountering opposition is because of your insistence that the work you do MUST take X amount of time. 

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen UX folks or designers throw up their hands and say, “Well, we can’t do anything the right way. It’s just not possible here.” 

So I say, “why isn’t that possible?” 

“Well, because we need two weeks of user research and they just absolutely will not agree to it.”

Which is my cue to ask:”OK, will they agree to an hour or two?” 

I get blank stares.

Listen to me here: just because you’re not getting exactly what you asked for, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything. And if the response to every bit of strategic work or research you propose is “no,” it’s highly likely that your ask is too big to begin with. 

Not because it doesn’t need to be done — but because it’s simply not gonna fly in the reality you currently work within. You don’t have to like that, but you do need to accept it and move on to things that are worth your time and talent and emotion and effort.

Everybody’s stressed. Everybody’s busy. 

Project Managers in particular only care about two things: on schedule and within budget. And no matter what you think of that, here’s the deal: it’s their fucking job to only care about those two things. It’s why they exist. It’s what they are paid to do. 

And quite often, there’s a metaphorical sword hanging over their heads, promising bad things if those goals aren’t met.

Get real — and think small.

So first, accept the reality that other people in the organization are on the hook for different things than you are. So their intent is different than yours, by design. 

Accept that.

Second, ask for less. Ask for one day. Ask for two hours. Here’s why: if you just say, “I need an hour or two to do some research,” you’re a lot more likely to get it than if you ask for two weeks.

Whatever that looks like, whether it’s actually interfacing with users or not, I don’t care

If you asked for that short time and you get it, there’s a really solid chance that you’ll uncover something that in a lot of cases will buy you more time. When you bring that problem or potential game-changing opportunity to people, you may hear, “WOW…OK, we had no idea that was happening. We should probably address this.” I’ve seen that play out more times than I can count across the last 20+ years of my career.

If you’ve got 15 minutes, you’ve got the time.

Look, I’ve never met a single person or a team that wasn’t grossly overworked. I get that. But mark my words: there is always 15 minutes. There is always an opportunity to pause for 15 minutes before you do that solid day’s or week’s worth of work…to just think about it. 

For me, I have to get a pen in my hand and write on paper, or think out loud on a whiteboard. I have to physically remove myself from my desk and my devices. And what I have always found is that pausing and exploring your thoughts for 15 minutes changes the way you think. 

Which also changes your knee-jerk reaction to what you thought you were supposed to be doing.

It prompts you to think, “well, instead of arguing about the two weeks of user interviews I want, I’m going to take 30 minutes to lo-fi prototype this idea, this smaller piece of functionality and share it with the team and the Product Manager and see where it goes. If it works, I’ll keep going down that path.” 

There’s always time for that. The problem is we don’t allow ourselves to take it, because we’re convinced we don’t have the time.

It’s just not true.

Get real, think small and ask for less. You might be very surprised at just how much changes. Not just in the work itself or even the outcome — but in your relationships with the people around you.

I founded the UX 365 Academy to cover all the never-discussed situations, soft skills and situational knowledge and tools you need to succeed in your career, particularly when the road is rough.

Whether you’re trying to land a UX job or are fighting for legitimacy and respect once you’ve got it, I can help you tackle your toughest challenges and sharpen your skills. ​Check it out — and consider what a small investment in YOU can do for your career​.