Close this search box.
Close this search box.
Close this search box.
blog hero


Get the latest in print & creative arts business updates, trends, and inspiration.

Building Me 2.0 An Iterative: User-Centered New Year’s Resolution

Some of the greatest advances in the technology industry weren’t actually technologies at all. They were ideologies.

Brand new approaches to software development like Agile and Lean Startup have been used to build incredible products in recent history and their principles have even found their way into the mission statements of some of the most successful companies.

In short, the core idea connecting these new frameworks is that product development should be done quickly, iteratively, responsively, and most importantly, with users at top of mind.

With so much talk about how technology is becoming more human-like, it’s hard not to consider the reverse. How can we be more like the technology products we use?


How can we develop ourselves the way we develop technology products?

Imagine for one moment that you are a product. Are you relentlessly focused on your users’ needs (your friends, family, coworkers, etc.)? Are you moving fast (e.g. setting short term goals and acting on them)?

For me, the answer to these questions has been a resounding, “Ummmm… well… I did… you know…”

Somewhere between failed New Year’s resolutions and the comfort in complacency, systematic self-improvement just has not happened in a meaningful way for me.

Today, I am excited to announce the launch of Me 2.0. Over the course of 2015, I will be taking an iterative, user-centered approach to self-improvement inspired by modern software development frameworks.

Here’s how it will work:

The most important thing for any company is to understand its users. Who are they? What did they eat for breakfast? What makes them tick? Most importantly, what are their needs?

Since a product is just a thing that people derive some sort of value from through its features and functionality, we can talk about human beings much in the same way.

Every human being has users.

It starts with you: You are your own user. Features like health or hobbies directly impact your experience of yourself. A physically fit you is a better product than a not physically fit you because you feel better and live longer. A you that can play guitar is a better product than a you that cannot play guitar because you have more self-worth and can relieve stress easier. If you cannot serve your own needs (to be happy or healthy) then you have failed to serve your most important user.

Your family and friends also have needs as users of you. For them, the family man is usually a better product than the workaholic — attentiveness and warmth over absenteeism. Features like cooking abilities or encyclopedic knowledge of football could also be massive assets to members of this user group. Since we derive most of our happiness (even raison d’être) from our loved ones, this is an extremely important demographic to understand and build features for.

You are probably already tracking your improvements at work. While most companies have formalized objective setting and review cycles, it is important to remember the users here: Your direct and peripheral coworkers, your managers, and your professional contacts. Making sales numbers is a great feature, but knowing how to automate processes that make your managers’ lives easier is on another level.

To guide my efforts in creating Me 2.0, I broke each of these user groups down into subgroups, and compiled a list of general needs for each. For example, friends included my roommates and girlfriend, among others. My roommates want me to be clean, fun, etc., while my girlfriend wants me to be gentlemanly, attentive, etc.

Great products are born out of quick sprints, not marathons. They have clear and measurable objectives, not generic high-level goals.

Considering this, each user need identified should be broken out into a set of micro-projects (sprints) that are:

  1. Short: They are measured in two week increments never stretching beyond a month.
  2. Easily achievable: They have a low bar and are hard not to complete
  3. Empirically driven: They are measurable and clear.

Each of sprint is aimed at:

  • Attacking a small component of a larger objective: If the larger objective is to be a better spouse, then you might have a sprint where you plan a romantic getaway.
  • Building momentum through incremental advancements toward a larger objective: If the larger objective is to go to the gym regularly, then you might try a sprint where you only go once every other week and slowly increase this number in subsequent sprints.
  • Or testing out something completely new and learning from it: Maybe you never liked reading Shakespeare in school but you want to give him another try. You would do a sprint where you read the synopses of five Shakespeare plays, and decide after if you want to do another sprint to read five more, start reading a play, or give up on Shakespeare.

Here’s a personal example: I’m always striving to be a better musician — this is for “myself” as the user because I derive a lot of personal satisfaction from making music.

A traditional New Years resolution for this category might be, “play more music this year” or even, “play guitar three times a week this year.” Naturally, this is incredibly difficult to achieve because it’s not time locked, it’s hard to do anything consistently for a year — I would inevitably give up a month or two in, and not learn anything new.

With the new approach, I broke down the general need to “be a better musician” into several sprints like:

  • Play guitar or piano for five minutes every day for two weeks
  • Write and record one song every two weeks for one month
  • Record four videos of me playing popular songs for Instagram over two weeks

Throughout 2015, I will be choosing sprints like these to complete on an ad hoc basis, responding to changing user needs and results from prior sprints. You can see a list of all of my sprints and track my progress as I complete them and add more here.

I believe in the power of rapid, iterative, user-centered frameworks for building better products, as they continue to prove themselves over andover again. It is my hope that this year, these same frameworks will prove to be just as helpful in building better human beings.

This article was originally published by Brett Goldstein on Medium

2024 Student
Scholarship Application

To complete your application please provide the referring teachers information in the form below. The referring teacher’s email must be associated with an accredited Northern California college.

2024 Student
Scholarship Application

Sign Up to Start Receiving Chronicles

Contact me for the next session

Contact me about the next Print 101 class


Get a Free eBook on using Ancilliary Benefits to Retain Employees