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Don't Let Doing Research Stop You from Being A Researcher

User Research leader Roberta Dombrowski shares how the energy we bring to our research practice can be just as important as the work itself.

As research leaders, one of our most precious resources is our energy. When we move throughout our day, it’s easy to disconnect from our true essence and get caught up with doing. Checking boxes, vs really doing the work.

Doing vs being in user research

As a trained coach, one of my favorite frameworks to use with leaders is presented by Gawain in her book, Creative Visualization. In her book, Gawain introduces 2 modes: doing and being. Doing mode is where we spend the majority of our time, especially at work.

If we apply this to our work as researchers, it’s all about the visible goals and tasks that encompass our work.  Setting goals, pushing research roadmaps forward, facilitating studies, analyzing data. When we are in doing mode we are often thinking about work we need to get done or analyzing what has just happened.

Table comparing doing research to being a researcher
Source: Adapted from Learn Mindfully’s Leadership Energy Audit

On the other hand, we spend much less time focusing on the being.  Being means being focused on the present moment and experiencing things directly. It means slowing down to check in on the energy we bring to our work. It means setting intentions for a study, but learning to dance in the moment when an unexpected challenge arises.

While this may sound a bit “free spirited” at first glance, especially in the world of research. Deliberately focusing on the energy you bring to your work will make you better at what you do.

Both modes are useful. When I work with leaders, they often talk about where they want to go and what they want to do. Only to find when they get there and take a step back, they don’t actually enjoy what they're doing. This is over-relying on doing mode and disconnecting from their sense of being or the unique essence and presence they bring to their work.

When we constantly push and rush to complete tasks, it gives us a sense of control but it can lead to burnout, fatigue, and overwork.

I encourage research leaders to just simply BE present. When you’re present you can connect with your values and examine your work from different perspectives. You can investigate what you enjoy, why, and the type of leader you are being. You may also find the work you’re doing is also better work.

Shifting gears

So the next time you’re working on a study, try tuning into what is.  It means slowing down to ask ourselves: Who am I being right now? How am I showing up? How is this serving me?

You might just be surprised at what you uncover.

Helpful resources

Roberta Dombrowski
VP, User Research

Roberta Dombrowski is a (former) VP, UXR at User Interviews. In her free time, Roberta is a Career Coach and Mindfulness teacher through Learn Mindfully.

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