Book Note: Designing Your Life

When I think of design, I always go straight to Apple. It has revolutionize the tech world with products that work efficiently and look amazing.

What if my life could be like Apple products? Work well, with minimal bugs, and look and feel good at the same time? Well that’s where Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans can help.

Burnett and Evans, faculty with the Design Program at Stanford, have spent the last few years helping students with the Designing Your Life class. They’ve since refined the exercises and now offer their method in a book for everyone not able to take classes at Stanford.

Content Overview

If you are like me, you are not using your college degree. And you may have experienced more than 1 career pivot in the years since you graduated. You’re not alone. The authors of Designing Your Life point out that only 27 percent of college grads have career related to their major.

With this in mind, Burnett and Evans help us reframe how we view our life. We first begin with understanding where we are, in love, work, health, and play. While we may find our starting point in all four of these areas, the authors focus the rest of the book on work.  Given the number of folks who report dissatisfaction with their jobs, that’s a safe direction to go.

After finding our starting point, Designing Your Life walks you through defining your compass, wayfinding, and getting unstuck, all with a designer’s perspective. And what great designer would be where they are without prototyping.

This is the key to designing your life. Being curious, testing your ideas, getting feedback, and applying what you learned to your next prototype. With this method, the authors remind us that life is not an outcome, but a constant process filled with possibilities and curiosity.

The book concludes with tips on designing your dream job, failure-proof your life, and the best steps for always choosing happiness.


I can’t think of many who would not benefit from this book. Even if you are happy in your career, the shift from the standard why of thinking to the design mentality could be the a-ha you are looking for in other areas of your life. The flow of the book builds a solid foundation, adding layer upon meaningful layer.

What I find especially helpful in the resource page available on the website. This page offers journal pages for many of the exercises included in the book, as well as discussion questions.

At this very moment, I can’t judge how effective the method is. I am doing each exercise one at a time. I completed the Life Design Assessment, which was very eye-opening, as was defining my Workview and Lifeview. I’m now working through the Good Time Journal, and have committed to completely at least three weeks before moving on to the next exercise. But even with just these three exercises complete, I feel like the book was worth the read.

I checked the book out from the library, but feel it would be better to purchase if you want to truly use the exercises and get the most from the book.

Favorite Quotes

“A well-designed life is a life that is generative – it is constantly creative, productive, changing, evolving, and there is always the possibility of surprise.”

‘The reframe for the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is this: “Who or what do you want to grow into?”‘

“Our problems become our story, and we can all get stuck in our stories.”

“Work is fun when you are actually leaning into your strengths and are deeply engaged and energized by what you’re doing.”

“We all contain enough energy and talents and interests to live many different types of lives, all of which could be authentic and interesting and productive.”

“Happiness is letting go of what you don’t need.”

“We design our lives in collaboration and connection with others.”