Season 3 Episode 10 "Beyond the Bootcamp" is now available. Listen now.
April 27, 2023

From overthinking to deep thinking with Kim Witten

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#035 - Nirish Shakya talks to his coach Kim Witten PhD. Kim shares her journey from working in the design industry in San Francisco to pursuing a PhD in sociolinguistics in the UK. Kim shares her insights on how to turn overthinking into a superpower by reframing it as curiosity. She emphasises the need to be curious and non-judgmental when experiencing negative emotions, and to try to befriend them. They also discuss the importance of focusing on the essentials to do less but do them better and celebrating wins, no matter how small they are. Tune in to this enriching conversation about managing anxiety, focusing on values, and achieving success.

In this episode:

  • Importance of slowing down, noticing, and accepting one's feelings and bodily sensations
  • Treating oneself as the user of one's own life
  • Noticing patterns and using tools like affinity mapping to make sense of them
  • Giving ourselves grace in the process
  • and much more!


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Listen to Kim’s podcast

How to go from Overthinking to Expert Thinking by Kim Witten

Four Signs That Separate Deep Thinkers From Over Thinkers by Jano le Roux

Use this UX Method in Your Next Challenging Conversation

Show credits

Illustrations by Isa Vicente

Music by Brad Porter

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Kim Witten: [00:00:00] I, um, I'm a lifelong overthinker. I've been overthinking everything for at least four decades. And, uh, as I gained more tools, knowledge, skills, I started to realize that this maybe wasn't such a bad thing that it was a skillset that I was just applying perhaps very poorly, maybe on the wrong topics. What if we could take all of that skill but actually apply it for a better pursuit, something that serves you better. Uh, so from that perspective, overthinkers and deep thinkers, it's the same skillset, just applied differently. 

Nirish Shakya: That's my coach, Kim Whitten. Kim has a background in design and UX research and a PhD in social linguistics. Kim helps overwhelmed and overthinking creative professionals gain more clarity in their thinking. In this episode, Kim [00:01:00] shares her own story of being a lifelong overthinker and how she learned to transform the anxiety of overthinking into the curiosity of deep thinking. We'll discuss the importance of focusing on the essentials and celebrating wins. We'll also talk about how you can use your values to redefine what success means to you and help manage your anxiety.

Shivaun: This is the Design Feeling Podcast with your host Nirish Shakya. 

Nirish Shakya: Hello. My name is Nirish Shakya and I'm a human-centered designer, educator and coach. And this is a podcast for well, human-centered designers and innovators and problem solvers who tend to forget the human within the. The conversations you'll hear will help you increase your self-awareness and [00:02:00] creative confidence so that you can make the impact that gives you the joy and meaning that you seek.

Let's get started. 

So, Kim, you, um, are a coach, um, a transformational coach. Uh, you also have a PhD in sociolinguistics. 

Kim Witten: Yes, 

Nirish Shakya: Um, that's like a bit of a 

tongue twist for 


Kim Witten: is 

Nirish Shakya: Um, 

Kim Witten: for everyone. 

Nirish Shakya: so I've been practicing. Um, and you also have a background in ux, uh, ux UX research specifically, and I saw from your, um, LinkedIn profile that you've also worked as a web developer. 

Kim Witten: I have. 

Nirish Shakya: Uh, but your story started like, you know, all the way back when you are a graphic 


Kim Witten: Yes. Yeah, I have worn many hats, many 

careers. yeah, 

Nirish Shakya: you've got a very eclectic and diverse, um, pathway that you've taken all the way up till up till [00:03:00] now. So, Kim, tell me, tell me how it all started for you. What's your origin story?

Kim Witten: Ooh, yes. Um, so yeah, I did start with graphic design because I loved design, I loved art, uh, imagery, communicating messages, texts, and um, I started working at ad agencies in the San Francisco Bay area. Uh, I was doing a lot of really technical work, so I was doing things like mechanicals, which are really technical. Designs that have many layers. So if you're gonna do, let's say a complex box shape and you need to know how the image wraps around and all of the different layers and colors and just really get the de, the details and specifics. But then, yeah, then I started getting, getting into art direction and that just kind of expanded and expanded.

I was into language and linguistics and decided I wanted to go get my undergraduate degree and [00:04:00] studied linguistics at uc, Berkeley. Uh, and then I realized I was gonna go back into art, uh, art direction and design and all of that. But I realized I loved linguistics so much, I wanted to keep going with that.

So I ended up chasing that all the way up to the PhD level and moving to the uk. Throughout that I was kind of dabbling in all of these different interests and I've always been a person of many interests just kind of jumping around. And it was only until the last few years that I learned this phrase called multi-passionate creative, which is a person who kind of has many interests, can maybe get skilled at many different things and is probably has many projects on the go and lots of different creative pursuits.

And throughout all of that, I didn't realize that there was a common thread. And I struggled, especially in the last maybe five to 10 years, when I would have a new [00:05:00] interest, pursue a new career job skill, and trying to make sense of my resume or cv depending on where I was, you know, what connected these things.

And I didn't realize that there actually was. A connection or a common thread. And it was only until recently that I realized what that common thread was. Uh, and in some form I'd always been doing this form of coaching in anything that I was doing and using my interest and love of language and communication and design or aesthetics.

And that was true for just about everything I did except maybe for web development, which I really tried. And I think that's also why web development was a bit of a struggle for me. Uh, I, I couldn't, I couldn't quite make that work. And, and I, I was an incredibly valuable experience and I'm so glad that I learned the things I did, and I got to work with web developers and, [00:06:00] and learn about the, the stack.

All of that so amazing. But for me personally, it was kind of outside of what I was trying to, um, understand about myself and what kind of impact I wanted to make in the world. So that was an important piece, if not kind of, uh, part of the, the more threaded elements of these different roles. So yeah, I guess to sum that up, there was always this interest in people and communication.

And even when I was doing UX research and I was interviewing people, uh, For the purpose of helping improve products and services. I was asking people these questions and I was way more interested in what motivated them personally, rather than what may motivated them maybe to use the product in this way or to purchase this thing or to make this decision.

And I realized that I could actually cut the [00:07:00] products and services out of the equation and just go to the people directly and figure out what motivates them, how to improve, how I can help them improve their user journey, their they, they themselves as the brand or the person that's trying to achieve something.


that just

thank you. Yeah. That just clicked everything together. And because I'd had so many different roles, I now had these different frameworks or. Tools or skill sets that I could draw upon and bring into this work. And because of that, because of coaching, I get to work with a lot of different people and almost get to dabble in their interests or learn about how they go about things.

So it's like I get to ex experience these other careers through the lens of coaching or, or sometimes consulting or supporting them in, in what they're doing, which I find endlessly fun because then it [00:08:00] keeps it fresh and, and you know, kind of, there's some fundamentals that are universal to what people are trying to do, but then there's some specifics about the industry or field that they're in and how they're doing it.

Nirish Shakya: And that also lets you meet your own need for wanting to learn more about people's motivations, like personal motivations rather than, like you said, the motivation for them to use an external product or a service. So, What I really find fascinating about that is, um, um, how did you build that level of self-awareness where you are like, okay, so this whole design and ux um, industry has taught me to do things one thing for one purpose, which is around being user-centric so that they can then go on to use the products and services, which will in turn will go on to make more money for the business from that mindset into thinking, okay, so now, um, I'd rather focus my time and energy on helping the people themselves [00:09:00] rather than helping them use another product.

How, what did that transition look like for you from a self-awareness point of view?

Kim Witten: Yeah, I think the shortest, that's a great question. I think the shortest, most succinct way to put that would be I became the person that I needed when I was struggling about six, seven years ago. And, uh, and again with, with web web development, you know, I was sitting, I remember this moment that I was sitting in front of my monitor and I had all of the, the kit and the tools.

I had a really nice setup. The company I always worked, worked for was very generous, had a nice chair, a nice shiny monitor. Um, and it was a huge monitor and it was very glossy. And I remember one moment where I was sitting there looking at the screen and I was looking at code and it wasn't making sense to me for the million time.

And I was ha, you know, I could feel a migraine coming on for the million time. And I caught my own reflection [00:10:00] in the code. 

And it was just me in this shiny monitor with this furrowed brow and this look of confusion. And I just needed help. It was just such a struggle, and it was such a deep. Moment for me, uh, you know, a profound metaphor of like, I am really stuck and I got out of 

Nirish Shakya: Not just stuck at the code, but actually just stuck in

life in Korea. 

Kim Witten: Yeah. Yeah. And the code was super imposed, you know, on my face in this reflection, you know, it was looking right back at me. Right. Uh, you just couldn't get more like obvious to myself there was a problem here. And I got out of that the hard way and I struggled. And I, you know, it's so funny because you always hear when you act like you are not your user.

and and that's true. Except when you are, you know, [00:11:00] and I think that's where with coaching, and especially especially coaching, uh, people in the design product UX space, that there's this beautiful paradox in that. That you can and perhaps sometimes should use your own personal experience where it's relevant to do so.

Um, cuz that's the way out for you. Um, and so some of the things that I've learned I can offer to others I would never suggest, and this is a, a kind of a tenant of coaching, which, you know as well as you're, um, you know, exploring your coaching journey and getting your certification is like, you don't want to tell people what you think they should do or offer direct advice, but having those experiences does help you with empathy.

And, and sometimes people are just stuck. Sometimes people just need the answer. And the wisdom is knowing when that's gonna be useful for somebody is offering them, uh, [00:12:00] a, a suggestion or a perhaps a way of seeing versus, uh, encouraging them to see something their own way. But having had that experience of my own struggle, uh, really helped me. Empathize and kind of understand and decide my, what my purpose was and my calling, that this was a worthwhile pursuit, if I could save somebody else, the heartache and the struggle that I had. So I think that's one part of it. And then the other part of it, uh, just to keep this part really short, was when I studied linguistics, uh, and especially sociolinguistics.

I also had a moment, this was about 10, 15 years ago, where, um, I was at first using. Linguistics and getting all these tools to understand communication and to understand some of the communicative struggles in my own life and my own friends and family. And that really helped having that kind of academic grounding.

And then as I developed my own self-reflection, I could then apply those tools [00:13:00] outward and use them more broadly in, uh, analyzing data and communication and language out in the world. So I think those two pieces, the web developer experience and the linguistics experience came together to realize this is what I need to be doing, and this is how I can turn that self-reflection around into something that could help other people.

Nirish Shakya: Wow. I, I find that really powerful because, um, and I, I can definitely relate to the journey that you went through, uh, because. Um, I kind of went through a similar journey as well. Well, in fact, I, I also started my career, um, in coding. 


Kim Witten: Oh, I didn't 

Nirish Shakya: probably did it for a lot longer than I should have, uh, did it for like five years.

Um, after realizing this is not for me. And it was the same kind of exist existential crisis where I wasn't really enjoying what I was doing, and I didn't feel like that was a thing for me to do, uh, because, um, I enjoyed working with people a lot more at work with, with code and technology. [00:14:00] Um, and just didn't give me that energy.

And it was only when I went into UX that I started to realize, oh yeah, this is something that I actually really enjoyed doing. Talking to people, learning more about people and finding out what makes them tick and then helping them tick more. Um, So, Kim, from there onwards, um, you. Started focusing on, um, overthinking this notion of overthinking, and that's part of your proposition as a coach as well, to turn overthinkers into deep thinkers or strategic thinkers. 

Tell us about that journey in terms of how did you come up with that niche, that word, that target audience of over overthink.

Kim Witten: Yeah, I, um, I'm a lifelong overthinker. I've been overthinking everything for at least four decades. And, uh, You know, people growing up always tell me, oh, you, you think too much, or, this is [00:15:00] too deep, or, you know, I'm just getting lost in, in whatever. And, uh, and a lot of that was fueled my anxiety and I didn't realize that I was having anxiety and struggling with that in various ways, um, throughout my life. And as I gained more tools, knowledge, skills, I started to realize that this maybe wasn't such a bad thing that it was a skillset that I was just applying perhaps very poorly, maybe on the wrong topics. Every overthinker I know is somebody who. When fixated on a particular topic, can get really deeply focused. Most overthinkers I know can really take something apart and analyze something really deeply. They have a keen memory for rehashing and replaying a conversation or, um, noticing nuance about [00:16:00] certain aspects. You know, all of these things. Just, uh, collecting evidence, but maybe not the most supportive or helpful evidence, gathering data that supports whatever they might be ruminating on. What if we could take all of that skill but actually apply it for something, for a better pursuit, something that serves you better. Uh, so from that perspective, overthinkers and deep thinkers, it's the same skillset, just applied differently. I got this idea from, uh, a media article that I read by Jano le Roux, and he talked about how overthinkers are driven by anxiety, but deep thinkers are driven by curiosity.

Nirish Shakya: Hmm. So overthinkers are driven by anxiety. As in worry about what might or might not happen in the future, and then deep thinkers are happen, uh, um, driven by 

Kim Witten: curiosity Yeah. 

Nirish Shakya: as, as in the need to [00:17:00] learn about


Kim Witten: Or just being curious about something. And so if that's, if we take that premise as true and this is the exact same skillset, then the question becomes something like, how do we turn overthinking energy or anxiety into curiosity? And that's actually a very coaching style quest 

question. You know, that's, that's, something that I think has.

You know, if we can take the future focused anxiety and turn that into future focused curiosity, you know, that's, that's the difference between scarcity thinking, worrying about, I'm not gonna get enough. It's not gonna work. There isn't, you know, this isn't right into abundance thinking, what's possible here?

What could we do with this? What could this mean? Right? And then we could apply the skillset towards actually solving the problems. So how do we make that shift, right? [00:18:00] Then 

how do we go from, from overthinking into expert thinking 

or, or deep 

thinking, or any other form of more productive thinking. So if you have this, this mental energy like I do, I, I always think of it like, I, like I could work out my brain every day and I, I need to, I need to do some sort of creative pursuit or some sort of puzzle or some sort of thinking. If I don't, I just start. Spinning in circles, you know, and I don't, um, I don't sleep or whatever. I just need to work up my brain. And there's this great disparity, um, between working up my body and I do struggle with physical energy, but I know there's lots of people out there who are maybe the opposite or, or more balanced where they need to work out their body every day.

And if they don't, they, I don't know if you, cuz I know you, you're pretty physically active and do you experience that? Do you need to work out every day? I mean, I know I probably should, but,

Nirish Shakya: You know, some of the [00:19:00] work that you know I've done with you in terms of identifying my values, 

Kim Witten: yeah. 

Nirish Shakya: um, and health has come out to be my number one value at the moment,

and I can see why. Cuz I, I always prioritize, um, health over anything else. So that's why it's really important for me to, for example, go to the gym.

I meditate every morning and I realize, you know, I wasn't, I didn't know that because that was, because that was important to me. But when I did my values, um, test, um, health and in harmony did come up as my top two values, um, over success. Um, and, and what I realize is that those, if I spend time and energy on those values, it actually gives me more energy, which I can then spend more effectively and efficient.

Kim Witten: Yeah, I love that. Yeah. The, the idea that it gives you more energy. So, uh, and I, I relate [00:20:00] that to myself with the, the thinking. If I allow myself the space to really deeply think about something or to just get lost, go down this thinking, analyzing rabbit hole in this creative maybe puzzley way, then I actually get more.

Whereas if I'm doing that in maybe an anxiety driven way, it's just exhausting. 

And that was the, for decades, that was the challenge, is I, I was engaging in that behavior in a really unproductive, exhausting way rather than this re-energizing way. 

I mean, I still ruminate, there's still moments where things, you know, but I recognize the need for taking care of my health in that way that you, you describe as Well, it's a form of 

self-care for me 

to, to have that kind of mental play.

Nirish Shakya: Yeah. I just wanna quickly, um, go back to what, what you said [00:21:00] earlier around how, um, overthinkers are driven by anxiety and deep thinkers are driven by curiosity. Uh, ki that kind of reminded me of, um, this, uh, zen meditation technique that one of my friends taught me is the same friend who actually, uh, did the music for this podcast.

His name is Brad, Brad Porter. And in one of the sessions he taught us this, uh, technique where when you are observing yourself, again, adopt that curiosity mindset of what is this? So let's say you are, uh, experiencing, I dunno, a painful sensation. You ask, what is it? If you're experiencing a thought, you ask what? 

Kim Witten: Mm-hmm. 

Nirish Shakya: Rather than trying to be anxious about it, or rather than trying to avoid it or push it away or just ignore it, you again, like you said, adopt that curiosity mindset, wanting to learn more about it. 

Kim Witten: Yeah. 

Nirish Shakya: when we did that, it kind of made it appear less scary than it actually is [00:22:00] because you just wanted to learn more about arrive and be, um, engaged in it.

Kim Witten: Yeah, that's, uh, so many directions to go with this. The word that came up for me was this idea of befriending it. 

Like let's just befriend it. 

or get curious about it. Holding it really lightly, right? Like, what, what is this? What is this about? Where does this come from? So the, that negative feeling that you're feeling or whatever's coming up for you, what if it's just information? You know, what if the reaction is just information that your body's going, yeah, this is the response. You know? And from that perspective, we can do different things with it. You know, we can still feel it, it can still bother us, but 

Nirish Shakya: Yeah. 

Kim Witten: it's telling us something important.

Nirish Shakya: Hmm. And so often we don't take the time to listen to our own bodies. You know, it's, it's te giving you so much data, so much [00:23:00] information that we just fully ignore because we're so focused on the task at hand, this external task. And also because we measure our own productivity by the number of boxes we can tick at the end of the day, end of the week.

And if we don't, you know, tick all the boxes. Um, yeah. That is also another cause of increased anxiety because we feel like we haven't been good enough, we haven't done enough, we haven't made that perfect version of ourselves.

Kim Witten: There's expectation there. 

Nirish Shakya: Absolutely. And I think one of the things that I, that I learned from you was around how do you not just design your time, but also design your energy.

Um, so I think you, uh, basically got me to do like a time and energy tracker, which is basically tracking, um, how much, um, energy does a task, you know, has given me or tasks have given me over the last, you know, two weeks. And then trying to create some patterns around, uh, what kind of tasks give me more energy and what kind of tasks suck energy out [00:24:00] of me.

And doing that is helping me to predict my energy levels, um, over the upcoming week so that I can plan my day around it. So, for example, let's say I'm a meeting that I know is gonna suck a lot of energy out of me. Then I can basically put like, let's say 15 minutes before that meeting, or maybe 15.

After that meeting to either recharge my energy, um, or do do something that'll help me do that. Um, but before, if I, when I didn't have that awareness, I would just stack things back to back because I want to make use of every empty slot on my calendar without actually appreciating or being aware of the, how the energy will change.

And then at the end of the day, or at the end of the week, I'd be fully depleted because I have not managed my energy.

Kim Witten: Yeah. By having those buffers, it sounds like you're making even [00:25:00] better use of the time. 

Nirish Shakya: Hmm. 

Kim Witten: You know, and 

it's going back to what you were saying at the beginning of this, of, of, slowing down to notice what it feels like in your body as you head into this meeting or as you're done with the meeting, and maybe your energy reserves have been depleted somewhat.

And to just really notice that that's there and, you know, asking yourself, what is this? You know, what, what's going on here? 

Um, and just giving 

Nirish Shakya: that question. 

Kim Witten: Yeah. 

Nirish Shakya: I love that question you gave me last time. Uh, what do you notice at this very moment? And I think that's such a simple question, but it's also at the same time, very powerful question to really get back inside you and then really be mindful of what's, what's going on inside?

Because again, look out for that, that signal in, in the


Kim Witten: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And our bodies know they, it has information quicker than our brains can. Our minds can intellectualize things, 

and that is a hard [00:26:00] one for me to wrap my head around. That's been a lifelong struggle. And I'm on this, like, part of my learning that I'm still going on is to, to feel my feelings, to be in my body, to know what's going on, you know?

And, and just do that slowing down and notice what's showing up here. What Is 

this? Is there resistance? Is there tiredness? Uh, and to accept it as well and 

not try to judge or fight it. Uh, and when we get really good at that, because that happens quicker than we can maybe intellectualize things or have those thoughts, uh, we could almost reverse engineer.

You know, we can, we can have knowledge about things before our brain even kind of recognizes it, right? And we can go, oh, what am I feeling? Oh, I'm feeling this. Oh, I must, you know, this is, yeah, we can do a lot more with it. So I'm trying to, yeah, get more aware and, and cognizant of those, of those sorts of things and those simple short [00:27:00] questions, you know, what do I notice?

Always more powerful, I think, than a longer, more intellectual, technical question. That's the other thing I'm kinda working on just with myself and with others, is just ask the, the simple short questions. See what comes up, what do you notice? And if you know, what's that? 

Nirish Shakya: Hmm. 

Kim Witten: Those things, 

Nirish Shakya: And you know, I've, I've definitely noticed, especially in the design and tech industry that, um, that there is a lot of anxiety at the moment, you know, with the uncertainty. There's also a lot of, um, feelings of overwhelm among a lot of, designers, tech people, creatives in general.

Um, we, we do take on a lot more than we should. And, I, I myself take the blame as well in terms of trying to do more than I should. So if someone is in that situation where, they are feeling overwhelmed, they are overthinking, they are feeling anxious, what's the first step that they can take?[00:28:00]

Kim Witten: I think just slow down and, and, notice, you know, just that almost like a grounding. However that works for people, for some people to ground themselves is a very physical thing of, of putting the feet on the ground and or the hands on the table and just go, okay, this, um, I'm gonna try to be present in this moment and not resist it.

And for other people it might be, um, more intellectual because they, the of myself in included in this is they don't yet have the, the, maybe, uh, it's not their go-to to actually do that physical grounding, but to get there through some sort of intellectual path. But, um, yeah, feeling that overwhelm, slowing down and, and noticing and trying to accept and, and then eventually befriend and that, that noticing, it [00:29:00] always comes in stages. So the first, I think, When you're, when you're in a place where you're looking for for help and you're trying to more actively work on it, and you say, yes, I have overwhelm, I'm gonna try to do something about this.

That noticing is always gonna be retroactive at first. It's gonna be looking back on that situation and going, yeah, I got really, really overwhelmed there. You know, what, what, happened, what was going on? And it's always a retroactive noticing at, at first. And then as you notice, accept, start understanding what the triggers were, what the reaction was, all of that.

Just getting this better understanding about how, um, you know, what, what happened there. Then the noticing starts shifting. And you start being able to notice while it's happening, Ooh, I'm really overwhelmed in this moment. This is, [00:30:00] um, this is the thing that's happening. It's going on right now. Uh, and you might not be able to do anything about it, but you can then get better at noticing it, you know, almost having the retro on it, but also you're aware of it.

Like, oh, I'm, I'm feeling overwhelmed in this moment, or, I'm not showing up the way I want to cause of blah, blah, blah, blah. And then the, I, I guess the third phase is to then you can start being proactive about that. Saying, I can see I've got a very busy calendar today. I didn't sleep well. Um, this person stresses me out.

I'm likely to get overwhelmed. What can I do about it? 


Nirish Shakya: Wow. I, I, I love that because, um, yeah, I, I never, um, did that throughout most of my design career because I was just, um, I guess being guided. By my calendar instead of guiding the [00:31:00] calendar myself. Um, you know, for example, you would meet up with your team, have a kickoff with a client, whatever that is.

You have your project planned, do your sprints, um, whatever that is. And you're just, just running through the motions 

Kim Witten: Mm-hmm. 

Nirish Shakya: and never stopping topping to reflect on, um, how it has impacted your energy, um, your wellbeing. Um, and if it has, you just feel something's not right, but you never stop to kind of listen to it and really analyze what, what is this, what, what is, what is causing this?

And then the same patterns repeat over and over again. You just think that's normal. You just normalize the anxiety and overwhelm cause you just think that's just part of being a professional, part of being a designer, part of climbing that corporate ladder. 

But maybe it isn't normal.

Kim Witten: Yeah. Or maybe our reactions to it aren't serving us as well. Like [00:32:00] I was, when I was stuck in these loops, I was so reactive and I thought these things were happening to me. I thought people were causing these reactions and I just couldn't believe the audacity of, of people right to overwhelm me. So, and then my response to the overwhelm, cuz I.

Really centered or grounded or understanding what was happening to my energy. You know, I was having kind of reactive meltdowns and, you know, in a professional way, but, you know, and I would get feedback that I didn't enjoy. Um, and, uh, they weren't wrong, 

you know, but, um, yeah, 

it, it was a real struggle. 

Nirish Shakya: And this is where that notion of. Treating yourself as the user can be so powerful. Um, especially when it comes to your own life. You, you are the user of your own life. And that's one of the things that I've been talking about in [00:33:00] this pod, on this podcast around, um, who, who is that human behind the human centered designer?

And a lot of times we, we don't, um, try to find that app. And I love this notion of, um, being retroactive first to, um, see what's going on, what, what patterns are there. And that's exactly what we do in a human center design process. We, for example, ask our users about their past experience of solving a problem or getting to their years ago.

And from that data, we trend tend to extrapolate insight as to what's going on. What are they not 

seeing and how we can, um, fill in some of those gaps through open new opportunities. And then I love how then that gives us the agency to be more mindful of maybe similar patterns in the present moment. And now in some doing the retroactively [00:34:00] you're doing it in the moment as it happens, 

Kim Witten: Mm-hmm. 

Nirish Shakya: and still you might not be able to change, um, the, the future.

But, uh, even that awareness of how it's going gives you so much more, um, agency over how you feel in the moment. 

And then I love how then you, you are taking that into the future in terms of, okay, how do we then use this new insight and knowledge about how I'm feeling now to then, uh, proactively design the future in terms of, okay, I've got all these things coming up over the next quarter or month or week.

How can I make sure that I manage my time and energy to, um, maybe not repeat the same patterns or maybe create new patterns that I actually 

want in my life? 

Kim Witten: Yeah. And you did that. I remember when we hopped on a 30 minute call, um, a few weeks back, the, the question that was was on your [00:35:00] mind was like, what? How am I gonna manage these next four hours? You know what, I've got all these things this week. You know, what am I gonna do about it? You were trying to be proactive and you were in that space.

You were ready to, to do that because you had 

already done the work too of, of managing your energy and, and doing the. And, and seeing how that week was already feeling for you, so you were 

already recognizing it in the moment as well, and so 

Nirish Shakya: Wow. I never actually thought of it like that.

Kim Witten: what, what does that make you think? Then what, what comes up for you?

Nirish Shakya: Thing is, a lot of our behaviors are so automatic, we don't, you know, sit down and reflect on them. 

Kim Witten: Mm-hmm. 

Nirish Shakya: But what you just made me realize was that, oh yeah, that is part of my growth, that now I have proactively taken that action and I am in control of a lot of my life situation and, and where I lead myself [00:36:00] into.

And I, I, I do remember that half an hour with you was like, so Im impactful. And one of the things that I think I took out of it was, don't be afraid to ask for help. And asking for help does take a lot of courage and it, it is a strength rather than a weakness. Um, and also one of the tips you gave me in that session was, um, what would you do if you only had half an hour?

Right? Um, how do you severely restrict the time you give yourself? Time box it in a way that you focus on the essentials rather than trying to create this perfect, you know, idea of the solution in your head.

And I remember like that self-imposed constraint really helped me kind of get into a state of flow for the rest of that afternoon.

And I got more than I, you know, anticipated done, 

Kim Witten: Mm-hmm. 

Nirish Shakya: I thought was really, really


Kim Witten: Yeah, that that creativity creates constraints idea [00:37:00]

of you were able to be more creative. Because going into it, it was this, this thought that was something like, gosh, this work that I have to do, it's gonna take me at least five hours and I only have four hours. Well, what if you only wanted it to take half an hour, or you only gave yourself half an hour and you had to really strip back?

What, what you could do, like let's say you only had half an hour cuz something comes up or whatever, you know, what would you do then? You know, what is the essence of this task that you're trying to do, and how could you do it in the, the quickest, most MVP way possible? Right?

Nirish Shakya: Hmm. Yeah. And before what I would've done was I would just jump straight into the task and then I would spend more time trying to perfect it, and I would basically push my other tasks down the calendar and I would have to stay [00:38:00] back. Past the hour, even late into the evening, trying to finish other tasks that I didn't get to do.

And that would actually eat up my time for, you know, my own wellbeing, time with my wife, time other. Otherwise, I would've spent on maybe going to the gym or just doing like, you know, working my hobbies. Um, and that would again, have a, a negative impact on, on the rest of the week because I would be feeling that's taking that sound sense of overwhelm onto the next day and the next day and just has like this domino effect on the week.

Kim Witten: Yeah. This knock on of, that's where it's really hard to separate the, you know, this idea of like work life, you know, that these are separate things is I know well, you carry yourself with you everywhere you go. And so these, these things have impact even if only because of the, You know that you have left over after [00:39:00] you've done the task or you've, you've done the work for the day.

It's, you know, there's different ways to anticipate or manage that that can give you some, some rails or some constraints that you need so that you can conserve your energy, um, or that things just don't take longer than you want them to. I'm a big believer of like, how can I, this is the question I've been asking myself for a, a few years now, is like, how can I do less or do this in the simplest, most elegant, um, shortest, quickest way possible?

And by doing less, by constraining myself in this way, it actually creates more value. And that, that's a challenging question. I'm still finding lots of new ways to answer it. You can get really creative and be like, ah, actually that's an example of that. You know, that's fun. But, um, sometimes it's more challenging than not.

Nirish Shakya: I think that's the whole concept of, um, being an essentialist, like how do [00:40:00] we focus on the bare essentials and do less, but do

them better? 

Kim Witten: Yeah, and I, I had a real, um, kind of wake up call with that last year when, um, my partner became incredibly ill and it reframed everything that we were doing for about, uh, well eight months now and. I went into bare minimum mode where I basically, I wanted to deliver as much. I wanted to meet all my stakeholders needs.

With me being the number one, the first stakeholder. Um, you know, how can I meet my needs and do everything I need to do, but also say no to everything and just operate in bare minimum mode. And, and really so much because when you have an extreme event, um, like an illness or, or something like, you know, a life event like that, it really makes it easy to start saying no to stuff.

So a lot of stuff just naturally, um, fell away. A lot of stuff I just had to reckon with and say no to. But then [00:41:00] once I got into a groove of like, okay, I wanna meet a certain minimum level of quality here, I wanna be able to deliver, what do I need to do to a, take care of myself, take care of others, and meet my stakeholders needs, you know, all the people that I'm working with, um, to the bare minimum level.

And then once I kind of got used to that and things started improving, um, in my personal life and, and all of that, like I realized, oh, this is actually a really nice way to work. I'm gonna keep doing this. There is so many other tasks and ideas and things that I just didn't even pick back up. And even the thought of ideas, I would have all of these ideas and I felt like I had to capture them all and I had to act on them all.

And now I'm like, eh, yeah. I, my ideas are an endlessly new renewing resource, you know, well, I can go put my cup under the stream of, you know, the waterfall of ideas and go pick up some more when I need to. And, and I think many designers and, and people in this space are, are like [00:42:00] that. They just maybe don't realize it.

Nirish Shakya: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah. It's this notion that you, um, write about, which is around, you know, how do we get out of our own


Kim Witten: Ooh, yeah.

Nirish Shakya: Um, cause we we're, we're naturally, I tend to believe that we're, we're naturally built for flow. You know, water flows down a cliff or a mountain just through the process of, to the power of gravity.

And we're, we're naturally built to do that. But it's the things that get in the way of that flow, whether we try to hold that water in a, in a container, or we try to make the water go up the mountain rather

than down. 

Kim Witten: yeah, yeah. Or we're just simply working against Gravity, 

which is. Heavy lifting. Why are we doing so much heavy lifting in all of our work? We could [00:43:00] make our conversation simpler, we could make our work simpler. We can make our calendars simpler, we can make everything simpler. And that's not always easy to do.

But um, yeah, it, it is just like, what are the ways that you are getting in your own way or doing unnecessarily heavy lifting, taking responsibility for things that you don't need to, or thinking about things more than is helpful or, you know, all, all of these things. And that's gonna be different for everyone.

But yeah, that, that, idea of like trying to stop the water flow or trying to capture it all or trying to go against gravity. I love this metaphor.

Nirish Shakya: And the question that I'm starting to ask myself is, is this really my problem to solve? Because, you know, we as designers, I used to have this, um, God mindset, there's God complexity that Oh yeah, you know, all, everything that I see that [00:44:00] it, it, I have to solve it as a designer because that's what I've been trained to do, to solve problems.

Kim Witten: Yeah. 

Nirish Shakya: But that just, again, adds on to our, uh, cognitive workload as to, oh yeah, I've got all these problems I need to solve, and so little time, and I, I've gotta just like, you know, work harder and work 

later and 

Kim Witten: Such 

Nirish Shakya: try to solve them all.

Kim Witten: There's 

just like not enough time, too much work. It's just like, 


Nirish Shakya: But ultimately, like, yeah, most problems the world are, are not ours to solve.

Kim Witten: Yeah.

Nirish Shakya: And that's okay. You don't have to solve all the world's problems, just focus the ones that really, really, really matter.

Kim Witten: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And, and we can, even if we're not actively working on all the problems, we can still care about them. We can be interested in them or monitor them or check in with them or not, you know, and I, I think a lot of people, especially this [00:45:00] past several years with pandemic and politics, felt this obligation to stay on top of a lot of things or to be knowledgeable about a lot of things.

And it's like, it's okay, you know, it's okay to take a break from 


Nirish Shakya: to not know


Kim Witten: Like we can miss a few beats. It's, you know, uh, uh, this example just popped into, into my head, it's like sometimes you might have a friend who's going through something, um, or somebody's having, having. A challenge with something and they're, they're sending you maybe text after text after text, right.

You don't have to reply. You don't have to notice and reply to every single beat. It's, you can give it space. You can let things unfold and then see where somebody ended up. Right. Or see what, what's happened. And that in a way too, can be a sign of trust. Like, I trust 

that, that you're 

gonna figure this out and I'm just [00:46:00] gonna let it unfold and let let you arrive at the place you need to be.

And we can do that for ourselves as well. Like, this is a process. It's not a, you know, a, a, struggle as indication of failure every step of the way. I always say, what's a, I, I forget where I got this, but, um, I'm sure from, from someone, but it's like, you're not, you're not failing. You're successfully iterating.



Nirish Shakya: love that. Hmm. You know, failing, you're successfully iterating.

Kim Witten: Yeah, like it, that's just one, one part of, that's one, one paragraph of the chapter of the story. You know, wherever, you know, I, I always use that, um, uh, that kind of framework or tool of like, this is the part where, oh, this might be, um, a good one. Going back to that question about like, what do you do when you're in that situation of overwhelm and all of that is stepping back and going, oh yeah.

This is the part [00:47:00] where that meeting didn't go well and I just really, you know, bombed it. I'm gonna have to go back and do a whole bunch of extra work and I just, you know, don't feel well, this is the part where it just really sucks right now, or, you know, whatever. By doing that, this is the part where, and then filling in the blank with whatever is happening, it allows you to get some kind of perspective.

It's almost like you're writing the hero's journey and you're realizing, oh, this is the part where I'm in the valley of despair. It won't always be like this. Right. And sometimes we need that kind of step out of it perspective in order to then step back into it and 

have some presence and, 

and all of that. Yeah.

Nirish Shakya: And if you want to get from the top of one mountain to the top of another mountain, you will have to go through a valley. 

Kim Witten: Yeah. 

Nirish Shakya: And that's okay. It's is 

part of the


Kim Witten: Yeah, that's the journey. But someday you're 

gonna be on that other 

mountain looking back at the first one and going, whoa, [00:48:00] amazing

Nirish Shakya: a lot of times what I don't do is I get to that top of the second mountain and I don't look back at the way I've come, I'll look in the hardship and the, and the, and the climb I've done. I just focus on the next mountain and the next 

Kim Witten: Yeah, 

Nirish Shakya: So I wanted to kind of ask you about how do you create that time and space to what you say, feel your wins and not just worry about the things, your mistakes, and also celebrate the, the wins as.

Kim Witten: yeah. And we have this, I think culturally we have this strange conception of what it means to celebrate or feel your wins. Like we think it's, we think it's, you know, parties and shopping and, and you know, drinking or whatever, like celebration or feeling. Your wins does not need to be. Any of those things, it can be, but sometimes it's just giving yourself like a buffer or a [00:49:00] space to reflect or to journal or to otherwise acknowledge or mark, you know, what's, what's happened. And just by doing that, just by even carving out the space, we will figure out how to fill it. And that's where we need to trust ourselves, trust others that, that we have everything we need to do. That let's just give ourselves the space and see what, what, what happens, what we come up with. But I mean, yeah, there's, there's lots of ways to, to I think do that.

It's not a pr it's not something we're taught and it's, it's a practice that we need to develop, but it's very worthy and I. Of, of doing because, um, not only does it help combat automatic negative thoughts or, um, that tendency to feel the mistakes or to look back in the mountain, and that's the cra where I tripped.

That's the part where I almost died. That's the part where, [00:50:00] um, you know, I snapped up my climbing partner or whatever. Um, those can be so indelible in our minds and unless we, those can be very easily worn grooves that we can just travel down because we're so practiced at it. So we want to develop another practice, a practice that's gonna be better and, you know, serve us better.

And as we do that, we come, we become better at practicing that practice. We become better at seeking evidence for the ways we did good. Because we've more readily thought about it. And so I, I encourage people to come up with, in any situation a positive one, even a negative one is like, well, what was good about that?

You know, what did you do well? Or how did you know? Just come up with three things and if you can come up with three things and then just keep doing that for other situations, you'll get quicker and better at doing it. But it's gonna also, um, [00:51:00] kind of recalibrate the way you perceive things and shift that anxiety thinking into more kind of creative, um, and even playful, like you might come up with something that, that might ause you or, or new ways of seeing things like, oh yeah, I didn't realize that that was an example of, of my strength or of, um, you know, what I can do or how I might try something different next.

Nirish Shakya: Love that. Um, I think this was a conversation I was having with you or someone else, but basically I was running this design workshop, like a customer journey mapping workshop and, um, I could sense this feeling of discomfort I was feeling while I was facilitating the workshop. And I then linked that discomfort to the fact that, you know, some, some people in the workshop were not fully engaged.

Uh, they weren't, they were very quiet. They didn't really say much. And I was trying to kind of get them to, you know, participate [00:52:00] and wasn't working.

Kim Witten: It's so 


Nirish Shakya: um, and then I did reflect back on it, and I'm not sure if I spoke to you about this or someone else, but, um, what they said was, um, or maybe what you said was around, um, yeah, sometimes, you know, these things happen and you don't have to get everyone to be super engaged all the time. You know, sometimes they might just be processing things differently.

They might just need more time to kind of think through what's going on, rather than like constantly be talking, uh, about their thoughts. 

Kim Witten: Yeah. 

Nirish Shakya: And that kind of gave me so much more comfort saying, oh yeah, that's okay. Yeah, it's okay. You don't have to have everyone super engaged all the time in a 

Kim Witten: Yeah. I, in those situations too, I try to come up with, uh, it's another example of coming up with like three other possibilities. Um, so maybe not necessarily about what I did well in that situation, can be useful exercise. But what are three other possibilities about why they [00:53:00] were, um, disengaged that have nothing to do with you?

And see what you come up with. And, and 

I call that kind of in, in my mind, like the charitable read, like the, what's the most charitable read about what's going on here. That has nothing to do with me.

Nirish Shakya: yeah. Yeah. A lot of times it's not you,

Kim Witten: Yeah. Yeah. People got their 

own things going on. Yeah. Yeah. But it's important to, to acknowledge that. Well, and, and you, it sounds like you did this and you did it in the moment where you recognized the discomfort and you were like, oh, this is, there's something going on here. And that, um, also speaks to a skill and a strength of being able to have that strategic awareness in a moment and to be present with your own body and your own sensations, but also what other people's reactions are and how they might, um, be experiencing the environment.

I mean, that those are skills and that's something to 

celebrate in 

that moment, even if the moment feels icky or you know, however it [00:54:00] feels. And that that part. Is maybe for the retro and 

going, oh, what happened there? 

Nirish Shakya: Yeah. Yeah. And, um, surprisingly the week after we ran another follow up to the workshop and that person who was, you know, super quiet, was super chatty all of a sudden. Um, and. I think that made me realize that yeah, sometimes you could like just step back, a step back a bit and not take personal responsibility for other people's, the, the way other people, you know, act, uh, and behave and talk in, in the, in the activities that you are facilitating and creating.

Um, as, as,

a designer, 

Kim Witten: yeah. And how am I showing up to this situation, right? Am I creating this story because I'm showing up to the situation with a bias or a concern about, and it's okay to have these concerns perfectly valid, but you know, am I leaning too much into a concern about I'm not good enough and people aren't gonna get value from what I'm doing, [00:55:00] and that I'm letting. Story, kind of take over and reframe versus if I'm showing up in a different way that's, um, maybe acknowledging how I feel. Ooh, I'm tired today and I have this insecurity, but I am gonna rehearse, you know, the, the value that I'm bringing so that I know that that's not telling the story. You know, I'm okay and, um, I am good enough.

Uh, I always think about this with the, um, imposter feelings. Um, this idea of when people talk about imposter syndrome, I hate the phrase imposter syndrome. Um, but it's either that, like you have to be accomplished enough to, to you have to get something, get somewhere in order to feel insecure about it.

Like you don't belong there. So you have to have reached some sort of level where I'm not worthy of this, or I'm, uh, I don't belong here, or I haven't earned this. So that's the first premise. But then the second [00:56:00] one is, it's either that you've got to this place because you've earned it and you totally deserve to be there, or you are so clever that you've tricked everybody into believing that your worthy and that you've earned it.

That's impressive. Like, so it could be either one of those things. You just get to decide which one it is. Right. Either you've legitimately earned it or you're so freaking clever that, that, you fooled everyone. Well done. You know, I don't know if that's useful, but

Nirish Shakya: Thing is nothing is real until you make it


Kim Witten: yeah. What's the story?

Nirish Shakya: Exactly. So everything is just a, a neutral um, event, a neutral life situation, but you have the agency or the power to interpret in a way [00:57:00] that is of service to you 

Kim Witten: Mm-hmm. 

Nirish Shakya: and the people.

Kim Witten: Yeah. Yeah. So this is the part where what, you know, this is the part where I'm in the meeting and people are disengaged, and that's because, and then we fill it in with whatever story we 


Nirish Shakya: because of me. I didn't do good enough. I should have tried something different.

Kim Witten: Yeah. And these are all thoughts, and they're totally optional. Right. We'll never know, you know?

Nirish Shakya: Yeah. And this is where this notion of, um, living bio values has been really, um, game changing for me, 

Kim Witten: Mm-hmm. 

Nirish Shakya: Um, and I think we've been, we've been having conversations about values, um, in our sessions as well. Um, so I'm not sure how, how, how are you doing

for time, by the way, 

Kim Witten: Oh, I've got, yeah, I've got all the 


Nirish Shakya: Cause I think this is something really important for us to just touch

upon before we, 

Kim Witten: Yeah, let's get into 

Nirish Shakya: wrap up the [00:58:00] conversation.

Um, so. Speaking of values, I think, you know, I mentioned earlier in our chat that the, when I did the values test, um, the, the top value for me right now is health. And the one after that is inner harmony and one that after that is, um, success, uh, and pleasure and, um, growth. So I was kind of surprised that, you know, I, I value pleasure more than growth.

Kim Witten: Yeah. But 

maybe not all the time in all situations, you know, that's so contextual, you know, 

based on where you are and what you're doing and all of that.

Nirish Shakya: Yeah. But the way I've been using, um, these values is again, assessing the moment where I feel anxious. And now what I've realized recently is that these moments of anxiety. That I feel [00:59:00] is basically a, a piece of data that my body or my mind is trying to give me a piece of signal. And before, like I used to basically try to like suppress it or ignore it or just say, ah, you know, I shouldn't be feeling this.

I should just distract myself from that, that signal. But now what I'm learning to do is through all the work that I've done with you and through the work that I've done with my own kind of, uh, coaching training journey, is that, for example, like, I think it was last week, um, I was actually feeling really anxious in the gym when I was working out.

And then I realized, oh, the reason I'm feeling anxious is because my mind is telling me that I, I've got all these things to do for work tomorrow that I haven't prepared for. And then here I'm this like working out in gym. So what I did was I just like, in my mind just pulled out my values. So what is my, my most important value right now, which is.

Health and it's actually more important than success. So I am doing the [01:00:00] right thing in this very moment, and then that instantly diffused that anxiety I was feeling because my mind instantly for somehow believed that I was actually doing what I was meant to be doing at that very moment.

Kim Witten: yeah, yeah. I wonder too, just going with this idea that the values can't, if we accept this premise that like values can't compete with each other or conflict with each other, 

Nirish Shakya: Hmm. 

Kim Witten: like what if health is success? 

Like getting into 

your health is your definition of success by, by doing that. And I also wonder too, is like would we're annoyed or.

When our buttons get pushed about something, it's usually because there's a value that we care about that's not being honored or it's being

challenged in some way. And so it sounds like, see if this lands, uh, or you know, and or [01:01:00] modify it. However, however, like you're at the gym, you're thinking about all these other things, and that's challenging this value of, of health, right?

You're not, and then when you remind yourself of, no, I care about my health, that's why I'm here. Then it kind of pacifies it like reconnects to that value. I don't know. Tell me 

Nirish Shakya: Hmm. 

Kim Witten: what's, what's your take?

Nirish Shakya: So redefining what those values mean to you, rather than, let's say my, one of my values is success. Um, there's so many million ways I can define what success means rather than following the, the definition that, for example, more my teachers or parents or society has taught me is about, oh yeah, I've gotta study hard, work hard, get that, you know, job, finish everything on my to-do list, do more.

Um, so maybe that, that is not the right definition. Success for me

personally, for example, 

Kim Witten: Yeah. Like what does success feel like in your [01:02:00] body? Like how do you know when you're feeling that value of success?

Nirish Shakya: well first of all, it feels good. 

Kim Witten: Yeah. 

Nirish Shakya: It's, it's like pleasant feelings. I think I did mention it's like this tingly sensations, like, oh yeah, like I, this feels great. Like I've done something actually that's, um, that make means something to me

Kim Witten: Yeah. And what does it feel like when you take care of your health and when you've 

Nirish Shakya: feels great. 

Kim Witten: yeah, yeah.

Nirish Shakya: So it's the same kind of.

Kim Witten: Yeah. So there's an alignment there of like that feeling of success happens. And is connected to that feeling you get when you're taking care of your body, taking care of your health, doing activities that that ease your mind, energize you, allow you to do more.

Nirish Shakya: Mm. 

Kim Witten: Yeah. 

Nirish Shakya: Yeah. I love that. I love that because it, because, um, it, this, I mean, using [01:03:00] these, um, filters, um, for yourself, on yourself can help you address so many of your anxieties and worries that happen automatically in the moment as part of our natural programming. 

Kim Witten: Mm-hmm. 

Nirish Shakya: Because our, our brains are not designed to make us happy.

They're designed to help us 


Kim Witten: And keep us safe. Yeah. 

Nirish Shakya: keep us safe. 

Kim Witten: But you can have both. You can, we can be happy and. And I think that's something that we struggle with and we're not taught, and we are, we get a lot of counter messages to that all growing up and yeah, we're, we're, we deserve both.

Nirish Shakya: What does being happy and safe look like?

Kim Witten: My mind just went a million places and I was just thinking of like,

Nirish Shakya: Are you 


Kim Witten: [01:04:00] Yes. Yeah. Well, I was just thinking that 

there's, yeah, there's, this, yeah. Both. Yes. Um, I was thinking of this podcast I listened to, and at the end of the podcast, they always go through these, um, loves where they just trade off on, um, things that, that bring them joy, love, happiness, and, you know, it'll be big things like, you know, accomplishments, but then sometimes it'll be like, oh, this, I have this blanket that is just so cozy and every time, you know, I feel it against, you know, when I'm on the couch and I feel it against my skin.

It's just like, that's like safe and happy. Right? And there's just, I think all of these experiences, uh, big and small, that, that add up to our personal definition of, of what that means. I think also that we have a tendency to know what it doesn't look like. Right. We are, it's that bias again, of feeling mistakes and not [01:05:00] successes, is we know exactly what not safe and not happy looks like and feels like, but until we kind of remind ourselves or practice that this is what gratitude practices are about, right?

It's like, okay, what does that, what does that look like for you? you? know? Does anything come to 

Nirish Shakya: And what is coming to mind right now is my habit of procrastination.

Kim Witten: Okay.

Nirish Shakya: You know, like for example, I tend to procrastinate a lot. For example, by going on social media or just going on YouTube and just falling into a rabbit 

hole. Um, and then I'm sitting on my couch in my living room, either on my phone or watching tv.

And the way that I used to see it was that it's a bad thing. I shouldn't be doing this. I should be doing something else. And that, that used to raise my level of anxiety, because here I was just trying to regain or recharge my energy. [01:06:00] But again, my mind was like, you know, blaming me for it, make me feel guilty about it.

Um, but then if you, again, look. That behavior and see it as something that's healing, something that's recharging my energy levels so that I can actually go back and live my other valleys more effectively afterwards. Uh, that did help me reduce my anxieties. And at the same time, there was a moment, um, a couple of weeks ago where again, I should have been getting ready for bed, but I was here on my phone, on my, on my couch, and then I, again, I did another values test.

Okay. So this behavior right now where I'm just sitting on my couch and just chilling, what looking, looking at my phone is meeting my need for pleasure, which is my, one of my values, but then it is actually impacting my ability to live my next big value, which is success. That means that if I don't go to bed early, that means that I'll have [01:07:00] to sleep in or get less sleep, which means that I won't be able to do my tasks that I've scheduled for the next morning as effectively, and that's gonna impact my ability to achieve that success in those tasks.

So instantly my mind was able to do that value-based decision making and say, okay, you know, what you're doing is not as important as what you should be doing. And then I just instantly got up and started getting ready for bed rather than trying to struggle, should I do this, should I not? You know, oh, this feels comfortable here.

I just started, just got, got up and brushed my teeth floss

and went to bed. 

Kim Witten: That is such a perfect example of, um, using thinking, deep thinking, that analysis to like reframe and motivate yourself to take what could have otherwise been a, like a rumination or an overthinking, like beating myself up, wondering what's, what's happening here and, and feeling bad. Instead, you took it and you used it to understand what is happening here, [01:08:00] what's important to me?

What's my unmet need in this moment? Ah, Deeper understanding, insight, creative motivation. I'm gonna go get ready for bed because here's what's important. I've got a compelling reason why I want to change my behavior right now, and that compelling reason is creating motivation for me. You know, I am compelled by the idea of success and feeling great in the future tomorrow morning.

So I'm gonna change the habit right now. I'm gonna do a little bit of a shift that that motivates me. That is taking that skillset of analyzing, thinking and applying it inward and using it to, to, um, yeah, more productively 

to end the revenge, bedtime, procrastination, and turn it into, uh, like a, a plan of, of how to get good night's sleep, meet my needs, 

feel that success, feeling.

Nirish Shakya: Yeah. Yeah. And a lot of times we don't have that, um, internal compass to [01:09:00] help us decide like what we should or shouldn't do. We just, you know, do things because it feels good. But there might be another way to look at it in terms of analyze it more proactively. And one thing that. Also noticed that I did at that moment was I acknowledged that pleasure was an important value to me, and that that activity of just sitting on my couch, scrolling through social media was giving me a lot of pleasure.

And I was, I didn't feel guilty about it because I was still meeting that value. I still, you know, uh, meeting that need. Um, and just acknowledging that, accepting that gave me peace rather than


Kim Witten: Yeah. So working with it instead of pitting the values against each other and 

saying, oh, it's pleasure at the sake of success. Right. It's, it's not, it's, it's that. Yeah, pleasure is important. That's why I'm here sitting on the couch [01:10:00] and there's a value in rest, but maybe the balance needs to shift or maybe 

this is enough. And also sometimes recognizing too, so this, this whole idea of like revenge, bedtime, procrastination, where we're staying up later than we should to, to, you know, steal back time from our day that we didn't, you know, to do things that, that, give us cheap joy at the sake of sleep or wellbeing. A lot of people do this, and it's unfortunate when it happens because what that means is actually the, the cause of it was something that happened so much earlier in the day.

You know, it's, it's 

about not managing your time and energy well earlier in the day that created this state where you're wanting that pleasure and you're wanting to stay up late to have time to yourself, um, at the expense of your own sleep and your own wellbeing. Um, and interrupting that is really hard, especially in that moment because it [01:11:00] feels good to sit on the couch, you know? And, uh, and we 

Nirish Shakya: That's what Cashs are 


Kim Witten: Yeah, exactly. And, you know, it's like there is value. Like I, I'm a big believer, I heard this on, um, uh, Jenny Blake said this on Todd Henry's podcast of like, what if we work from our rest instead of resting from our work? So this idea is like, 

we always work, work, 

work, and then we're like, oh gosh, I'm so overworked.

I absolutely need a rest. What if we had all the rest we needed? And then we're like, yeah, I feel so rested, I'm so ready to work. You know? Yeah. 

Nirish Shakya: Love That 

Kim Witten: Yeah. It's a, it's a mind vendor. That one I've been working on that one along with the, you know, how can I do less, or how can I keep this bare minimum M v MVP style of, uh, managing my days going.

Nirish Shakya: work from our rest, not rest for our work. 

Kim Witten: yeah, yeah. As a hard one to shift if you're in a [01:12:00] cycle of just like desperately needing some, some joy at the end of the day because all of the demands earlier in the day got to be too much. Um, that's, that's a hard treadmill to get off of.

Nirish Shakya: Mm,

Kim Witten: But it can be 


Nirish Shakya: it. 

Kim Witten: you know, small 

tweaks and It starts with 

noticing. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. 

Nirish Shakya: Yeah, And I, I love that, um, whole notion of taking agency back by asking yourself these questions. Like, what do you notice? Uh, how you, what are you, what are you feeling? What is it telling you? Uh, using that as is this neutral, neutral pieces of information that you can choose to interpret in a way

that's beneficial. 

Kim Witten: I'm so glad you brought that up again because I loved it when you said it earlier about agency and control too. It's like if we get proactive about what's, what's likely to happen, that gives us more control over how we might respond or you know, even what might happen, [01:13:00] even when things are out of our control, it we, we gain control because we're in control of how we show up and how we respond and what story we are likely to bring to that event and how we frame it.

But yeah, that important, that idea of agency I think is so, so critical to everything that we, we do and we just take it for granted cuz we walk around. But, um, we have more agency and more control than we even think.

Nirish Shakya: I love that. I think that's gonna go into our, one of our sound 


Kim Witten: Amazing. 

Nirish Shakya: Um, so Kim, um, You, I recently saw an article that you posted or LinkedIn Post you made around using affinity


Kim Witten: Oh yeah. 

Nirish Shakya: Tell tell us more about that. How we can use affinity mapping, um, to assess ourselves.

Kim Witten: Yeah. [01:14:00] And any challenging conversation as well is, this is a tool I think that we, that is underutilized. Like designers use it a lot, but we could even be using it so much more. You know, anytime there is maybe messy data, messy conversations, messy anything, or just unclear. Um, You know, if something's difficult, what is the, the dust model?

It's like we often procrastinate when something's difficult, unclear, scary, or tedious, right? Um, if you ever find yourself in that situation, make an infinity map of, of, whatever that is. So the example off the top of my head, I don't know why this one's coming up, but it's like, um, yeah, things that energize me versus things that, that drain me.

So that's, that's something that I, I do with people. I would encourage people to do themselves. Um, [01:15:00] or any challenging conversation is like, make an affinity map. So maybe spend 90 seconds, or even, especially if you're in conversation with somebody, five minutes to 10 minutes to generate ideas around. Let's say if we're gonna go with the energy energizers and drainers, you know, what are the things that drain my energy?

Can be anything. Just open up the, the world of possibility. So you're in this mini discovery phase at the moment of like all the possibilities, don't rule anything out. And then you go into that, you know, affinity mapping phase of clustering and making sense of what all the ideas are. Okay, are there themes around, you know, what, what drains my energy?

Is it, you know, sensory stuff and um, or is it, uh, ways of interacting or is it cer types of tasks? You know, what is there the most of? And then the same with the energizers. You might find that there's a lot of tasks that energize, um, and it's [01:16:00] not tasks that necessarily de-energize. Maybe it's all of these sensations or.

Physical things about your environment that you could actually change. And so by doing that affinity map, you can surface information, you can make sense of it, what's the story here, what are the patterns? And then you can take some actions and goals. That's something as designers, UXers, you know, all of that we're very used to doing, but we don't realize that we can just apply that to all sorts of other, other situations and things.

And even challenging conversations. So if you're, uh, you know, in a performance review or if you're in a tough meeting or something, it can be a way to kind of abstract and looked at things more, uh, broadly and without judgment, but with more curiosity, which can also be really helpful of going Okay, what 

is, what is here?

What, what do you notice? Or what was that question that you asked earlier of like, what is this? [01:17:00]

Nirish Shakya: Just what is 

Kim Witten: Yeah, what is it? Yeah, Let's 


Let's get all the 

ideas of what it could be out 

and see if 

Nirish Shakya: so you've basically, you do it retrospectively, I'm assuming, so you look back at your week or something and then you write down all the things that you did, that you gave you energy, all the things that drained energy, and you are clustering both groups in their own clusters to see what themes came out.

Kim Witten: Yeah. Yeah. And then from that, like I've done that for myself. I've done that with, with other people. You can organize your day so much easier. So for example, like when you were talking about, you were noticing your calendar and you had things back to back with that insight about meeting downtime after certain tasks or certain tasks straining your energy, you can then look at your calendar and go, oh, I can, I can spot a problem, you know, really easily.

Here, there's this meeting and there's this meeting and they're right next to each other. And you know, when you look at the meeting in your calendar, [01:18:00] you know the. You look that meeting and you can just do a sense check where you just look at it, close your eyes, feel what's happening in your body. Yeah, this meeting feels like this, you know, or this event, this task, or even this time of day, it's like, oh, I can see three o'clock on my calendar.

Yeah, I can check it with myself. I know how that feels. I'm onto me. I know. And then, yeah, start, start optimizing your day. Start planning things or moving things, or maybe even making a set of principles of, you know, I'm not gonna take meetings on Monday mornings. That's, that's my ease into and planning my week time.

Or, you know, I'm, I'm not gonna do this. I'm not gonna do more than four meetings a day, or, you know, whatever it needs to be.

Nirish Shakya: There's, there's so many things we can dig deeper into that, uh, but we'll probably won't have time for all of that, uh, in this episode. But I'm sure like, you know, we can bring you back for another one to deep dive into some of those [01:19:00] other topics as well. So, Kim, imagine that's, um, let's, let's talk about overthinking cuz this is the topic we're gonna talk about.

Imagine if overthinking was an Olympic sport, what would the, what would the top three overthinking events be?

Kim Witten: Oh, um, how much you could rehash a conversation into a spiral that digs into the ground to the core of the earth. I think that is one that, that would be 

Nirish Shakya: So whoever has the

deepest wins, 

Kim Witten: Yeah, exactly. Um, oh, extrapolating how far. Out into the future of failures that you can take an idea and say, oh yeah, this is gonna go badly this way and it's gonna lead to this and it's gonna lead to that.

And, and, you know, just how far out your failure can reach. 

[01:20:00] Um, 

Nirish Shakya: has the longest

float chart 

Kim Witten: yeah. Or just most absurd that something's just gonna lead to like world disaster because you didn't, you know, uh, edit that email properly. Um, yeah, I think mind reading, I don't know how you would. Rate this sport or how you would judge it, but, um, what we think other people are thinking about us is a really good one.

Um, I think there's a lot of talent and I, yeah, I think I, I can be a pro at that and that is, um, of course it's never true. You never know what other people think and it's not even any of your business. But, um, we sure like to imagine, right. Oh, I could just keep going. Yeah. I, I can already see the Olympic stadium [01:21:00] and, you know, just I'm mapping it out and all of the different, um, Ooh, here's one.

Jumping through hoops like that, like jumping through hoops to make something perfect and how many times you can revise or reedit something before, before, 

the deadline. Yeah. I think perfectionism probably has its own category of

Nirish Shakya: I'll, I'll definitely win a 

gold medal there. 

Kim Witten: Yeah, Yeah, I'm, I'm in that camp too. I've got, yeah. Oh, amazing.

That was a great question. 

Nirish Shakya: So Kim, um, now on to something more serious. Imagine it's your last day on 

earth and someone comes up to you with a tiny post-it and a Sharpie and asks you to write your last few words for humanity.

What would you write 

Kim Witten: I love 

Nirish Shakya: on that tiny piece of 

Kim Witten: Um, so this got me, this question got me thinking about, uh, nuclear semiotics. Have you heard of [01:22:00] about this? 

Where, so it's a, subfield of research that began in the eighties where people are trying to, there's been all these like committees and reports and all this philosophical research on this.

People are trying to create ways to, um, uh, to communicate with people on Earth 10,000 years from now to let them know that certain nuclear sites are a danger and they shouldn't go near it. And how do you communicate that message to people 10,000 years from now? 

You know, without words, without glorifying the site or making people think that it's religious or important, but letting them know that it's a danger and that they shouldn't go there, and then yet they need to stay away because it'll kill them.

Right. And I don't know why, but so then I got to thinking about, uh, I'm overthinking this. I realized, I got to thinking about, okay, what is the point of this message? [01:23:00] You know, is it, is it for my own benefit? Is it to, uh, help people? And so then I realized, oh, well I wouldn't be me. Like this message has to be a question.

Right? And I don't know how, how to, to communicate this or when, if anybody would ever read it. But I guess the question, the most simple question that I could put on a Post-It to help people in some imagined future, maybe think or get some insights would be something like, um, andif, which I don't think that that's gonna translate, but it's this idea of like, and if. So, and which you can tag onto anything. So like, you know, you say something, you have a, a worry, and if you know, and if that happened or, and if that felt that way or, and if you did that. [01:24:00] Yeah. And if

Nirish Shakya: Nice.

Love that. 

Kim Witten: that's what I got 

Nirish Shakya: Cool. I'm gonna do a quick recap on what we've covered. Um, and I loved how you made that switch from learning about what motivates people to use products and services to. Learning about what motivates people personally.

And I think it takes a lot of courage to make that switch from what you've been taught to do as a UX researcher and designer, to actually now you wanna actually focus on that niche that you found for yourself.

Um, and I think that's something that, you know, we all need to do as designers, as to what is the thing, what is the impact that you wanna make in the world, rather than just constantly or blindly follow the design process to just churn out products and services. Um, [01:25:00] and for you, that was all about how do we help people like, like me, who are always overthinking and turn them into, you know, turn that overthinking into a superpower, into this mode of deep thinking.

And I loved how that reframe can happen if you. Turn that anxiety of overthinking into curiosity. So instead of being worried about what might have happened, you are more curious about Yeah. What might happen.

Kim Witten: Uh huh And to 

notice, and to notice how you're already doing it. Right. I, I 

think that came up 

so many times at different points in this conversation. It's like the 

thing that you want 

to be doing is already happening. You know, that that 

curio curiosity is already there. Um, you know, all these different examples that have come up throughout even just this conversation of how, um, the overthinking energy has, has already shifted 

and it's, it's deeper and more product. 

Nirish Shakya: Hmm. [01:26:00] A lot of times it's really difficult to notice what is happening if you have not stopped to see retroactively what's happened, and you can learn so much from those past patterns, which will. Make you more aware of things that are happening as they happen, which in turn will help you do that.

Noticing more pro proactively into the future so that you can design that your time, your calendar, and your energy to maybe even prevent some of these things from happening in the first place.


Kim Witten: can I add something to that? Yeah. 

And also just like giving ourselves some grace as well, because it is really hard to see what's going on with a chair that you're sitting in. Right? It 

is like we're trying to get better at noticing something while it's happening, but that can only take us so far because we still need to be present as well.

And this, this work is hard.[01:27:00]

Nirish Shakya: yeah, yeah. And celebrate even the little, the smallest of wins. Rather than constantly looking for the, the next win and the next 

win, um, look, look back at the mountain you've climbed, or the value of despair that you've, you know, been through because there's so much we can learn and celebrate in those


Kim Witten: Yeah. Like we're chasing and collecting all these wins, but then we're not even feeling them. You know? What's 

up with 

Nirish Shakya: we're not looking at. Um, yeah, we're not looking at our deposits that we've made in the bank. Um, and always, you know, out there just collecting more deposits. But then you look at, it's like there's a huge mountain of gold you've collected that you've, you 

can celebrate. 

Kim Witten: yeah, I 

was playing with it. 

Nirish Shakya: and also that the value of, you know, value-based based decision making, like knowing your own values, how that can really help you address some of [01:28:00] these, um, anxieties in the moment.

And again, turn them into, um, Again, information that can help you be at peace with what we're doing or maybe proactively change

what you're 

Kim Witten: Or even just tell better stories about ourselves of what we're doing.

Nirish Shakya: Absolutely. And then again, using simple techniques that we, you know, use all the time as designers, like affinity mapping to, uh, better see the patterns in our own behaviors, in our own feelings and our own thoughts, and how can we use those patterns to proactively design our own day, week, and life. Um, I loved it.

Thank you so much for sharing all those, um, insights and wisdom, Kim. Like, that was, that was just mind blowing as always. Every time

I have a chat with 

Kim Witten: Oh, likewise. Thank you so much. It's been such a pleasure and I've had so much fun, uh, talking with.

Nirish Shakya: Awesome. [01:29:00] So Kim, um, if people would like to follow you or get in touch with you,

how can they. 

Kim Witten: Yeah. Um, if they want to go to my website, it's feeling. They will find, they'll land on a page with lots of goodies and insights. They can sign up for my newsletter. Hold that thought. Where I offer three things every Thursday to help you turn your overthinking into expert thinking. So that's

It's, it's a odd email address, I would say wtt km com.

Nirish Shakya: Cool. So we get our own special, um, 

Kim Witten: Yeah. Yeah. 

Nirish Shakya: That's pretty cool. That's, that's never happened before.

Kim Witten: There you go. Yeah. Slash the des design feeling all one word. 

Yeah. That'll take you to a page of goodies and resources and, and things that might be of interest.

Nirish Shakya: great. So we'll put the link, um, on the, in the, in the show note, um, of your podcasting app, wherever you're, listen right now and you're also offering a 30% off for your

design [01:30:00] your time 

Kim Witten: Yeah. So that's a 90 minute workshop that's one-on-one with me. And we do an audit of your time, energy, um, maybe even in your calendar. And that's really to help you optimize and optimize your day, create more energy and time for yourself, be more productive. So that's 30% off if you, um, mentioned the Design Feeling podcast.

Nirish Shakya: Amazing. Thank you so much, Kim. And um, I better let you go now cuz um, I think there's, there's so much juice that I squeeze out of you that, um, I Yeah, it is, it's been such a wonderful conversation. So thank you so much for that, Kim and 

I, I hope to see you again 

Kim Witten: Yeah, you will. 

Nirish Shakya: well being one of our 

Kim Witten: Yep. Coming soon. All right. Thank you.

 Thank you so much for listening in. If you have any suggestions or topics or people that you'd like to have on the show, please email me at [01:31:00] I respond to every email. And see if you can share this podcast with one friend who wants to increase their self-awareness, creative confidence and meaning. See you next time. 

Kim Witten PhDProfile Photo

Kim Witten PhD

Coach, UX Researcher, Linguist

Kim has spent over four decades overthinking absolutely everything and has become an expert in analyzing behavior and communication.

With 20+ years of design experience, a PhD in Sociolinguistics and ACC-level certification with the International Coaching Federation, she helps overwhelmed creatives become Strategic Expert Thinkers™ in all that they do.

From career changers to change-makers, she’s supported people from all over the globe to master their mindset, build their resilience and feel more confident, so that they can create the life they really want and reach their high-impact potential.