If you’ve been doing design for any amount of time you can probably relate to the feeling of being burned out. Most of the designer’s that I’ve spoke with consistently put in 60+ hour work weeks. It’s no wonder so many of us get so drained. Working that much can bring your productivity and creativity to a screeching halt. But don’t fear, here are some areas that you can focus on to help you avoid getting burned out.
Know Your Priorities
Doing your work is important, but it shouldn’t be your sole focus. It’s important for you to leave time for other things that you love; your family, your faith, your hobbies, etc… The keyword in this equation is balance. Finding the right mixture, without doing too much of one thing, will help you avoid reaching a tipping point.
Schedule Your Work
If you are a full time freelancer it can be quite easy to get so absorbed in a project that you work all day, and into the night without taking any sort of significant break. You’re best served to dedicate scheduled hours for work, and scheduled hours for non-work. It’s one thing to say that you’ll do that, and it’s quite another to actually follow through on those committed hours. However, by sticking to a schedule you’ll avoid over working yourself and zapping your creative drive.
Take Time For Vacation
Along those same lines, it’s very important to schedule vacation time. Sure, scheduling your work time is good, but sometimes you just need to completely unplug. Taking a week or two of vacation time away from the computer can go a long way toward re-energizing you. And it’s a great way to find inspiration in the most unlikely of places. After all, design is all around you, not just on a computer screen.
Learn Something New
There’s nothing more draining to a creative individual than monotonous tasks; yet we often get stuck in a rut of creating only things that we are comfortable with. It’s important to your growth and your drive to consistently challenge yourself. So be willing to try a new color scheme, or learn a new technology. You will help yourself grow and avoid getting burned out.
Work On Your Communication
Poor communication can often lead to frustration for you and your client, and major redesigns. The tedious chore of starting a design over can easily burn out your creative flame. You can successfully avoid most of these issues by improving your listening and communication skills. The key is to make a conscious effort to understand what the client wants before jumping to conclusions about what you think they should want.
What Do Other Designer’s Do?
I reached out to the design community to find out how they avoid designer’s burnout. Their responses were spot on, check out what they had to say.
Tracey Gradey – Tracey Gradey Design
Burnout can happen when you have high levels of stress, long work hours (without adequate breaks) or monotonous, unchallenging work over an extended period of time. Ideally you want to avoid these, but depending on your work circumstances that’s not always easy to do. I think the best thing is to constantly keep your mind and your body stimulated. First of all, get up from the computer and get moving! Take a decent break in the middle of your work day and go for a walk; in addition, make some regular time during the week for exercise. Second, it helps if you have an interesting project you can focus some energy on; this could be some personal design work in your own time, maybe even something to update your portfolio. Or it could be something to look forward to, like a holiday (and make sure you’re taking enough of those, too). It’s all about keeping the grind in balance with the things that invigorate you.
Aaron Iriazarry – This Is Aaron’s Life
For me time away from the computer always helps. Depending on the situation… i think it is crucial to take time for me, work on special/fun projects of my own, or just getting away from the cpu all together by hanging out with my family or friends. Going to a show, going out for dinner, or to see a movie. Sometimes by experiencing someone else’s creativity I am also refreshed (movies, books, art shows, music). I guess maybe the key is to notice when the burnout is coming, and slow down and take inventory, find out why we are felling that way, then choose the appropriate “remedy”.
Liam McKay – Function
For me, finding something new to challenge yourself with is the key to avoiding a Burnout. Sometimes I find myself stuck, I feel that I’m not really pushing myself to try new things in a design, so I’ll go away and work on a personal project, either fictional or something real I’m working on and create something that I wouldn’t normally do. Include something in a design that I’d not normally think to do. Try a new style, new layout, new colour scheme, just anything to get me away from what I am used to. I’ve sort of promised myself to push to include something new in each one of my designs, rather than sticking to what I know, that way I can try and avoid the burnout striking while I’m half way through a project.
Jacob Cass – Just Creative Design
I avoid burnout by regularly going on holidays whether it be a short one week break or maybe a month or two, it is really refreshing and I highly recommend it!
Grant Friedman – Colorburned
I tend to get burned out whenever I take on a project that might be a bit over my head. I’ve found that the best way to avoid getting burned out in this situation is to surround myself with designers who’s skill sets compliment my own. That way I can work on the aspect of the project that compliments my strengths and they can do the same. I’ve found that under these circumstances that burnout is minimal while satisfaction with the final project is high.
AJ Troxell – Phire Design
Designers burnout I believe is a common problem that every designers has from time to time. And often it is caused by outside sources and not the design process itself. Such as worrying about bills, or something stressful at home, or an illness that you have recently acquired. Anything that can impede your design thought or your “flow”. Since more often than not, it is outside sources causing this block, I find that it is usually a good idea to use outside sources to prevent this possibility. Such as having a designated area of your home or office to do your brainstorming or your designs. Maintaining a relatively healthy lifestyle can give you the mental energy required to maintain your flow, as well as the physical energy to maintain your schedule. I also somehow manage to find time to do things that are “fun” but will also provide inspiration, such as going to the local park and taking some pictures or playing with my daughter outside with our dog. Burnout is often harder to get out of than it is to get in to, so my ultimate goal, is to never get in to it, by keeping my work/home like organized and knowing what my goals are for projects and/or clients.
Matt Cronin – Spoonfed Design
Designer burnout is something that is bound to happen, even if you enjoy your work. The best possible solution to this is stepping away from your work. You may think that by doing so you will be losing valuable time, but stepping away periodically will help you to be more productive when you are in fact working. To take this a step further, get away from the computer and get outside to exercise. Fresh air, sunlight, and exercise all help your body by releasing different chemicals that will in turn make you more happy, and overall more productive. On the topic of health, a good night sleep and healthy eating will help you feel better. In a nutshell, staying healthy is the easiest way to avoid designer burnout.
Join the discussion. What do you do to avoid getting burned out?