10 Ways to Avoid Designer Burnout in 2019

Carrie Cousins.
January 03, 2019
10 Ways to Avoid Designer Burnout in 2019.

It’s going to happen at some point this year; you will face designer burnout.

One of the reasons that burnout is so common for creatives is that it’s a never-ending process. (You can’t just stop having ideas because you are off the clock.) But there are things you can do to help make the burnout less bad and stay energized and focused more of the time.

Here’s your checklist for the new year. (Seems like a great resolution, right?)

1. Get Away from Your Desk

Schedule time to step away from your work every single day. There’s a reason that “lunch hour” is a thing. It gives you time to take a break from what you are working on, refresh and come back to it with new energy.

You don’t have to take this break during the traditional lunch hour – or even get lunch for that matter – but you do need to take that time to recharge during the day.

Get in the habit of blocking off that time each day and do something that will make the second part of the work day less of a drag:

  • Take a walk;
  • Go to the gym;
  • Meet a friend for lunch;
  • Read or listen to a book.

2. Work in Spurts

Social media is filled with “hacks” to keep you from wasting time online. But what if you should work for a bit, browse the Insta and then get back to it?

Working in spurts can help you be more productive. Looking at images and videos can be particularly invigorating if you need to jumpstart that little creative part of your brain.

But here’s the trick to working in starts and stops. You can’t let the stops kill your productivity. This isn’t a tip that works for everyone, but some designers get a lot of value out of tiny, “planned” distractions.

3. Participate in Design Challenges

Get ready to design outside of your comfort zone. Tackle a design challenge.

These little events often consist of a theme, where you are prompted to design a certain thing each day or week for a certain time period. Others are often doing the same thing (and same challenges) at the same time with a place to showcase the work.

What’s great about a design challenge is that it can be a fun diversion from the everyday. There’s really nothing at stake and you get to be creative on your own terms.

Try one of these:

If you aren’t quite ready to jump into a challenge, take a look at Project 365, one designer’s showcase of a new design project every day in 2018.

4. Schedule “Slow Downs”

Are you really looking forward to a vacation? Put it in your calendar.

Then schedule some time to just take a minute or day or week to yourself. Just because you have time off from work, doesn’t mean you are slowing down. Sometimes vacations and times away from work can be just as hectic, making it even more important to plan some serious down time.

Everybody needs this break in a different way. Some people can take a day and feel totally recharged. Others need a week to let the brain rest.

Just don’t cram your slow down time with projects. You must step away from the computer. Plan to ditch technology during your slowdown (or only allow check-ins at certain times) to get the most benefit from the break.

5. Mix Up Tasks

Don’t get caught in a monotonous work routine. Even though design projects can solve different problems, there are parts of the process that can get mundane.

Mix up tasks, invite other members of the team for a brainstorming session and mix up the way you’ve always done things.

Just like exercising a different muscle group, replanning your day stretches brain (and creative) muscles.

6. Find a Network or Peer Group

If you don’t have a solid group of design peers, now is the time to find that group. Whether you join a professional networking organization, go to a conference, engage in social media conversations or just ask your mentor to lunch, one of the key ingredients to avoiding burnout is to stay fresh. (Sometimes you just need to vent. Other times you need a new perspective to get on track.)

Develop your network. Spend a few hours each month listening to others as well as talking about your design challenges. Don’t let all of these meetings turn into gripe sessions, but do talk about work challenges and solutions.

Sometimes the best way to work through issues is sharing with someone who comes at it from another perspective.

7. Work Remotely If You Can

The grind of traffic and getting to work and dealing with all the other personalities in the workplace can be a challenge for some designers. You might need a quiet space to work. You might need plenty of white noise to do your best. Or maybe your highest productivity hours don’t fall into a 9 to 5 routine.

Ask your employer if you can work remotely. Even if only for a day a week or a few days a month, working in a space that fits your natural patterns and without distractions can help you feel more organized and put together. And that will keep you from feeling so burned out.

8. Create Something That Isn’t Work

Try something design-related that isn’t part of your job.

Interested in virtual reality? Find someone who can show off their VR equipment. Wish you could draw? Take an art class.

The goal is to engage your creative spirit in a way that doesn’t have pressure or strings (or income) attached. Not only will this make you better at your job – and less likely to burn out – but it will also help you explore options that might expand your career one day. (You never know where opportunities live.)

9. Pay Attention to Your Health

This might be the little anti-burnout lesson that we should all know … but somehow ignore.

Designers are stereotypically (and sometimes not so stereotypically) fueled by coffee and sleepless nights. There might also be a nightcap or two.

And eventually your body just says, “No”. Pay attention to your health (and sanity).

Eat vegetables. Get some exercise. Don’t stay glued to a computer screen in a dark corner. Laugh, Smile. Be social offline.

It can do wonders. (Plus, getting sick just contributes to that overwhelming feeling of not being able to get everything done.)

10. Just Say, “No”

It’s 100 percent OK to not do something. Don’t make that t-shirt for your family reunion this year. Don’t create a website for your cousin’s wedding. Say no. Turn down projects when you don’t have time.

And then use that time to do something just for you. Even if it is to take a nap.

Featured image via DepositPhotos.

Carrie Cousins

Carrie Cousins is a freelance writer with more than 10 years of experience in the communications industry, including writing for print and online publications, and design and editing. You can connect with Carrie on Twitter @carriecousins.

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