How To Power Through Designer Apathy
Sometimes you just don’t give a damn anymore. Possibly the only thing worse than designer’s block is designer’s apathy: that sinking feeling you get when you realize that you just don’t care about this particular piece of work anymore is disheartening.
The dread of going back to it is paralyzing.
There are many reasons you can stop caring about your work. Maybe you’ve just done the same thing too many times in a row. Maybe your client is insisting on asking for things you know won’t work for them. Maybe something much more important just happened in your life, and you’ve got bigger things to worry about. You could be discouraged by the apparent ‘sameness’ of bandwagon-hopping designs.
I’ve been not caring about my work ever since I was first asked to pick up my toys
Whatever the reason, we all experience times when we know exactly what we have to do... we just don’t care.
I’m something of an expert on this phenomenon. I’ve been not caring about my work ever since I was first asked to pick up my toys. Worse, I have the attention span of a goldfish, even now.
Web design is different. When I discovered it, it was new, exciting, and I could do it on the computer. I loved it, and I still do. Writing code that makes design happen in a browser window will never get old for me.
But even so, sometimes, a particular project will make me want to throw up my hands in exasperation and play video games ‘til Judgement Day. I’d welcome Skynet with tacos and RPGs.
So what do we do about it? First, answer this question: who is the project for?
For A Client
If the project is for a client, it’s just gotta get done. There’s no way around that. You made a commitment. You’re going to follow through and give it your best possible effort because you’re a professional. Anything less would be wrong.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to just power through with only coffee and misery for company. There are things you can do to make the work easier on yourself. The less miserable you are while you work, the better quality you can deliver.
There are a couple of schools of thought here. The first is that it’s perfectly fine to give up on personal projects when you stop caring. I mean, it’s your free time. Why spend it on something you don’t care about?
On the other hand, is a commitment made to yourself any less important than a commitment made to someone else? Many people seem to be perfectly fine with breaking promises to themselves when they’d never willingly do that to a client. Is that wrong?
I usually buy myself a drink and forgive myself, but it’s worth thinking about.
The deciding factor for me is whether my personal project will have any sort of lasting benefit. If whatever I’m designing, writing, or making counts as a long-term investment in my career or quality of life, then it absolutely has to get done, even when I’m not feeling it. Otherwise, I call it a learning experience and move on.
How To Power Through
So, for whatever reason — whether because you have to, or you want to — you’re gonna power through. Here are five ways to do it in style:
The hardest part of doing work you don’t care about is starting. This is when you’ll be tempted to procrastinate until the last minute. Try not to.
2. Switch To A Different Part Of The Project
If you can safely (without causing problems) work on a different aspect of the project for a while, try that. The mere variety, the break from the work in front of you before, can boost your morale.
Indeed, working on a different part of the project can give you ideas of getting the most troubling bits done faster or more easily.
3. Do Something Old In A New Way
This one has its pros and cons.
Pro: You can look at this project as a chance to try out a new grid framework, script, code editor, or another tool of some kind. Injecting the process of discovery into an otherwise boring project can make it a lot more fun and even make you look forward to working on it.
Con: You’ll need to plan for extra hours and use some version control; because bringing a new tool or process into play is almost guaranteed to make something interesting go wrong — when this happens, you probably shouldn’t bill the client for the extra hours spent on StackOverflow.
4) Make Like Aziz Ansari And Treat Yo’self
Celebrate the milestones of your project. Don’t celebrate with video games if you need to get any more work done that day. That can go very wrong. But do celebrate. Reward yourself because you’re doing something difficult.
Have a snack. Give yourself a round of applause. Whatever it takes, make yourself look forward.
5) Outsource It
As a last resort, you can always outsource the project to someone else. Just make sure it’s someone you can trust to deliver the same quality of work you would normally provide yourself. Make sure to check it over before handing it off to a client.
Alternatively, you could just outsource the bits of the work that you don't like. Either way, this is a risky strategy because whoever you outsource to might experience delays or, ironically, not care about the project.
You can do it! I believe in you. The really, really boring projects can seem like huge sinkholes of sadness, but they don’t last forever.
Ezequiel Bruni is a web/UX designer, blogger, and aspiring photographer living in Mexico. When he’s not up to his finely-chiselled ears in wire-frames and front-end code, or ranting about the same, he indulges in beer, pizza, fantasy novels, and stand-up comedy.