Thursday, August 15, 2013

7 Habits of a Stressed Out Designer

Every designer has periods of stress. But being stressed out is one step from burnout. It's a state of constant anxiety and fatigue which seems to have no end in sight. Even a vacation (if it's even possible) doesn't offer relief.

However, most designers don't need to be in a constant state of stress. So, why do so many designers choose to live this way? Well, it comes down to a series of habits that stressed out designers practice.

  1. Avoid planning.

    This designer is always on autopilot. They don't have time to think about the future. Life is just a series of constant to-dos and activity.

    Planning doesn't remove busyness. But it helps prioritize our activities so we are better able to make appropriate decisions.

  2. Delay decision-making.

    Putting off decisions is so much easier than making them. Decisions are only made by force of impending deadlines. However, since there is no plan, these decisions are hard to make. And they pile up into a massive amount pressure.

    Making decisions in a timely manner leads to freedom.

  3. Worry rather than acting.

    This designer is dominated by the "what ifs". They have no plan, they delay decisions, and they allow their inactivity to control them. And their inactivity leads to pressure and feelings of anxiety. But inactivity doesn't mean they are inactive. They may full of activity. It's just that their activity has no focus nor solves any problems.

    A clear plan helps a designer know what to do. Not only does it reduce feelings of anxiety, it is motivating being able to accomplish priorities and long-term goals.

  4. Delay mundane tasks.

    Who has time for unimportant activities? Things that have to get done, but don't seem very important, get put off. It's not clear how they fit into overall goals, because …hey… there is no plan and there are no goals. Eventually these tasks become monumental. And they will produce stress and inefficiencies. As a result they will interfere with daily work.

    Mundane tasks done in a timely manner frees the designer for more important items. And it frees them from feelings of impending doom.

  5. Keep the work area messy.

    Everything is everywhere, so it can be found easily. But the opposite is often true because everything is of equal importance. Therefore, nothing is easy to find.

    Having everything categorized and put away appropriately will make them easier to find later. It frees up time.

  6. Fear saying "no".

    The fear of saying "no" leads to overcommitment. Unreasonable deadlines, heavy workloads, and lack of resources keep this designer under pressure to perform miracles daily. But daily miracles quickly become an expectation, and an expectation of miracles is a recipe for failure.

    Saying "no" doesn't have to be hard. It can be a part of the negotiation process rather than a final statement of refusal. Why not negotiate for reasonable objectives and timelines? It can lead to a better working situation and it can breed success for the designer and the client.

  7. Ignore needs.

    This designer is not aware of their need for rest, educational development, and for a healthy lifestyle. Therefore their skills suffer, health suffers, and thinking suffers. And this leads to poor work.

    Being aware of the need for rest, development, and health is part of planning. And having a plan for meeting those needs builds up a quality designer.
Photo courtesy grietgriet of

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