There’s something about creative work that can be incredibly draining. Whether you have taken on too many projects, are unmotivated about the ones you have, or are suffering from a depressing lack of projects, creative work often takes a large amount of mental energy. If you don’t take the time to refill those energy levels, you could suffer from complete designer burnout. Over the years, I’ve found a few things that help me stay motivated and continue to love my work.
Go on an Inspiration Hunt
Go somewhere that inspires you (Dribbble or Instagram doesn’t count!). This could be a park, an antique store, the mall, etc.—wherever you find creative inspiration and energy. Bring a sketchbook or a camera, and really soak in the vibe and what you are seeing. I recently visited an antique shop and found a 1940’s U.S. Postal Service certified mail receipt that then influenced a very modern-day project I was working on. Inspiration can come from anything, and it’s fun to get away from your computer and find beauty in the world.
Set a Schedule
Plan time for work, deadlines, and specific to-do lists. Whether you prefer to plan digitally or on paper, it’s essential to set a plan of what needs to get done. It can really help wrap your head around a task. I always work better when there are goals to achieve and a schedule to follow. However, while it’s important to plan the time to work, you also need to plan a time to stop! This helps my brain focus and stay organized, but it also gives me an ending to look forward to if I feel like a certain project is dragging on.
Surround Yourself with Peers That Motivate You
I love to see what other people in the design community are doing. It’s motivating in an I’m-really-jealous-of-your-talent-but-still-rooting-for-you kind of way. AIGA events, Meetups, or even my classes in school help push me to be a better designer, but also give me a chance to talk to people who view the world the way I do. Those connections can also help you brainstorm through a difficult project, give you feedback or advice, or you could even benefit from helping them.
Mix in Work That Excites You
If you feel lost in the monotony of boring projects, start on a hypothetical project or something you’ve been meaning to create for yourself. It can help you remember why you started designing in the first place, and can break up the monotony nicely. You also never know where that project can lead—a recent passion project of mine is now becoming a portfolio piece. Passionate attitudes always create the best work.
Sometimes when you are struggling on a project, there is nothing to do but step away. It can prevent violences being done to your computer and/or your sanity. Understanding you need to refuel and taking that time is one of the best things you can do to avoid burnout.