Who would have ever thought that something you love so much (designing) could stress you out so much? There a lot of aspects of being a designer that can be stressful: harsh deadlines, difficult clients or art directors, a sharp learning curve, ever-changing technology and more. This article will address some of the best ways to deal with the stress you feel as a designer and also reduce your stress as much as possible.
1. Identify what is stressing you out
The first, and most important step in leading a less-stressful designer lifestyle is to identify what it is that is stressing you out. After identifying the problem, you can begin to take action. If client relationships are stressing you out, perhaps you should study articles on dealing with clients. If project management is stressing you out, find a better solution to manage your projects and time.
If you are overwhelmed with finding a good home-work balance, take some time to study good time management techniques.It’s important that you personally identify what causes you to be stressed and begin to make changes today that will ensure less stress in the future. Below you will find specific solutions to some of the most common stress-causers for designers. Please be sure to add your tips and advice as well.
2. Develop a Project Management system that works for you
There are as many ways to manage design projects as there are designers. Recently, Dan Howard described his new method of organizing his projects and to-dos by using a giant glass wall and a whole lot of sticky notes. Whether you prefer to use a high-tech software, sticky-notes on the wall, a pad, and paper, or your iPhone or iPad, finding your preferred method of project management is key to having a less stressful design career.
3. Outsource projects that are just too stressful
While outsourcing design projects have been a touchy subject here at GraphicDesignBlender.com, I continue to support the idea that if you simply don’t have the time, abilities, or patience to do a particular project, why not outsource the project to someone who does? You’d be surprised how much less stressful it can be to manage a project instead of taking on the project head on. Try working with other designers, coders, programmers, etc to tackle your most stressful projects.
4. Learn common design mistakes and how to avoid them
Nothing is more stressful and frustrating than committing common mistakes over and over again. When designing, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. If you are having trouble with a certain technique or effect, chances are someone else has had the same problem. It’s also likely that these people have written tutorials or articles that can help you overcome these mistakes. Millo, for example, compiled a list of 22 Logo Design Mistakes you might be guilty of. Perhaps that’s an article worth checking out. As you learn to avoid common mistakes, you will be less stressed as a designer.
5. Don’t treat your clients like they are a burden
It seems like more and more designers are publicly complaining about their design clients. While dealing with clients may not always be a walk in the park, you can avoid a lot of stress by not expecting your clients to be perfectly educated about design. They also shouldn’t necessarily give in to everything you say just because you are the designer. While I agree that the client is not always right, there are times when it’s just not worth the stress to create such a burden for yourself.
6. If you freelance, set office hours and stick to them
You always hear designers who have made the switch to freelance raving about how great it is to work from home. What you don’t frequently hear about are the 2 am project deadlines, long weekends full of projects, 9 pm client phone calls, etc. If you are a freelance designer, be sure to set office hours for yourself. This means you need to set a time when you will work, when clients can call you, when you will answer emails, etc. Likewise set times when these things can’t happen. Your life will be much less stressful as you learn to set aside time for serious design work and then live life during the remaining time.
7. Let others help you in areas where you are weak
Face it, you are a designer. You’re not a lawyer, you’re not an accountant, and you’re not a sales representative. And that’s okay! While you may work a little bit with the legal issues of your design business, the cash flow, or the sales tactics, designers who want to relieve a little stress will let other people help them with tasks they do not know how to do very well. In my experience, it is well worth the extra money to hire a lawyer, accountant, or salesperson if your business is big enough to merit such an expense.
8. Take time off
Sometimes you just have to get away. While you may love sitting at your computer and designing, everyone needs a break once and a while. Go ahead, plan your projects, notify your clients, schedule your blog posts, forward your calls to voicemail, and take a few days off. Your clients will understand.
9. Move away from the computer
Even if you don’t take a lot of time off every month or year to really get away, you should dedicate time each day to doing something besides being on the computer. Find a hobby that lets you build with your hands or get some much-needed exercise. There are a million great things you could learn to do on the internet, but take time each day to enjoy the non-web aspect of life. It will help you relieve some built-up stress.
10. Learn some basic time management skills
Along with project management, time management is a definite must for any designer. In order to avoid many of the pitfalls we have discussed already in this article, you should learn to manage your time and stick to the schedules you establish for yourself.
11. Don’t sweat the small stuff
There are ups and downs of being a perfectionist. I would never advocate the idea of doing a less-than-your-best job in any aspect of design. There are, however, certain things you can control and other things you simply cannot control. If you waste your time surfing the internet when you should be working and miss a deadline, that is something you can control. Feel free to sweat. But if you get sick or your internet goes out and you miss a deadline, probably not something you can control. Stop sweating.
12. Get some sleep
Lastly, make sure to set aside enough time to recharge your body. I’ve tried the schedule where you work late and get up early to work some more. It isn’t very fun. Lately, I have been going to bed a little earlier than usual and waking up early as well. I find I am most productive in the morning and by eleven or noon I have already accomplished a lot for the day.Of course, you have to learn when you work best. If you are a late-night worker, perhaps you should work later and sleep in a little more. Lots of sleep will help reduce the stress you may feel as a designer.