Taking a Break from Design Work (and Why You Need To)

Taking a Break from Design Work (and Why You Need To)

Dear graphic designers, I know you’re probably feeling a lot of pressure to churn out work, especially with all the deadlines that are looming. But if you’re not feeling inspired, don’t force yourself to work. You’ll only end up producing something that’s not your best.

I’m being brutally honest with you. Not only do graphic designers have one of the least fun jobs, the actual work is often boring and time-consuming and requires lots of hours staring at a computer screen. But even more than that, the graphic design industry is so focused on what we do, it seems like our job is only just beginning. It’s almost as if graphic design means work, work, and work.

Don’t fall victim to workaholism — the insidious habit that drives some people to make work a priority in their life above all else. According to a number of psychological studies, workaholics, as the name implies, are overworked, and they’re also less happy than those who lead more balanced lives.

If you don’t want to work today, for just that reason, don’t. If you can’t work for that reason, either, or if you’re working in a graphic design job where it just doesn’t feel productive or energizing, find another job. A job is not the place to work for the sake of working.

It’s not easy to find a job, but it’s not easy to be a graphic designer, either. You have to do a lot of work to get to the point where you can call yourself a professional designer. It’s a lot of work, and a lot of it is not fun.

You are your own boss. You don’t have to do things you don’t want to just because someone else is paying you. If you don’t want to work, don’t. If you don’t feel like it, don’t.

That’s not to say that there isn’t any place, and that we can’t do some things for the sake of the experience, such as learning or practicing new skills. But if you feel like your productivity is low because of other demands on your time or energy, that’s the time to take a break. This applies to everything from work-related and personal obligations to physical needs and even, to an extent, social needs.

If your physical needs are neglected because all of your time is dedicated to working, then it’s time to get some exercise. If it takes a trip into a nearby gym, or just taking a walk around the building, that’s fine if it’s really the best option for you on that day. Sometimes taking time off for yourself is the only way you get going on another day.

So take a day off. Whatever it is that’s keeping you from being productive is keeping you from being productive today. Don’t make excuses. Don’t justify it by saying “I have other stuff going on” or “I’ll worry about that later.” It should never come down to the excuse “I don’t feel like doing it today” as the reason for being unproductive.

Sometimes we really must take the time off from work, and sometimes we can push ourselves to do so without losing a client or compromising our own time. Either way is OK. But either way, don’t force yourself to work harder or longer than you want to so that someone else can be successful at their own pace. Don’t let your own internal clock take over someone else’s project just because of your own agenda or agenda of what needs to be done today and now.

When you start taking days off and giving yourself permission to “rest,” you’ll find that things start to pick up speed. You’ll get better ideas for new projects and clients, your brain will be refreshed by your time away from work, and you’ll make more progress on work you’re doing right now.

Don’t let yourself feel guilty for taking days off so that you can be more productive next week. You’ve already given up something valuable today, and next week is still there. That’s what makes today worth doing — that’s what makes today worth taking away from whatever other commitments you have.

I know there are designers out there who can work 24/7, just as there are people who can only work 8 hours. If you’re one of those who has the ability (or stamina) to work long hours, then I congratulate you; I’m glad it works for you. But most people don’t work the way that I’ve described here — or they have more serious issues that are keeping them from doing so effectively — and that’s fine with me too!

If you’re one of those who has little energy and need a day off every once in a while just to recoup from all of the hard work you do in a single day, then be proud of yourself. You’re doing what so many other designers do not bother with at all and you’re taking steps towards making things easier for yourself so that you can get more done in less time.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people in my industry say “I would love to work less hours,” and they usually follow up with something like “but my boss wouldn’t let me.” That’s OK! Your boss doesn’t have to give in too easily if your schedule is reasonable enough for both of your needs. And guess what — neither does your client or anyone else! Take the week off occasionally — as much or as little as you need — if only so that you can be more productive when the time does come back around and the schedule can accommodate all parties’ needs!

In any case: if you don’t like what your job is doing for your life at this point in time, why not stop working? I promise no one will judge you! Take some time away before you’ve burnt out completely on this current project or assignment; take an “emergency” break from work just because it’s an emergency — no one has to wait for another emergency before they step away from this one!

You have so much more important stuff going on in your life anyway, so don’t spend any time (or energy) on graphic design that doesn’t add value to your life and the lives of those around you. Why would I tell anyone this? Because sometimes when we get obsessed with the idea of getting more done in less time and more energy by working harder and longer hours, we lose sight of those things that truly make us happy and productive individuals…like life itself. And sometimes other people have more important things going on than us too — such as their job — and we need to be mindful of that in order not to step on their toes or let them down when they ask us to step back for our own sake too!

So take care of yourself too. Work smarter, not harder sometimes! Work smarter, not longer!