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Art by Bea Vaquero

Curb creative burnout: 8 techniques designers swear by

If you’ve ever experienced creative burnout, know that you are not alone! Feeling mentally exhausted and overwhelmed with the demands of your creative work is something many designers experience throughout their careers.

We know how difficult it can be to flex those creative muscles when you feel mentally checked out. So, we decided to ask eight different designers to share how they deal with burnout, re-energize, and get in a better headspace.

The next time you feel burnout creeping in, lean on these designers’ advice to reignite your creative spark and push past the rut so you can get back to making your best work yet.

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Row 1: Monika Lizak, Amanda Fuson, Noam Weiner for Jimdo.

1. Give yourself some creative freedom

Usually, I hit burnout because my client work isn’t allowing for the same kind of creative freedoms as my personal work. So, I look for a middle ground. I ask myself what kind of client work I would want, think of local businesses that fit that mold, and turn their “re-brand” into a personal creative project. That way, there’s an off-chance that my personal work may end up being picked up by a business and used even though I created within my own guidelines.

2. Distance yourself from work

Creative burnout is nothing to be ashamed of and has nothing to do with your worth, talent, or skills. Once I’m stuck, the only thing that helps me is to take a break and allow myself to get some distance from my work. Depending on what I need and why I feel burned out, I either take a rest, do sports, pursue a hobby that has nothing to do with my work, or follow a tutorial to develop my skills and learn something new. Nowadays, I’m very strict about doing something small everyday that fuels me and prevents burnout.

3. Engage in physical activity

I think of creativity as a form of problem-solving, and problem-solving wears me out. Just like athletes, creatives need rest days — only it’s our brains, not our bodies that need the respite. When I hit a wall, I take a day or two off and fill it with physical activity. Swimming and cycling are my favorites. This seems counter-intuitive, but it gives my brain a chance to recharge. It also helps me sleep much better which, in turn, produces my best ideas. When I get back to work, I find that the increase in productivity and motivation make up for any time lost.

4. Lean on friends & mentors

Burnout is like a magnetic field that keeps your pencil from moving. To get through it, I lean on my creative friends or mentors. Let me tell ya — your creative mentors and friends can see the potential in you and spark a flame into your work. I can’t tell you countless times at the studio when I don’t think I can push through an idea and my studio mates see this and push me to step away, laugh a little bit, and know it isn’t the end of the world. Encouragement is key push through my burnouts. Sometimes we all just need a little support and a reminder that you are AWESOME!

5. Check-in with yourself

When I start to feel burnout creeping in, I check in with my most basic needs as a human: Am I sleeping enough? Eating well and hydrating? Getting up from my desk to move around and get some fresh air? Making sure to take care of myself helps me to do better work and keeps burnout from becoming an overwhelming distraction from the things I need to do.

6. Change your environment & reignite your passion

Creative burnout can and will happen. I don’t have a method that always works so I usually try a few methods, I call it creative inspiration troubleshooting. Change your environment — I work in our retail store but there are millions of distractions here. Working from home allows me to relax, stay focused, and chill with my cat and dog all day.

Also, remind yourself why you love design. It’s easy to feel uninspired when a project you’re working on isn’t your favorite. Look at your favorite designers work. Get excited about design and remind yourself why you’re doing it in the first place.

7. Allow yourself to hit pause

My go-to strategy when I feel creative burnout creeping up is to give myself permission to pause and shift gears into something totally different; which for me could be my guitar, my bicycle, go for a walk, a video game, call a friend, etc. Even if I have a tough deadline, those things help me through and to learn how to be more preventative.

8. Try something new

I’ve found the best way to handle burnout is to make sure it doesn’t happen in the first place. We all spend countless hours drawing and designing and prototyping, so the most important thing is to build a healthy routine around that and keep things exciting. I like to channel my creativity into something different.

If I feel like my creative juice is running low, I take some time off work and focus on a different creative thing instead. I try out a new recipe or practice writing or go out and take a couple of pretty pictures with my phone (who needs a fancy camera these days eh?). This helps me stay inspired, so I can go back to my projects with a fresh head and some new ideas.

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by bruno moncada

While listening to the last Creative Pep Talk Podcast - from the awesome @Andy J. Miller - I realized that I was feeling burnout and wasn't even aware. I took a few days for myself and for not doing/worrying too much. I'm glad to say that I'm back on ...

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Thank you to all designers who shared their advice! We hope you were able to walk away with some helpful tips for getting your creative mojo back. Remember that self-care and good mental health is key to creating your best work. So, don’t forget to slow down, always check-in with yourself, and know that all successful creatives experience burnout. You’re not alone, and your design community is here to support you.

Want even more tips for creative people? Check out our blog post on overcoming impostor syndrome and a roundup of career advice from 7 established designers.

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