How to overcome designer burnout in your own design office?

I decided to write a few lines about burnout in the work of a designer (especially self-employed) because last year I experienced burnout myself. I will not copy dry rules from wise books. You have a ton of articles on burnout on the Internet. Just enter the following keywords into the Google search engine:
How to deal with burnout?
What is burnout?
What are the symptoms of burnout?

I will write as I see it, as a business owner, designer, blogger, husband and father of two sons.

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Excessive stress was the main reason for my professional burnout.
You can never eliminate stress to zero. Running any business is more or less stressful. The idea is to keep stress to a minimum, to reduce the risk that stress initiates.

How to deal with stress in the design office?

The most common cause of stress for every designer is too many projects and exceeding the project schedule.
I run a design office in Poznań for the fourth year and I can divide this period into three equal parts:
The first at least 1/3 (over a year) of running my own business was not very stressful, without affecting everyday life and family
The second at least 1/3 of the period was more stress for me, still without impact on everyday life and family.
For me, the third, at least 1/3 of the period, was a big or very big stress which translated into family life.

How did stress and excess work affect the family?

1. No time limits for the company and the family. Excessive involvement in corporate affairs.
2. Even when I came home from work, I was at work all the time.
3. All-day design, 12-14 hours a day.
4. I always had something to do, something urgent: organizational, accounting, design matters etc.

Although the life of a statistical owner of a sole proprietorship in Poland is very similar, I say NO. This is not what life is about. I do not want to work like this, even at the cost of lower earnings.
At a critical moment I was losing my motivation and willingness to design, thinking that I was not very good to run my own business was sewn on me.
It was a very painful experience for me, because I consider myself a good and reliable designer. I design with passion, which motivates me to continuous personal development. At some point I lost my motivation.
I wanted to quit everything, get a full-time job and not worry about organizational matters and orders.
But running away from my company would be the easiest solution, it would be self-betrayal, running away from problems … .
Do you know what it was caused by?
The answer is simple. After three years of running a design office, I caught up with my professional burnout. I had many orders, health and family problems. I was running an average of 15-20 topics at the same time; from simple installation in a single-family house to several kilometers long sanitary networks.

How did stress and excess work affect my company’s budget?

This is probably the only thing that I remember best from last year. Last year was a very dynamic and difficult year for me, but I’m already next year and looking back, I say to myself: it was worth it. I gained new experience, changed myself and my company for the better.

What caused my burnout?

– a large number of projects,
– a large number of formal and legal arrangements (I was tired of the Polish bureaucracy),
– no time for design (meetings and arrangements consumed a lot of my time),
– overlapping deadlines completing projects,
– postponing important tasks for later (student method, I’ll write a separate article about this),
– deadline stress,
– over-engaging in work,
– problems health (since 2008 I have had health problems that prevent me from running my business), let me say briefly: I have a doctor’s recommendation to lead a stress-free life,
– moving to a new apartment,
– no (even one week) leave,
– family problems: the wife, son and second son were on the way, whoever has children knows what I’m talking about; Of course you can reconcile your family life and running your own business, but you have to be well organized.
– no time for yourself,
– no time for sports,
– no time for your hobby .

The day was too short. I needed 48 hours. I came to the point where I wanted to quit everything and say, “fuck I’m not doing it”. Luckily I’m responsible and even if I don’t want to, I know I have to.

About self-discipline… ..

Do you know what distinguishes successful people?

Successful people persistently pursue their goals. Even if they have bad days, they have to do something they don’t like, they do it because they know it is a condition for completing a task, project, or other goal. It was similar with me, I didn’t feel like designing, but I knew I had to. He will write a separate article about the motivation itself. Working for ourselves, we do not have a “whip” over ourselves. When you are an assistant, you have a designer or project manager above you who is “standing over you” and “chasing you to work”. The advantage of running your own business is that you don’t have to work and you won’t be fired for it. Working full-time in accordance with the labor law for 8 hours, you are at the employer’s disposal in terms of your position.

When you are the boss of a one-man company, you may not feel like “your boss”. No one knows how much you will pretend you won’t fool me. Everyone has this sometimes that I just don’t want anything. You need to be well disciplined to run a business.

How to deal with burnout in your own design office?

There are two ways:

  • hire someone (assistant, designer or both),
  • reduce the number of accepted orders.

I chose the second option. Why I do not encourage you to hire assistants at the beginning of your business. This is a better solution, but you have to calculate well the office costs, salary, equipping the assistant with a good computer and original programs. I have reduced the number of orders, changed my company’s policy and I am very glad that I went this way.
Completion of any project is always a certain success for the designer. Delivering the project raises the level of endorphins (the happiness hormone), we feel happy that we have closed the project, issued an invoice. Closing a few large projects and thinking that there is not a large queue of new projects, I breathed a sigh of relief. This was it. I was able to move mountains again.

What helped me and keeps helping me handle 50 things at once?

Organization and optimization of working time. Every year he learns new secrets of the work of a designer and company owner. I am constantly developing myself and the organization of my work. Maybe someone ask why I introduced such an organization so late? Man, you run a company for the third year and you’re not organized? I was there, but I was doing it wrong.
Only reading two books opened my eyes to…. My Working Time.
-> 4-hour working week – Timothy Ferriss
here you can buy the book “4-hour working week”
-> Eat this frog – 21 lifting methods productivity at work and fighting procrastination – Brian_Tracy.
here you can buy the book “Eat this frog – 21 methods of increasing productivity at work and fighting procrastination”
I recommend reading the above books, especially if you run your own business. You can buy books in the online bookstore “Złote thoughts”.
For some time he has been working as a task. I set tasks and carry them out, one by one, I check off, analyze, add new tasks, check off, analyze, add new tasks and so on.
The point is not to do it in your head, but to write tasks on the sheet. Nozbe is a nice tool (smartphone and computer application; you have tasks always at hand; you can create projects and assign tasks to them).
I work task-oriented, I set priorities, the efficiency of my work has increased without exaggeration by 30-40%. I don’t think how much I will earn on the project, but how to finish it quickly. Money is just a nice gift.
Project schedule is one thing, work organization is another. Creating even the best schedule and not implementing it will be a failure and create a high risk of missing the deadline.

One of my favorite quotes that allows me to complete even the largest projects is Henry Ford’s sentence:
“No task is particularly difficult if you break it down into smaller tasks . “
Following the above principle, we can implement any project, even the biggest one.


How to run a business without stress? How can I avoid burnout and loss of motivation?

1. Maintain a balance between work and family life.
2. Plan, set goals – planning saves a lot of our day.
3. Set yourself tasks. Act task-oriented. Don’t think about gratification. Think about what you have to do to get the project done on time.
4. Break down large tasks into smaller tasks. When we see smaller tasks that are within our capabilities, the project ceases to scare us.
5. Share orders with other designers, share cash. You can’t do everything.
6. Learn to say NO. Learn to say no, don’t be afraid to lose your regular customers. Often, the projects on which we earn the least spend the most of our “priceless” time.
7. “Don’t take your pants off.” Valuate your work fairly. Forget about half-free work.