Hello again, internet! It’s been a while and I’ve been incredibly busy as of late. In the past month, I ended my time working at NASDAQ and began working at a small app design company. So far it’s been great, but let’s save that topic for another post.
I graduated from SVA in May and decided to fill the time previously spent doing homework with freelance work and classes. I took on 3 projects at once and signed up for 2 NYU classes and my usual weekend Japanese class. I soon found myself incredibly tired and overworked. I snapped at people often and lost a lot of sleep. After a month, I decided to work at balancing out my schedule to keep myself from going insane. Here are a few tips I’ve learned to keep you from burning out like I almost did.
1) Don’t take on more projects than you can handle.
At most, I take on 3 projects at a time. Why? Well, if you work a full 40 hours per week, have a semblance of a social life and sleep 8 hours per day, you have a limited amount of hours to devote to freelance projects. Working and sleeping for 8 hours each weekday subtracts 16 hours from 5 days of your week. Add in eating 3 meals away from the computer, commuting and bathing and you’ve taken up at least 18 hours of your day. Wisely choose how you’ll spend ~6 free hours of your time (and 16 hours of each weekend day).
2) Schedule your time spent working on projects in advance.
If you have approximately 62 free hours per week, think about how much of this time you will spend lounging and relaxing, how much you will spend with friends, how much you will spend enriching your mind (I always recommend taking some sort of classes after you graduate to keep your mind sharp), and how much you will spend working on projects. If you take on 3 projects at 10 hours each per week, you’re already down to 32 hours. Divide 32 amongst those 7 days and it gives you approximately 4.5 hours on average per day to spend doing everything else.
3) Don’t sacrifice your happiness for others.
Consider the value of your time spent doing other things and decide how many projects, if any, you’d like to take on at the moment. If you take on a project the same week you planned a getaway with your friends (or a much needed vacation by yourself or with your loved one), you will likely either be forced to bring a laptop and work while on vacation OR do all-nighters once you get home. If you graduated from a college with a rigorous curriculum, you probably know how dreadful all-nighters are. Remember that your sanity is more important than taking on more than you can chew to bring in extra money. You may end up spending that money on mental help if you burn out.
4) Appreciate the slow days.
Having slow days gives you time to recover and MISS being busy. If you have a full-time job that pays well and have just gotten out of college or finished a stressful freelance project, appreciate the extra time on your hands. Try taking a long walk, spending an entire day with friends (GASP!), or sleeping that full 8 hours (maybe even 9, if you dare). Your creativity may suffer otherwise, and you can surely use the break after helping a few clients out.
5) Remember to live!
Don’t spend all your time working only to realize that you’ve done nothing else with your life. Find out your ideal definition of life and take time to make it yours. Have fun. Travel. Be adventurous. Many people spend a large portion of their lives working to ensure financial comfort in old age. Without spending some of that money during the youthful years, there won’t be any special memories to look back on. Living shouldn’t be about regretting choices when you look back at the past. It should be about satisfying your needs AND wants.
I wish all you full-timers with a side of freelance luck! Keep making the world a more beautiful place.
In this panel, we will hear from Staff and Principal Designers who’ve managed to stay on the IC track while growing their careers. We’ll get into some of the day-to-day nitty-gritty of what it means to be a Staff Designer or Principal Designer, and how to make this role a reality within your organization.