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How do you manage when you feel overwhelmed?Face it, we've all been there. Not knowing what to do next because there's just so much to do. Wanting to pull your hair out over the stress you feel. Feeling overwhelmed isn't fun but it is part of the job. The trick is figuring out how to plough through it and move on.
I go into greater detail in the podcast. (click the orange button above and have a listen). But if you don't have time to listen, here's the gist of what I said.
The feeling of being overwhelmed can be caused by so many things. Maybe you have too much work on your plate or too many deadlines approaching. Or maybe you don't have enough work coming in but you're overwhelmed with bills to pay. Perhaps you're feeling overwhelmed by all that is involved with growing a successful graphic design business. All of this doesn't take into account your life outside of being a graphic designer.
Everything just keeps piling up until the weight of it all overwhelms you.
What do you do when you feel overwhelmed?
The best way to get over the feeling is with baby steps. Like so many things in life you just need to clear your head and take it one thing at a time. So pick one task and complete it before moving on to the next.
If you start off in the morning with a dozen things on your to-do list and work a little bit on each one throughout the day, you will be making progress but at the end of your day you will still have 12 things that are not finished.
However, if you pick one item on your list and work on it until it's finished before moving on to the next, at the end of your day you may only have 7 or 8 things that still need finishing. You'll feel much better about your accomplishments that day and wont feel as overwhelmed with the work that wasn't done. Those remaining items can simply go to the top of your list for tomorrow.
How to prevent feeling overwhelmed.
Organization is key
It's simple, make lists. Your mind already has enough to worry about. Don't add keeping track of everything to the burden. Write a list of what you need to accomplish each day and you will have a better understanding of how to divide your time.
I like to make my lists on paper. That way I can scratch items off when I finish them, which I find much more satisfying than simply pressing a checkbox in an app. Now if paper is not your thing, there are may great apps for managing your to-do lists. Clear, Daylight and Evernote come immediately to mind. But I personally don't like it when the items I check off disappear from my list. I know it's to help you focus on what still needs to be done, but I like to see all the scratches on my paper showing me what I've accomplished already. It makes me feel good.
My strategy is every evening before gong to bed I come to my office and write a new to-do list for the following day. I take everything that wasn't scratched off today's list and put it at the top of the new list. I like doing this the night before because I can think about it while I'm in bed and plan my day. In the morning I can get straight to work because I already know what needs to be done.
If at all possible, assign longer deadlines for your projects. Instead of telling your clients that you will have something to show them tomorrow, tell them it will be in two days, or by the end of the week. If you get it to them sooner great, they'll be impressed, but if you don't manage it they wont be disappointed in you.
If you have repetitive or menial tasks that need doing, find someone to take on the task. Why should you spend hours copying and pasting hundreds of names and contact info onto that new business card you just designed for that big corporation? Hire someone (students are great for this) to do this for you. It will free up your time for other things and you wont feel so overwhelmed.
Do something for yourself
Sometimes it isn't your workload or the job at all. Sometimes it's you. Do yourself a favour and get some exercise. Do something creative that isn't for work. Go visit a museum, or simply go for a walk.
Sometimes all it takes is stepping away for some “me time” in order to refocus yourself to overcome that feeling of being overwhelmed.
You're not alone
We all feel overwhelmed at times. It's human nature and it's part of being a graphic designer. Just know that you will get through it and it will make you a better person and designer when you do. And getting through it will help you the next time you feel overwhelmed.
What do you think?
What do you do when you take some time off from your graphic design business? Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.
Questions of the Week
If you would like me to answer your question in a future episode please visit my feedback page.
This week’s question comes from Haya,
I've been designing for a while for the company I work at. I took some classes in the beginning but I'm mostly self-taught, I find that I am missing some basic rules in design what makes my work kind of amateurish. I really would like to take design to the next level, but the tutorials and content that I find on the internet are more how to use photoshop, or any program and less about concept and design.
I cannot go back to school of design so I would love to hear your input on where can I learn more on my free time.?
Resource of the week is Google Alerts
Google Alerts, found at alerts.google.com, is the way I use to keep me up to speed on all sorts of topics. It's extremely easy to set up alerts. Simply enter the search terms on the page and Google will email you the results daily, weekly or as they come out. It's just like doing a search engine search but the results are delivered to your email inbox. You can filter the search by language, region, sources.
Google Alerts are an easy and free way to stay on top of things.
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I want to help you.
Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org