A Primer for Work/Life Balance

There’s work/life balance, and then there’s design.

Most designers I know fit into one of two categories: workaholics and, well, actually that may be the only kind I know. Our profession demands it. Working with clients, managing teams and deadlines, chasing down information and making each design thoughtful and unique. We top it off with the ever-important eye for detail. These things take time and brainpower; it’s hard to stay creative every day and we risk serious burnout.

The answer sounds simple: Find work-life balance.

I found it ironic when one of our AIGA board members recently wanted to do a session on the topic, but everyone she reached out to said no. They were all so overworked that she couldn’t find anyone who actually had achieved that mythical state of nirvana that most of us can only dream about. Thankfully, she eventually found a great speaker for the event. I was too busy to go.

I consider myself something of an expert on the topic, mainly because I’ve done it wrong for most of my 25 years working as a designer. But I can tell you, based on what I’ve done, what not to do. So here are my tips. Do the opposite.

  • Start each day early (like bleary-eyed dark time-frame) with a strong cup of coffee and your email inbox. This will ensure that you’ll need readers by the time you hit your 40’s.
  • Put “Go to the gym” as an auto repeat in your calendar, then never go. You’ll have good intentions, but by the time your eyes are in focus your clients will be sending emails asking “how’s that layout coming along?”, which is code for “I really think I need this in an hour.” Pour second cup of coffee.
  • Say yes. To everything.
  • When considering adding to your calendar, don’t worry about how many days you fill up. If there’s an empty slot, it’s fair game. Definitely don’t allow extra travel time or the leeway to fit in errands while you’re out.
  • Remember that you are the only person who can possibly do the job right. Don’t enlist help or spread the work around.
  • If you don’t know how to do it, fake it and say yes anyway. Figure it out tonight when things are quiet. That’s what after-dinner hours are for…along with the charity project you took on pro bono (my current one is for an art center).
  • This one is important: take everything seriously. Like your life depends on it.
  • Do not learn how to manage up, always let stuff roll downhill and wait at the bottom with a catcher’s mitt.
  • Answer the phone.
  • Eat at your desk and work weekends.

Fffffffffffffffff Sorry. I dozed off a minute because I’m writing this at bedtime when I should actually be asleep.

If you follow these ten tips, you’ll enjoy rewarding relationships, stay fit and be happy in life while you advance your career. Ok, no seriously, (LOL) I hope you do a better job of this than I have. Those 25 years went by like THAT. One day you might wake up and realize things you missed. Forgive me, but I won’t be in the studio this weekend. I just decided to go skiing.


Leslie Jorgensen is the VP of Communications for AIGA Colorado. She’s also a fine artist and is the founder and creative director at Connexion Creative, a design and branding firm near Boulder.

By Leslie Jorgensen
Published April 22, 2015
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