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Boy am I tired

So we all just got done pouring our heart and soul into our latest project. Our blood, sweat and tears. Our hopes and dreams and fears. One final late night of second-guessing, changes and file prep and we are finally done.

It is only Tuesday.

How do you get past physical and creative exhaustion? Are you coasting by today, pretending to sketch or search for images? Coffee may get yours eyes open, but how do get your creative juices flowing again?

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ARCHIVE ID 2083 FILED UNDER Miscellaneous
PUBLISHED ON Sep.21.2004 BY David Weinberger
ps’s comment is:

cleaning up the studio.

for some reason it feels good to clean up that mess that got created throughout a big project. almost as if it is part of the project. the cooling-down period.

and then sleep. and catching up on all the magazine subscriptions that got neglected.

On Sep.21.2004 at 09:44 AM
Tim Letscher’s comment is:

Invoicing is always nice, too. Good closure.

Plus, take a break and be good to yourself; because the last project came from somewhere inside you and you can't let that part of you get too beat up.

On Sep.21.2004 at 10:00 AM
Tom Dolan’s comment is:

Time away is key. Even if it's just half a day. Walk the dog. Get outside. Take an afternoon nap.

On Sep.21.2004 at 10:06 AM
Chris Rugen’s comment is:

I'm with Tom: time away.

Often I jack into my PC and game for a few hours (y'know, when I get home).

At work I do small mindless things and take lunch out of the office, usually with a good book (not about design) or graphic novel.

On Sep.21.2004 at 10:17 AM
jo’s comment is:

Time away is key.

Yes, yes, yes. Not even thinking about thinking about design. I like to do something with my hands. Any kind of cleaning (washing those piled-up dishes, folding laundry, straightening my desk) is theraputic and seems to reorganize my brain. Going jogging does that for me too. There's something about physical movement that seems cleansing, and with running you can enter this relaxing trance-like mode sometimes.

On Sep.21.2004 at 10:21 AM
Ben Wexlar’s comment is:

I could go ahead and write that when I finish a mentally, and physically, exhausting design project that I like to clean my desk or go for a run. I would probably read a book if I could wrap my mind around it, or invoice if I had the patience required after getting a normal night's sleep. The truth of the matter is that no matter what I consider an ideal way to wind down, I end up lying on the couch, television on, flipping through channels for at least four to eight hours. It erases the mind and doesn't expect you to actually take a nap—something extremely hard to do when you've been forcing yourself to stay awake and aware for so long; watching television even lets you run a mental critique on all the crappy type and non-conceptual advertising during commercials.

As for the outdoors, a good clean-up, or other productive ways of taking a break, I find it's most important to find ways to ease these things into a normal work process. I live a block from Golden Gate Park and find myself doing sketches there or visiting the pond for an hour here or there. Walking six blocks up hill to get my film developed for my project gets me a break and makes me feel like I'm still working.

After about three days, I start picking up the paper scraps, rejected printouts, coffee cups, microwave dinner trays, and stray exacto blades covering my work area.

On Sep.21.2004 at 10:36 AM
graham’s comment is:

i go for a swim in lake me.

On Sep.21.2004 at 10:37 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Given that you probably have to get working on the next project right away and that you don't have a whole day to go for a picnic at the park, a walk around the block is definitely helpful. Fresh air does wonders for a tired body and brain. Five minutes of defocusing are better than trying to gut it out for the next round.

Coffee works, fresh fruit works, even chewing gum works.

On Sep.21.2004 at 10:38 AM
lorenzo’s comment is:

Most of the time I go for a run around the university during lunch, it's definitely revitalizing and it feels good.

Sometimes I head to the museum district to see what new 'pendejadas' there are.

Music, music and more music, it always does the job to get the creative rhythm going.

On Sep.21.2004 at 10:39 AM
Don Julio’s comment is:

I pick up a pencil.

On Sep.21.2004 at 10:41 AM
Brian’s comment is:

I always get myself away from the computer and try and do something that does not require the part of my brain that was just overworked. Whether it be cleaning my desk, wandering around the office to see what the non-creatives are doing, or stepping outside of the building for a bit, just getting away and letting my creative juices settle down for a while relaxes me a lot.

On Sep.21.2004 at 10:56 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> I pick up a pencil.


> Sometimes I head to the museum district to see what new 'pendejadas' there are.

There sure is no translation for that word, huh? (It's a Mexican thing).

On Sep.21.2004 at 11:00 AM
Rick’s comment is:

Who are you people, with time to swim, or picnic, or walk around the block? Do you actually mean to tell me that some jobs involve downtime instead of constant cranking out crap?

Wow. Who wants to trade?

Ooops... is my burnout showing?

On Sep.21.2004 at 11:01 AM
lorenzo’s comment is:

There sure is no translation for that word, huh? (It's a Mexican thing).

Yeah, I believe you may be right. I was thinking about it and I couldn't come up with an adequate trans.

(It's a Mexican thing).


On Sep.21.2004 at 11:18 AM
James Song’s comment is:

A quick walk around downtown or in a media store reminds me that I have a lot of catching up to do

On Sep.21.2004 at 11:22 AM
szkat’s comment is:

yeah seriously, right now it's like i have two full time jobs - i have the 8 to 6 one that does the income thing, but then i have two freelance clients and i'm trying to launch a portfolio site before Design Camp. going for a swim isn't so easy when making rent can be so hard.

but to really, truly relax, there are several things for me that never fail: Design Camp, old 1960 horror movies starring Vincent Price, and good old ten minutes of stretching. not ashanta yoga, not pilates, but just old fashioned bend over and touch your toes stretching.

and sometimes a little prayer/meditation. works better than you think.

On Sep.21.2004 at 11:46 AM
laura’s comment is:

"Where any view of money exists, art cannot be carried on". -William Blake

After work I take off my heels and head to the skatepark. Living the double life helps me remember to forget what it's like to be an adult with responsibilities. Then I go home and try to cover the road rash up before work the next day. It's great.

On Sep.21.2004 at 11:47 AM
Tan’s comment is:

First, I jump back on SU to see what's been up since I've been in my work cave.

Then, I answer low-priority emails that I've been neglecting.

I schedule a nice lunch with a friend or coworker, or just go to the bookstore for lunch and browse the clearance table or magazine aisles to remind myself that there's more to the world than the project I'd been buried in.

I read the Onion.

As to cleaning, I'm a little weird. I like to clean utensils and my work station as I go, so when I'm done, I'm really done. I'm the same way when I cook.

Oh, and if it's been an especially hard week, I go online and start browsing through real estate on Maui and stuff. It's an easy way to take a little mental vacation.

On Sep.21.2004 at 11:51 AM
Steve Mock’s comment is:

I like to dig a ditch or hurl heavy objects. Something really, really physical to burn off the adrenaline. All the while thanking God for blessing an old bastard like me with such a cool job.

On Sep.21.2004 at 12:01 PM
ben...’s comment is:

well i pick up the latest design annual and thumb through it for my next idea and then i pick one and copy it. or i go to a snack machine in my building and let it steal some of my money, or talk to other people who are trying to work...

corporate design licks dong

On Sep.21.2004 at 12:06 PM
TJ’s comment is:


I've googled it, translated it, and I'm flummoxed. I found things like this but I don't know what to make of it.

- the beer is the test that God loves to us and wants that we are happy.

- Without doubt, the great invention but of the history of humanity is the good beer..., acceptance that the wheel also is a great invention, but the wheel does not take so well with the meat roasted.

- When law the problems that drinking causes, lets read.

- For some it is a Six-Pack, for my is a support battalion.

So I guess I recharge my creative juices by letting my curoisity get the best of me. Any help on 'pendejadas'would be great.

On Sep.21.2004 at 12:08 PM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:





new fonts

browsing portfolios

On Sep.21.2004 at 12:25 PM
Alec Millard’s comment is:

I live near the coast of Lake Michigan and there is nothing like a walk down the beach to clear my head. I think one really has to make time to be out in nature. I am always in a world of people and it feels good to be alone for a while with nothing around except sand and water.

On Sep.21.2004 at 12:39 PM
Greg’s comment is:

corporate design licks dong

ARGH! You just had to post this the day AFTER the deadline for the poster contest, didn't you!

On Sep.21.2004 at 12:42 PM
MisterKen’s comment is:

I agree with ps, cleaning really helps me get my mind back together. During a rough project, my desk looks like I feel.

not a pretty sight.

On Sep.21.2004 at 12:48 PM
jenny’s comment is:

I like to clean my desk too: its always a big mess after a big project. I like taking a walk, too, for clearing my head. I live in Russian Hill in San Francisco, so I'll walk the hills to get some exercise and then walk along the embarcadaro and look out at the water...

Tan - love the idea of browsing real estate in Maui!

On Sep.21.2004 at 01:18 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> pendejadas

doesn't that mean "idiotic actions" or things that are "a frivolous waste of time"? Or does it mean something more profane?

I know pendejo means dumbass, so the conjugation's got to be close.

Heh..heh..I learned my Spanish from busboys and line cooks when I waited tables in college. It's not exactly stuff I'd try out on my inlaws...

On Sep.21.2004 at 02:01 PM
Michael H.’s comment is:

> corporate design licks dong

Ben, I prefer using the term "licks brahma balls" on some days. But it pays the bills.

I'm like Tan. I feel like I've been in a cave while working on some projects and so I usually check in here at SU to see what I've been missing out on. Then I'll catch up on the news and my other daily sites, maybe veg out with some TV or game playing (if I have time) If there's not enough time for any of that, then at least 15-30 minutes outside on a nice day is a must.

On Sep.21.2004 at 02:02 PM
Bryony’s comment is:

Aimless walking is usually my option. Step outside and see where you end up. Another thing I like to do is have dinner with Armin, away from the world (no need to say it). Other things... playing scrabble in our local coffeeshop, a few hours at Borders, reading, cleaning and reorganizing whatever needs to be reorganized.

On Sep.21.2004 at 02:15 PM
szkat’s comment is:

"I like to dig a ditch or hurl heavy objects. Something really, really physical to burn off the adrenaline. All the while thanking God for blessing an old bastard like me with such a cool job."

what a f***ing sweet answer.

somehow the image of digging a ditch or shoveling snow or raking leaves embody a brute force, repitition, and simplicity that emotes my state of mind at the end of a big job.

when i was 17 my church youth group went to South Dakota and the first thing i had to do was dig a grave, which profoundly changed my life. not that everyone should do just that —— but it brought out in me what makes me like Steve Mock's answer best —— i think he caught what most of us feel at the end if we really consider it. strong, weary, humble, and thankful.

On Sep.21.2004 at 02:46 PM
Spencer’s comment is:

Because I never got the chance to get out of the office after finishing a desk, I too do the routine desktop tidy (both physical and virtual) and make tea/coffee for the rest of the studio.

If I finish up a project at say, 4:30, I'll probably arrange to meet a friend at 5:45 giving me good reason to get out at 5:30 on the dot. Pint/coffee or two and chat about anything but work.

Then, invariably be half an hour late for work the next day as a present to myself.

On Sep.21.2004 at 03:17 PM
Kosal’s comment is:

The cure for my creative exhaustion usually comes from The Art of Looking Sideways If not, good pillow-wetting sleep is most refreshing.

On Sep.21.2004 at 03:32 PM
lorenzo’s comment is:

Any help on 'pendejadas'would be great.

doesn't that mean "idiotic actions" or things that are "a frivolous waste of time"? Or does it mean something more profane?

Actually yes it can be translated that way and yes it can be profane. The busboys and line cooks taught you well!

I find myself doing a lot of pendejadas such as my art that I start and never finish (though I do enjoy working on) or tripping as I'm walking or running. Here's one, not paying attention to the bus I get on in the morning and end up somewhere different than where I anticipated being.

So yes, I guess it can be translated that way but it sounds better and has oomph in Spanish...

On Sep.21.2004 at 04:23 PM
James Bogue’s comment is:

Like many, once a project is complete, I have plenty more in queue. Even though the design sweatshop pace never slows, I have learned that I need to slow down my time, and take a small break so that I may find the next breeze of inspirado that comes my way. This means getting out of my chair and escaping the office for a little street inspiration, or visiting a coworker and waste his/her time with a little philosophical banter. Whatever it is, it is not sitting in front of my COMPUTER even when the pressure is on. I fear the doom of being a lifeless automaton clicking buttons without the needed inspiration. Taking a break to interact with Life itself is what gives me the recharge. Even if it means I need to pick up the pace a little bit later, no sweat, I am a machine. and then I am human again.

On Sep.21.2004 at 05:14 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> So yes, I guess it can be translated that way but it sounds better and has oomph in Spanish...

Exactly. But yes, it is much in line with what Tan said — dumbass. Although when used with much more anger it can mean dickhead (which, in its own right, does not translate well in Spanish) or jerk.

Another solution: Movies. Nothing like a good movie (rented or at the theater) to let your mind wander and rest.

On Sep.21.2004 at 05:34 PM
busy as two people’s comment is:

when i am slammed and finally reach the point of burnout....there is really only one good way to take a break:

cry yourself to sleep.

taking a walk, ect. usually reminds me of all the stuff that i forgot to do or should be doing.

On Sep.21.2004 at 05:47 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>Nothing like a good movie (rented or at the theater) to let your mind wander and rest.

yea...old favorites like Predator. Nothing tops that.

On Sep.21.2004 at 05:52 PM
James Bogue’s comment is:

Or maybe reruns of the Battle of the Network Stars. It's a growing addiction facing millions of TV babies weened on Love Boat and anything with Lee Majors.

There's something to be said (or not said) about watching desaturated film clips of forgotten fame running around in tubesocks...

On Sep.21.2004 at 07:47 PM
Marco Acevedo’s comment is:

Well, nothing beats gets getting laid off and deep-sixing your alarm clock for about a month for good measure. But if you're speaking of the short term: cleaning up your workspace/electronic files, getting as much sleep as your body needs, and indulging yourself in a guilty pleasure (in that order) are imperative. And by guilty pleasure I mean something that occupies those centers of your brain having nothing to do with graphic design. (No, mindless channel surfing does not count.) Read that fat book on the flying saucer enigma. Rent a weekend's worth of film noir. Learn a foreign language. And stay away from hostile discussion threads that would tear down your months of good, honest work. : )

On Sep.21.2004 at 08:28 PM
jenny’s comment is:

Does anybody's supervisor's ever give you a little time off after a big project? I'm only asking because my husband (who's a director of design) tries to give his reports something after a big project - takes his team out to lunch, or lets them go an hour or two early; if that's not possible, he brings in champagne for everyone for the end of the day, or a nice bottle of wine (for someone to take home, if its an individual).

This hasn't been my experience, but I worked mostly in-house before I went freelance, and I was never sure my boss knew what I was doing in any case...

I probably didn't deserve anything, anyhow! ;o)

On Sep.21.2004 at 09:17 PM
David Weinberger’s comment is:

And stay away from hostile discussion threads that would tear down your months of good, honest work. : )

For those of you who don't know Marco Acevedo, he is a talented and versatile designer and actually one of the lead designers from the UPS rebranding. I believe this is his first post on Speak Up and the first from anyone involved in the project.

Welcome Marco.

On Sep.21.2004 at 09:41 PM
Marco Acevedo’s comment is:

PS... the PG-rated version of pendejadas is tonter�as. Either way I suppose it reflects badly on the action-taker, who is either a pendejo or a tonto.

On Sep.21.2004 at 09:44 PM
Marco Acevedo’s comment is:

Oops. Sorry, Dave, didn't mean to follow up your generous intro with a pendejada, but, there you go. Timing is everything. Thanks for the welcome! It's good to get back in touch.

On Sep.21.2004 at 09:49 PM
Rob’s comment is:

I'm must still be in the cave because I can't think about anything right now other than I need some sleep.

Honestly, though, after a few days and nights of work, and then some more, I just like to kick back on the deck with a Guinness. Admiring the city skyline and contemplating...

Shit, time to go change a diaper. Now, how's that for 'cleaning.'

On Sep.21.2004 at 10:50 PM
Michael H.’s comment is:

I think Tan has a thing for Predator, he keeps bringing it up whenever he can.

Oh yes, welcome Marco. You're gonna like it here.

On Sep.21.2004 at 11:02 PM
ian’s comment is:

take a hike | time away even if it's just half a day | go out to lunch | go home early | read a book | see a movie | take a nap...for f#@k's sake! where the hell do all of you work? is this all the beauty of freelance or something?

if i'm up half the night working, i still have to go in an present, then i have to do the numerous rounds of revisions, then i have to prep all the files and disc up for the printer, and by then i've spent too long on that project and i'm already behind on the next one, and then the vicious circle starts over again.

when it's the big push to get something done and we have used every available second to finish the project, and it's finally be passed on the the brave volunteer with the fast car trying to get to the fedex at the airport because they have a drop off 15 minutes later than the fedex up the street, then i break down and it's straight to the parking lot for a cigarette and a drink (whatever is in the fridge: beer, vodka, tequilla, even water. i'm not picky at this point. except coffee...i have wat too much in me at this point). i still really don't understand why i do this. i quit smoking about four years ago with the exception of moments like this, so the cigarette actually amplifies the sick feeling which developed from worrying i was going to miss the deadline. so then, with my head swimming laps and my stomache trying to turn inside-out, i'll go clean up the physical mess the project created.

when i've had enough and i'm just to burnt out to be at work i go home take my dog to the park for a game of fetch (dog chases frisbee, then i chase dog trying to get frisbee from dog to throw again, quite the entertainment for both of us). then when we're both exhausted, we fall asleep on the couch with some bad sci-fi movie on the tele.

i do some of the things mentioned all the time and don't realize it. for example i always clean my desk up after completing a task. i'll clean the entire production room after making a simple comp. if i'm being particularly good i'll make sure my time sheet is up to date, but that usually requires to much thinking.

the one thing i do every day which helps me to actually end my work day mentally, is to quit all my open programs and shut down my computer. for some reason this simple action mentally and physically ends my day and i don't have to turn back on until the morning. when my computer is off, i'm done.

the hardest thing for me to do is to stop working, especially when i know a deadline is getting close, but i needed this article and everyones suggestions. i've got to slow down. the complete burnout points are getting closer and closer together...

sorry for being so long winded...i just downloaded todd snider's near truths and hotel rooms from itunes. now i got an itch for storytelling...cheers!

On Sep.22.2004 at 01:28 AM
Tom Dolan’s comment is:

The Predator thing was a joke, to the earlier derailed thread, and a good one. Hah!

On Sep.22.2004 at 08:51 AM
Marco Acevedo’s comment is:

Ian, I certainly empathize. In my case, I do happen to be currently freelancing, and believe me when the project kicks in the pace is as frantic... perhaps more so, since as a freelancer I feel much more self-conscious about those occasional chats at the colleagues' desk. My recommendations are an idealized scenario, but nonetheless are meant to emphasize the importance of even attempting a balanced lifestyle whenever possible. Burnout ain't no good for anybody. I think a good parallel discussion might be about the day-to-day perils of the grind... I for one tend to develop a ravenous appetite under pressure and I've gotta watch that snack intake... I was stunned (and delighted) to discover I'd lost twenty pounds just a month after leaving my last staff position... no exercise, no diet... just by not being in the office.

On Sep.22.2004 at 09:45 AM
dinah the designah’s comment is:

in respons to original post,




sex (self service will do in a pinch)

substances (no heavy narcotics)

watch star wars


eat heavy food

walking in the woods

setting an old pair of shoes on fire

hit golf balls with a bat across the field

self destructive? maybe. Relaxing? most definately.

On Sep.22.2004 at 11:53 AM
Tan’s comment is:

>watch star wars

sorry for the geek tangent, but has anyone gotten the just-released DVD box set yet?

I'm so disappointed with the box packaging. It's totally ghetto, not even up to par with the Indiana Jones box, let alone the LOR sets.

Yet another disappointment from Lusasfilm.*sigh*

On Sep.22.2004 at 12:25 PM
Steven’s comment is:

When I was doing the corporate grind, as Ian and others have mentioned, there was no time for getting out of the office. So I mostly just slowed waaaay down, cleaned-up my desk and computer desktop, returned ignored e-mail, and then maybe take a glance at the projects list to see if there was anything that was anything else going super-nova. And if there was any more time left in the day, I would browse design books and mags, just to look at cool stuff without having any project in mind. Yes, great design always refreshes me, even after cranking. But for the most part, I just tried to take it easy and relax. Oh, and I always tried made a point of coming in 30 to 45 minutes late the next day.

Now that I work freelance out of my house, I still like to clean up my desk and desktop, but then I take the dogs for nice long walk, take indulgent mid-afternoon naps, maybe get "totally analog" by puttering in the garden beds or doing chores around the house. Or alternatively, maybe I'll put on some really hard, cranking industrial/metal slammin' music on the stereo and bounce and flail around the living room while the dogs bark at me... until the dogs are making too much noise and I'm out of breath and laughing too hard.

On Sep.22.2004 at 02:43 PM
jana’s comment is:

a Bass (or a few) and a book (non design-related, though other artistic topics are a-ok)

o, and: hi all!

On Sep.22.2004 at 05:10 PM
ps’s comment is:

jana...welcome. a few bass are always a good option. finished presenation or not.

On Sep.22.2004 at 05:18 PM
kaboo’s comment is:


On Sep.23.2004 at 03:41 PM
Tom B’s comment is:

Tidying up is a great way to give yourself some much needed closure, but it can often turn into procrastination.

This week I carefully filed all of our old software CDs into folders with the serial numbers clearly displayed; I reinstalled a colleague's system software and transfered all of his contacts from Outlook to Entourage; I backed up a load of old projects onto catalogued CDs; I filed all of the job bags floating around the studio in chronological order; and I even pulled some weeds out of the cracks between the paving slabs behind the studio.

All vital tasks of course - nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that we're just about to start a huge christmas catalogue that fills me with dread.

Red wine is my prefered relaxation technique.

Oh, and don't get started on Predator again!

On Sep.23.2004 at 06:26 PM
Schmitty’s comment is:

i go home take my dog to the park

I was wondering if anyone else would say it! Yeah for Ian!

I have two dogs and time with them and my fiance are the best stress relievers possible. It has been so nice in Chicago the last 3 weeks that we have been having saturday afternoon picnics/naps at the park across the street.

I also clean the office, but only after a project is done.

Alcohol and tobbacco were both mentioned, but does nobody go home and roll a big "J"? Not that I do, but I always had professors in college warn about rampant drug use in the advertising industry.

On Sep.24.2004 at 06:00 PM
ian’s comment is:

i know many a designer who rock the 'j'

On Sep.24.2004 at 06:04 PM
Young’s comment is:

I too will clean up around my desk, even sometimes getting a haircut to feel fresh. when I want to get inspired, I'll read through magazines, rent a movie with friends, watch episodes of samurai jack. and try to let my mind have a break, even if like others have said for just a half day.

A simple favourite stress reliever of mine whilst working is simply to have a tea break. preparing a cup of tea is quite therapeutic, even more so if you use loose tea leaves.

On Sep.25.2004 at 12:13 PM
monikers’s comment is:

Music always works for me. Ideally, I'd sit down at a piano, but if one's not handy I'll sing. If noise is a concern, then I'll put on the headphones and find some music that calls for vigourous head-bopping or air guitar.

And daydreaming. I like watching clouds too.

On Sep.26.2004 at 08:44 PM
szkat’s comment is:

i think music and cooking are great healers. last night to prepare myself mentally for the next two weeks (HUGE and frightning deadline approaching), i tucked the iPod into my jeans pocket and cooked a big meal for a couple of hours while rocking to State Radio, Nick Drake, and Tchaikovsky. i was able to shut everything out with the music and work with my hands.

When my roommate, a couple friends and a couple of cousins came over, i had relaxed and realized again how cooking can be as much a visual experience as a taste or smell or texture experience. just the thing for sunday night blues.

On Sep.27.2004 at 01:17 PM
Bram Timmer’s comment is:

Physical exersize, weight lifting, sweating, grunting, sex, sports, intense physical activity, trying out for the world strongest man competition.

It stimulates the brain, puts more oxygon toward it, blood pounds quicker through it, neutrons connect...ideas are created.

On Sep.29.2004 at 02:26 AM