5 ways to feel like a design rock star, working as a roadie
There are many reasons to love being a web designer. Personally, my favorite part is the creative process. I love taking ideas and creating something with them. Whether it’s the initial design of a site, or taking that design and implementing it with code, there’s a creative rush that really makes me excited to share it with the world.
But, as we find out sooner or later, web design is not always fun. Sometimes, you’re stuck with work that seems light years away from what you want to do (and what you do best). I know from experience that it’s easier to feel overwhelmed while doing mundane, repetitive tasks. And no, you’d rather not see me when I’m overwhelmed.
How, then, do you keep your wits about you when performing soul-sucking tasks? Is it a matter of living in some sort of fantasy world or simply acknowledging the reality? Let’s look at some ways to stay on top of your game, even when you’re less-than-thrilled.
1. Recognize the necessity
Have you ever mumbled to yourself, “What a waste of my time…”? Let’s face it: There are times when you’ll have to deal with projects that seem completely unnecessary (to you, at least). It’s a natural reaction to feel that you could be doing something more meaningful in that moment.
This is when you could easily sink into a bit of despair, and let the thought of all this meaningless work ruin your day. But come on now, you’re better than that.
Part of the problem (at least, from what I’ve experienced) is that it’s easy to think that, as an expert, you know best. And perhaps you do. But we also must acknowledge that whether we’re web designers, world leaders, or parents, not everyone is going to listen to us all the time.
Instead, take an open-minded look at the situation. Recognize the fact that the boss/client felt this was important enough to be done. You don’t have to necessarilyagree with that analysis, but it is your duty to carry it out.
At the very least, you can take pride in what you’re doing and know that it does mean something to someone.
2. Dive right in
When you’re faced with a task that you really aren’t excited about, you may want to put if off for as long as possible. While “delaying the pain” may seem like a good plan, you’re probably hurting yourself more in the long run.
The longer you delay the task, the more you have to sit there with it in the back of your mind. Instead, crank up your favorite music and commit yourself to getting it done. Attack the project with confidence and purpose.
If it’s a longer term project, you can certainly find time to do other things to break the monotony. Even better: go outside for a bit and enjoy nature. You’ll feel refreshed and ready to dive back in to work.
3. Make it a game
I’ve had mountainous piles of repetitive tasks that have made both my wrists (and soul) hurt. If it’s a project that will take days or weeks to finish, I can actually find myself with a bit of Stockholm syndrome when it’s all done. This type of work can almost feel insurmountable if you don’t put it in perspective.
When faced with something like this, challenging yourself (in a fun way) can help you plow through. For example, if you’re working on something extremely repetitive, see how many times you can repeat the task in a minute or other interval. Maybe it sounds a bit like counting holes in the ceiling tiles, but it can help to make something insanely boring a bit more tolerable.
Another beneficial aspect of this practice is that it can help you to develop a more efficient process for getting things done. It’s during those repetitive tasks that an idea can suddenly show up that saves you precious time.
Finding ways to make things fun (no matter how silly) will improve your mood and might even improve your work.
4. Find perspective
Turn on the news for any length of time and it’s easy to see that our problems can be miniscule compared to what others face. Even so, it can be hard to think about that when you’re overwhelmed or just plain bored out of your mind.
In all honesty, it’s something I’ve struggled with over the years. Sometimes, I’ll get annoyed at work and think, “What right do I have to feel this way? I’m not terminally ill, I’m not a refugee and I’ve got it pretty good.”
The truth is that we all have our own personal hell. And it’s probably not too realistic to be in a perpetually sunny mood when it comes to work (even if you love what you do). So you can reserve the right to be a little grumpy when tasked with something you’d rather not do.
The key here is to put it in perspective. I recently heard a radio interview with a top executive. Their advice on the subject was (and I’m paraphrasing): Take a look at your situation and then think about how you’ll feel about it six months from now. Will you even remember it by then?
The point is, take the work at face value. Don’t assign more meaning to it than what’s really there. That advice has actually helped me get through some things that normally would have sent me running for the bag of candy (or worse)! As it turns out, most things won’t be remembered much beyond their immediate past.
5. Remember the good stuff
Remember earlier when we discussed the reasons we love being web designers? It’s never a bad time to think about what drew you to this vocation. Thankfully, it’s the good stuff that endures. The other challenges are just temporary.
So the next time you are faced with some work that just might drive you crazy:
- Know that, in someone’s eyes, the work is necessary (and you don’t have to agree).
- Find a way to challenge yourself and make the task more fun.
- Get right to work on it with a vengeance.
- Realize that it’s okay to get annoyed, just don’t wallow in self pity.
- Remember that you have a pretty awesome career.
It’s not always easy and it takes practice. But, if you follow the steps above, you really can learn to better deal with even the most mundane work.