Getting down with downtime.
We all know time is valuable. And the constant pressure to get the most out of our time can be draining, especially for creatives. This nonstop battle with the clock and the hustle culture it creates often leads to burnout—something every creative will experience, myself included.
Last year, I was burnt out. I felt stagnant and decided to reduce my hours at my stable agency job to clear my head. It sounds silly to cut down on a good thing, but I needed to kickstart my curiosity and get the juices flowing again. This downtime helped me reevaluate how I used my week creatively and inspired me to move forward. I set aside at least one workday each week to create and explore whatever I wanted. I didn’t have a specific goal, but I knew something had to change, and I wanted to follow my gut and see where it led. Admittedly, this seems inconsequential and obvious, but the results quickly reassured me that I made the right decision. I started creating work I was proud of again and built relationships that challenged me creatively—something I hadn’t felt in a long time.
During this time, I also noticed a drastic increase in efficiency. I only had one day at my disposal, so I put every minute to good use. There was nobody to blame but myself if things didn’t get done. Over time, this organically improved my workflow. Slowly at first, then it took on a life of its own. The same tasks took half the time and with increased quality. I could get far more done in one day than an entire week in the previous grind. It was astounding.
Don’t get me wrong, taking a step back from the familiar comfort of the agency world was scary initially. But I was at a point where I needed more than good enough, more than simply existing from project to project. I needed the creative passion back. I had to light a fire under my ass and break the cycle. Ad agency life can be great, epic even. But the day-to-day work often isn’t inspiring or creatively stimulating. And that’s OK, expected even. Do your work—it’s a job, after all. But always leave time for yourself and your creative goals. From there, you can help support those around you and grow as a unit. This is especially true for creative leadership roles. When everyone grows, things get interesting, and the work automatically improves.
The relationships that developed during this time pushed my work forward and reignited my creative passion. A year later and what started as an eight-hour experiment is now my full-time job, and I couldn’t be happier.
In short, If you don’t make time for yourself, who will? Your mental health will thank you—and your work will too. Get after it.