I suffer from regular burnout

I suffer with regular creative burnout. I’m in my third year of uni and often experience burnout at least once per semester. I currently manage it with project/time managment, taking breaks during projects, or even extended periods of not working when I’m ahead. Do any of you suffer from burnout regularly? How do you manage it?

What do you mean by burnout? Do you mean you lose the desire and spark to do the work, or do you mean the ideas just aren’t coming because you’re exhausted?

I’ve been in this field for many years, so burnout might mean something different to me. Frankly, I get bored with the repetitiveness of some of it. After I’ve designed a magazine or a catalog or a website for the umpteenth time while working for clients whose idea of great is conservatively average, I get bored and my mind wanders to more exciting things, such as doing the laundry or vacuuming the floor.

What keeps me moving ahead sometimes is, honestly, the need to earn a living. Once I get started on a project, it’s usually smooth sailing, but the initial pen-to-paper beginnings are often not what I want to be doing, so I often have to force myself to sit down and begin.

Occasionally, an exciting project arrives that demands thought, research, and creativity, but nine times out of ten, I’ve been there and done that a hundred other times. I could almost do the work in my sleep if it were possible.


Not romantic, but sage words all the same.

What I mean by burnout is the emotional disengagement with the project. That feeling when you just stop caring. I agree that starting is the hardest part. Once I get the ball rolling again I’m all good

Getting the ball rolling again is the trick.

I suspect that what you are experiencing is not actual burnout, which is a fairly major thing and often takes months or years to recover from. It usually occurs after years of high pressure, high intensity work. I think – and of course, I may be way off the mark here – what you are experiencing is fairly normal.

I remember, as a student, on many occasions, just sitting – usually in the small wee hours – staring at tons of research and initial sketches of terrible ideas not knowing where to go with it, and being ready to just give up. Often when the deadline was 9am the following morning.

Eventually you will learn ways to put your head in the right place to get through the tough parts, or more accurately, you learn ways to get to the solution before you get to that, ‘I’ve got no more to give’ point.

Time and experience teaches you how to put your head in the creative space. For everyone it is slightly different, but the common ones are, go for a walk, do some exercise, do something else creative. For me, I have two techniques. For minor blocks, I just go and play bass for 10 minutes (which often ends up being an hour), or sometimes, I’ll just take the dog for a walk.

When I know I have a particularly knotty problem to solve, I do all my groundwork – research, planning initial thinking and any sketching needed (the latter is rare now apart from type design, as you learn to do that mentally too in the end). After that, I’ll have a nap. If it’s a particularly heavy one, I’ll take a bath first too. Often when I wake my head is a buzz with ideas. For me, it is about clearing my head of conscious thought and allowing the subconscious to gnaw away at the problem. That’s possibly why Archimedes was in the bath when he had his eureka moment.

Basically it is about taking your head out of a blind alley and doing something else stimulating. That way it allows your subconscious to mull things over, to the point where you get that Eureka! moment. You may not get the final idea at that point, but you will suddenly get other avenues of thought.

The human brain is hard-wired for survival to find and make patterns. You need to know the expected precursors (a pattern of events) to potential danger. Your job is to break expected patterns and make new ones, which is why it feels like you are swimming against the tide a lot of the time. You are using the higher brain to overrule the ancient, survival-based parts of it.

If I am way off the mark, apologies. If not hope this helps in some small way,

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You have this type of disengagement while still in school? When you are pretty much able to choose the direction of topic of your own projects?

What are you going to do in the real world when the projects that put food on your table are simply not awe-inspiring art?

Over the years I’ve seen far too many design students who find out after spending all that money on college tuition that Graphic Design is not about their ART. It is not. And a lot of projects are run of the mill mundane.

It’s something to think on, even though it sounds like you are into your graduation year.

Hah! The bulk of my career has been spent designing technical documents. There are rewards of sorts, but emotional disengagement prevails from project inception.

In more creative graphic design pursuits, “emotional engagement,” if it’s something integral to your process, should be directly proportionate to your personal investment in the achievement of the client’s business objectives.

That response was epic (in all meaning of the word). These words heavily resonate with me so you are probably right. It’s often the case that when we self-diagnose we get it wrong. Thankyou for your reply and your wisdom.

Yeah I’m in my final year. I understand most projects will be mundane. Have worked mundane jobs for over a decade and thought a creative related job may be more engaging. I was just curious to hear if it was normal. First 2 years were honeymoon period.

Don’t always need emotional engagement to enjoy a project. Theres always new perspectives that can taken to still enjoy the venture. Such as the process, self-improvment, discovery or innovation. No matter how exciting something may first be, the feeling always fades.

Everyone suffers from creative burnout. The best way to recover from it is to give yourself some time and do what makes you happy. once you are back with the energy and boom, you’ll have your creativity back.

That’s the first step towards professionalism. As long as you are emotionally engaged, you run the risk of having your judgements muddled.

Enjoy or not, one takes on a project to finish it to the best of one’s ability.

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I dare to say that might be the only way, at least for me. I have to take a break the second I start thinking that I am anywhere near creative burnout, or else…

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I can care about my process and the quality of the work I do, without caring about the customer or being particularly excited about the design.


As a few people here mentioned, disengagement can be a key component to being successful. Once you start thinking about a project as personal to you, you’ve lost the client perspective. Graphic Design is Commercial Art. Not your firstborn.


A lot of people agree with it. Basically, our minds need some time to restart their creative mode, and that can only happen if you make them relax. Whenever we do something that makes us happy, like sketching, running, dancing, or exercising. All these activities shift our brain state, allowing creativity to flow more freely.

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