ThinkLab’s ‘The Learning Objective’ Podcast Reveals How Designers Can Crush Creative Burnout

A 2021 American Psychological Association survey cited burnout—which the World Health Organization defines as workplace stress left unmanaged—to be at an all-time high across professions, and interior designers are particularly vulnerable, notes strategist and The Burnout Epidemic author Jennifer Moss. The phenomenon, which hits perfectionists and passionate enthusiasts particularly hard, is characterized by “extreme exhaustion, lack of efficacy in one’s job, and high levels of cynicism or negativism toward work,” Moss explains. The root causes, she adds, are “systemic, they’re policy-based, they’re societal—things that are not in an individual’s control to solve,” but rather must be modeled by the organizations we work for.

That said, workers can take preventative measures, says Rahaf Harfoush, strategist and author of Humane Productivity. “Creativity is a cyclical process, and everyone has the same four stages—replenishment, flow, fatigue, recovery—but spends a different amount of time in each.”

The Learning Objective

She suggests redesigning one’s creative workflow to account for these individual performance cycles, and to recognize that productivity is not just about tangible output but also about thinking, which often happens while engaging in activities that prompt unconscious processing, such as cooking or taking a walk. “Intentional recovery is not a diversion from hitting your goals; it’s how you’re going to hit your goals,” Harfoush notes. Call it the productivity paradox.

Check out The Learning Objective podcast on SANDOW Design Group’s Surround platform to learn how to design against burnout—and get CEU credits while doing so.

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