advice

Real Talk

SURVIVAL TIPS FOR BUSY PEOPLE

 
We visited the Seven Magic Mountains installation in Las Vegas. Very inspirational and a great way to get into holiday mode!

We visited the Seven Magic Mountains installation in Las Vegas. Very inspirational and a great way to get into holiday mode!

Hey everyone!

I'm writing this from a little apartment in Mexico City, where I've just woken up to my first day of a 4 week vacation around this amazing country. I've just spent a week in LA and Vegas, and while it feels like I have been away for much longer, it still feels surreal to be on holiday. Maybe this is due in part to jetlag, but mostly because my mind is still well and truly stuck in work mode. I feel guilty at the prospect of being away from my business for so long and for my work flow to suddenly come to a halt when I'm so used to riding that momentum from one job to the next. 

I think it may take some time to shake this mindset off and decompress from what has been a truly insane few months. From July to October it feels like I literally did not stop once or come up for air. I barrelled through project after project, juggled multiple insane deadlines, and pulled countless all-nighters to get stuff done (something I hate doing), all while working my day job 3 days per week. I literally feel exhausted just from writing that! Now, I'm not attempting to glorify this extreme workload situation, nor would I ever want to promote busyness as some kind of badge of honour. This scenario is just a reality for a lot of freelancers, or those balancing design work with other life commitments. Sometimes shit just gets crazy! 

This is a fake ceiling in an underground mall at Caesars Palace. It doesn’t sound like it would be a relaxing place but it was surprisingly serene!

This is a fake ceiling in an underground mall at Caesars Palace. It doesn’t sound like it would be a relaxing place but it was surprisingly serene!

As I have previously mentioned, craft-based design is a niche job with a laborious workload that tends to fluctuate a lot. Sometimes I don't have that much on and can be a bit more chill about producing work, but other times I get inundated with great design opportunities that I really want to take on, and no matter how organised I am, how we'll I've managed client expectations, or how fast I work, I all of a sudden find myself with a bunch of big projects on the go, all with competing deadlines. 

This is when I slip into what I call "Deadline Mode", which can kind of feel like a survival challenge. Deadline Mode involves one or more of the following things:

  • All-nighters

  • Abandonment of regular sleeping, eating, washing laundry, seeing friends, hydration, grocery shopping, exercise, free time, and most other daily human tasks

  • Extreme swings in mindset from motivation, determination and enthusiasm to stress, frustration, panic and a whole spectrum of other feelings

  • Emotional breakdowns

  • Binge eating (hate you/love you Uber Eats)

  • Binge watching of Law & Order SVU (let it be known that this is actually a positive, not  a negative)

  • So much craft mess, with no time to clean it up so I'm basically living in craftermath for the entire deadline period

  • Numerous other gross things that adversely affect my mental health 

I know I can say no to jobs to try to minimise this happening, and I know this way of working is very problematic but it does seem rife  across the creative industry, and I often wonder why it is so common. Perhaps this forms part of a greater conversation about why so many of us encounter this way of working so regularly; why we let it happen, and how this could be related to the bigger picture of how creatives are valued; and how there can be a discrepancy between demand for quality output vs the time (and often money) offered in return. (I touched on these issues a little but in my recent interview on the Never Not Creative podcast.

Parks like this one in Mexico are a great place to decompress.

Parks like this one in Mexico are a great place to decompress.


Perhaps this ("Deadline Mode") forms part of a greater conversation about why so many of us encounter this way of working so regularly; why we let it happen, and how this could be related to the bigger picture of how creatives are valued.


Regardless of why this is happening to me (and believe me I'm working on trying to shift the way I work to avoid it) the reality is, sometimes things get stressful, and when that happens it's good to have an arsenal of tools you can use to combat it. After many Deadline Mode experiences I've learned a lot about the way I work, and how to minimise stress as much as possible so these experiences don't overwhelm me or get in the way of me getting the job done. Like everything, this is a work in progress for me, but I thought I'd share some of my current survival tips in the hope that they can be useful for you when you're next feeling under the pump. Here goes!

1. Trust that it will all work out

If you're like me and have experienced many busy and stressful periods, it could help you to remember that you've been through it all before, and you survived! Sometimes just the simple knowledge that you've overcome seemingly impossible situations can reassure you that you are capable of doing it again this time. You got this!

2. Manage expectations 

While it's important to be open with your clients/collaborators  about the realities of your availability and how long a project is going to take to complete, it's also super important to be honest with yourself as well. Be realistic about what you can achieve each day and try to spread the load. Overloading yourself with epic expectations that may be physically impossible to achieve is a sure way to increase stress and make you feel like you're failing before you've even begun.

3. Set boundaries and stick to them

Before heading into a stressful period I find it's helpful to identify my limits regarding how far I am willing to physically and mentally push myself to get the job done. It's really easy to push too hard when you have a lot on, which can lead to burnout, breakdowns, and even physical illness. Setting boundaries for yourself (for example, "I will get at least X amount of hours sleep per night, no all-nighters") can help manage the expectations I spoke about in Tip 2. No job is worth compromising your physical or mental health! This should be a daily motto for all of us. 

4. Learn from past experiences 

After countless creative projects I have learned a lot about the way I work. For example, I know that I spend a lot of time in the planning and development process, with the actual making part happening in a short and super efficient burst towards the end of a project timeline. This happens because it takes a while for my plans to crystallise, but once they do, everything is mapped out to the last detail, leaving only the physical execution to be done. I used to get so stressed about this way of working, viewing this long development time as procrastination, feeling like I was that shit person that always left things until the last minute. But now that I recognise this as my unique way of working and NOT me being lazy, I can ditch the stressing and self-criticism and get on with the job.

5. Use lists as your lifeline

Stress for me can often occur when I have a million to-do’s floating around in my head and no clear idea of how or when they are going to get done. So lists are everything to me! You might not be a list writer but I encourage you to give it a try because they can really help with time management. I like to map out my entire timeline before a busy period begins and assign tasks to each work day. Getting it all out on paper allows me to sort of switch into autopilot and just methodically start working through the list like some kind of craft robot. The key to lists though is being flexible with them and open to the reality that you may need to shuffle tasks around and might not get everything done each day and that's ok. Also, it's REALLY satisfying to cross something off a list, right?! Use a fat red pen, it feels even better!


Sometimes just the simple knowledge that you've overcome seemingly impossible situations can reassure you that you are capable of doing it again this time. You got this!


With a bit more of this, I think I can finally start to relax…

With a bit more of this, I think I can finally start to relax…

6. Make yourself comfortable 

When you're stressed, the last thing you want is to feel uncomfortable in your work environment. This is not conducive to getting shit done! When I'm in Deadline Mode I always move my work home instead of staying at my studio. Because I often work late, it's way more comfortable to be home rather than at the studio which is in an old warehouse that's quite creepy and desolate at night. While it's not always great to be working on big, messy projects in my little bedroom, at least I am somewhere safe and cosy. Whatever your scenario is, and however you want to do it, making yourself as comfy as possible will help you be more productive!

7. Keep it tidy

Oh man, this one is everything. I am naturally quite a messy person, so I try to reset my workspace at the end of every day during Deadline Mode, no matter how late it is or how much I CBF in that moment. Waking up to a clean, tidy, and organised space, ready and waiting for you to get cracking is a glorious feeling, especially if you're like me and mess = stress.

8. Move your body

Oooh, this one is also a goodie. We know that physical exercise can reduce the effects of stress on our bodies. But often, when you're busy, your normal routine (including time for exercise) goes out the window. Long hours of sitting down with no movement does not make me feel good, so I try to make time for a bit of physical movement every day when I’m busy, even if it’s just a walk to the cafe for a coffee before I start the daily grind, quick breaks throughout the day to stand up and stretch, or time in the evening for a little home yoga session to decompress before bed. Do whatever works for you!

9. Pre-prep meals

When I'm super busy my healthy eating aspirations tend to be replaced by desperate Uber Eats binges or late night scrambling under mountains of craft debris for those 3 crackers I know I left there 2 days ago (and this may be all I eat that day).. These are not good habits! I love a good batch meal prep, so I've recently started doing this when I know I'm about to go into a busy period. It's been really good because I can cook something super healthy and filled with nutrients to help fuel my body so i can survive Deadline Mode, and all I have to do each night is heat it up!

10. Take a break

Sometimes I can become a bit of a martyr to my work, which I hate. When I'm in a busy and stressful time I often feel guilty for even considering resting when there's so much to be done. This is dumb because recharging my brain and body is the key to productivity! If you're a bit the same and find it hard to rest when you're under the pump, it's OK! As weird as it sounds I find that scheduling breaks into my timeline (add it to your to-do list!) is a way for me to make sure I get some rest and gives me the permission to do so, so I don't feel guilty about it. For a mini brain break on the go you might also like to try our mindfulness meditation, it's great for busy people! 

11. Practice self care

I love the concept of self care! It should really be a daily thing for all of us but I feel it's especially nice during busy and stressful times. It can take any form you like. For me, I love a luxurious shower or bath! Water is very cleansing for me, so during Deadline Mode I'll end each day with a super hot shower, then do something nice like put on my most bougie body lotion, light some essential oils, get into bed, massage my feet and wind down from the day. Make time to treat yo'self every day, it's the best!

So there's my top tips for ya. Stress is inevitable, and also a natural part of life, and it's unrealistic to try to eradicate it from our lives completely. I think we should instead figure out ways to at least minimise it a bit and work around it so that it doesn't hinder us from doing our best creative work.


Get some Real Talk in your inbox!

Real Talk is an online wellbeing project for creative people, written and curated by me! Through a monthly newsletter we share original articles (like this one) and exclusive curated content that we feel will compliment the topics we’re discussing in our articles. Things like TED talks, podcast episodes, videos, wellbeing exercises, worksheets and many more inspiring resources. Sign up to our newsletter to get your monthly dose of Real Talk and be empowered to improve your wellbeing so that you can lead your best creative life!

 

Real Talk

SOCIAL MEDIA AND SUCCESS

 
Real Talk by Kitiya Palaskas.jpg

The effects of social media on our creative wellbeing is a topic I could honestly rant about for days, because I have a real love/hate relationship with social media. While I can't deny it's been instrumental to me for brand exposure and has helped me book a lot of jobs, it's also fuelled so many of my creativity-based mental struggles over the years. I'm sure many of you can relate! Social media seems to play a big part in a lot of wellbeing issues actually, so for this reason we'll undoubtedly talk about it again in future themes, but today I wanted to write about social media in the context of how using it can affect our views on success. 

Using social media to gauge success in any way can be problematic at best. For starters, reality is questionable on social media. Is what we're really seeing or reading an accurate depiction of real life? Also, we choose what to share and when. You might come across a feed with hardly anything in it, does that mean that person is less successful than someone with hundreds of posts? They could just be choosing not to share all of their achievements online, all the time. And if you don't use social media at all? If success is defined by what you share and you don't share anything, does that mean you suck? And what about interaction? We know that having a lot of likes and comments can help propel the success of your brand, but with algorithms controlling a lot of social media content these days, can we really measure the success of a brand accurately based on interactions? Like I said, it's problematic. 

When machines define success
So, algorithms. We know they play a big part in how our audiences are seeing and interacting with the content we share on social media. This is an accepted fact. I hear so many creative people stressing about how algorithm changes are affecting their ability attract customers and clients. I have definitely noticed this myself as well, and sometimes when I'm thinking about it, my thoughts spiral out of control and I wonder whether it's actually not the algorithm at all. Maybe people just don't like me anymore? Then I feel really shit and  have to snap out of it because this kind of thinking is NOT productive! We seem to spend an insane amount of time measuring our success on likes, and it seems that less likes = less successful. We know algorithms control likes now, and an algorithm is controlled by a machine. So, are we letting a machine dictate the way we feel about our own success?!  Guys, that's f*cked up! But seriously, laying it all out like that kind of gives some perspective on the whole thing doesn't it? If we can realise just how ridiculous the concept is, maybe we'll attach less importance to likes and other similar interactions. Because at the end of the day, it doesn't define you, it's just a heart on a screen.

Real Talk by Kitiya Palaskas.jpg

Dealing with 'unreality'
You can't scroll far on social media without coming across some kind of unrealistic portrayal of perfection, success or happiness. We all know this phenomenon exists and we've all bought into it to some extent.  I mean, if i had to choose between sharing a picture of me looking fresh and fancy on my way to da club, or my hangover photo from the next morning, we all know I'm opting for fresh and fancy because nobody wants to see me hungover (trust me). We buy into this when we double tap on (or post) photos of impossibly tidy studios, immaculately styled Work In Progress shots, and beautiful hero images of new projects. And why not? In a lot of ways, social media is an extension of your portfolio, and a legitimate place to attract potential clients, so of course you're going to want it to appear at its best. I don't think there's anything wrong with portraying your brand in its best light on social media, or for that matter wanting to look at something pretty rather than something hungover (because there's enough of that in the mirror thank you very much!). It's how you choose to process this content that matters. 

I know that seeing all this perfect stuff on the regular can make us feel inadequate, like we're lacking in some way because our lives don't look like what we see online. This is where the problem occurs - when you start believing that this is what people's lives look like all the time, and that the story stops at the point of posting, at that point of perceived perfection and success. But let's tell it like it is, no one's life looks like this all the time! Repeat this to yourself until it sticks! I can guarantee that just out of shot lurks the studio rubbish bin that hasn't been emptied for 3 months, the 5 other WIPs composed mainly of stick figures, the fuglier version of the hero shot before Photoshop, and any number of other things that were too real to make the cut. If you can take what you see with a grain of salt,  it might lessen those feelings of inadequacy and let you enjoy social media for what it really is, a curation.

Real Talk by Kitiya Palaskas.jpg

Comparison kills creativity
Comparison is an evil offshoot of inadequacy. When faced with an endless scroll of everyone's achievements and accolades it's easy to fall into the comparison trap. This is a really hard one because once you start comparing yourself to someone else it can be really difficult to shake it off. Comparison can also be a total creativity killer. It's hard to produce work you love when you're pre-occupied with comparing it to everyone else's. And not producing work you love will probably make you feel more shit, am I right? This all sounds pretty bleak TBH, so how can we combat this? This is the point where I'll repeat the life lesson I shared in our first article this month: SUCCESS IS RELATIVE!  Stop scrolling, seriously mate stop, breathe, and spend a few minutes reminding yourself of your own incredible achievements. Remember that everyone's creative path is different and that something amazing that someone else just posted has no bearing whatsoever on how successful YOU are. 

Image:    Giphy

Image: Giphy


Get some Real Talk in your inbox!

Real Talk is an online wellbeing project for creative people, written and curated by me! Through a monthly newsletter we share original articles (like this one) and exclusive curated content that we feel will compliment the topics we’re discussing in our articles. Things like TED talks, podcast episodes, videos, wellbeing exercises, worksheets and many more inspiring resources. Sign up to our newsletter to get your monthly dose of Real Talk and be empowered to improve your wellbeing so that you can lead your best creative life!

 

Real Talk

REAL TALK - HELLO 2017

 
Kitiya Palaskas just do you

Setting intentions and goals for the new year has always been important to me, especially where my design practice is concerned. Sometimes I'll have set goals I definitely want to try and achieve, and other times it's more of a wish list of stuff I'd like to happen. Either way, writing this stuff out helps to set me on a good path for the year, and motivates me to get started, especially when I'm stuck in holiday mode and all I want to do is listen to Sean Paul - Temperature whilst drinking from a coconut. I thought I'd share some of my resolutions/intentions/goals, or whatever you want to call them, in the hopes that maybe they'll inspire you to write some for yourself, or at least think about how you want your 2017 to look. Here we go!

Keep it personal
Last year I spoke at a bunch of conferences where I was asked to share insights about what it's like to be a designer. I'd seen a few talks like these, but always felt a bit disconnected from the speakers, because I felt like they mostly spoke about the ups of being a designer, and not necessarily about the downs that I know from experience are a normal part of working in the creative industry. So when I was writing my speeches for these conferences I decided to take a different angle, and share some pretty personal things about the awesome moments I've had as a designer, but also about the struggles, steep learning curves, uncertainties, fears and other tough stuff I'd been through trying to forge my career, because you know we've all been there. I was worried that I'd sound like a bit of an emo speaking about it all, and that it might be an overshare, but was pleasantly surprised when I received a positive and encouraging response from my audiences. It empowered me to be more vocal about the realities of my creative life as a way to provide people with real life advice that they could actually use on their own career journeys.

This year I'd like to keep that personal theme going,  despite it being scary to talk about stuff like failures, slip ups, and embarrassing moments in this world of perfectly curated content that can sometimes make you feel that everyone but you is kicking a series of endless goals. Okay admittedly that sentence did sound a bit emo, but you are reading the blog of a former goth that used to listen to AFI and paint tears and spiderwebs on my face with black eyeliner so what do you expect! Anyway, I want to be more open and honest about my experiences, in an empowering and inspiring way, without being a Debbie Downer, so expect to see more blog posts like these this year filled with my juicy thoughts about all the elephants in all the rooms. 

Make real connections
There have been times in my career (and last year it seemed to happen a lot) where I have to admit, I got mega tunnel vision and got swept up in things like follower numbers, likes per post, algorithms changing the way my posts are seen, and all that noise that comes with using social media as your main promotional (and procrastination) tool. I still find it insane that there is a whole made-up and intangible world called The Internet that has the power to permeate and affect us in our actual 3D lives. Think about it for long enough and that concept will seriously trip you out. 

Anyway, things got so insane inside my tunnel that I even started to link the rise and fall of my social media numbers to how successful I felt I was in my career and even how legit of a person I was! That sounds so ridiculous but was actually a thing that happened to me and maybe has happened to you before (can I please not be the only one?!). This year I want to focus on cultivating more meaningful relationships with the actual people behind the likes and comments. I want to try and forget about the numbers, because at the end of the day that's all they are. Instead I'd like to keep making real connections with the actual people that are making the effort to support me and are doing things like posting cute encouraging messages, a series of carefully curated emojis, or a Law & Order meme that is so totally on point that I cry laugh for hours. It shouldn't matter if there are 3 or 3000 of these amazing legends out there, it should be more about the quality of the connections you make with them, online and in real life. 

Get out more!
Speaking of IRL, sometimes you get so frenzied and busy that you forget that there's real people out there doing amazing things in your community, or you see it on social media but you don't have time to actually show up so you just like the post. I love being part of the creative community in Melbourne, so I want to make it more of a priority this year to attend events, exhibition openings, markets (as a punter, not as a stallholder!) and all the other awesome things that people are creating every day for me to engage with and be inspired by. Doing more of this is also another way that you can make great personal connections. 

Just do you
Above all, I want to keeping trying to be as me as I can this year, which sounds obvious but is actually something you can lose sight of sometimes!  I want to speak in my voice, the way I would if you or I were sitting in a room chatting (even if you were kind of zoning out because I talk way too much.) I don't want to put on a weird Kitiya Palaskas business voice or tell you things I think you want to hear, or that make me look good. I'm just gonna do me.