School of Motion

How to Achieve Work/Life Balance as a Busy Motion Designer

  • By Hayley Akins, Motion Hatch
  • Share

Six Tips to Help You Avoid MoGraph Burnout

As screens pop up everywhere around us and video content is massively in demand, there has never been a better time to be a motion designer.
However, busy schedules, heavy workloads and looming deadlines can take their toll. On top of this, working conditions can be less than ideal. Animators are often at their desks all day, and freelancers especially tend to work in isolation, not knowing when the next project will come in.
So, how do you avoid serious strain on your psychological (and physical) health?
som_motion-hatch_work-life-balance.png
Burnout and the importance of managing your mental health have been an increasing focus in the industry, with recent articles from Adam Plouff, Karl Doran and Michael Jones covering some of these issues.
I’ve given thought to my own experiences and what has helped me when I have felt overwhelmed by work. Here, I recommend some tips and tools to help you avoid MoGraph Burnout and achieve a healthier work/life balance.
Maslow's-hierarchy.png
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Be a Part of the Community

Meeting up online and offline with people in the industry can be a great support. Sharing your struggles and general comradery can help that feeling of burnout and loneliness.
I often pick up my phone and text an industry friend to ask if they want to have a call — to share my problems and, of course, listen to theirs too.
If we look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we can that love and belonging appear just below physiological needs and safety. Creating a sense of connection in our everyday lives is vital for our wellbeing, so this should be a priority, especially if you work on your own at home.
Blend Crew.jpg
Me (far right) at Blend Fest 2019 with (L-R) School of Motion's EJ Hassenfratz, Jake Bartlett and Brittany Wardell

Focus on What Matters

One thing to remember is that, although work is important, it shouldn’t be the main focus of your life. Spending time with family and friends and taking breaks to relax are essential.
Recently, I’ve taken weekends off to visit my family; I’ve also tried monthly board game nights with friends (it's easier to organize get-togethers with friends when you base them around an activity).
escape-the-dark-castle.jpg
Escape the Dark Castle board game
Another thing to remember is that we should all give ourselves space in our lives to make regular internal inquiries.
Ask yourself, “How am I feeling today?”
You could dedicate 10 minutes to this every morning while you relax and have your coffee.
I recommend giving meditation a try, and there are a number of free apps — including Insight Timer and Headspace — to get you started.

Get Active

Getting active provided me with the most significant transformation this year.
I wasn’t someone who considered myself a sporty type and, as an artist, I’m sure you can relate; but, in January this year I took up running and, much to my surprise, I kept it up. (I spoke about how I maintained my running habit on the Motion Hatch podcast.)
great noth run.jpg
Me, looking tired, after completing my first-ever half marathon
Since recently moving to Manchester from London, I've been set up in a home office rather than a studio — and having something to get me out of my house in the morning or during the day has been vital to my physical and mental health.
If you want to start running, I recommend the Couch to 5K app.
If running isn’t your thing, no worries. Take up another active hobby, like climbing or yoga, to get you outside and talking to others.

Gain Perspective

Keeping up with the industry can be stressful. It can feel like you always need to churn out better and better work to stay relevant.
Getting an outside perspective on your current body of work can be helpful, and it can give you an idea of where you sit in the industry and whether you need to improve your skills.
creative-collapse.jpg
While finding people to provide you with constructive feedback can be challenging, you can ask a peer, colleague or past client.
I've found that one of the best ways is to join a mastermind group: a peer support group that can give you feedback on your work and provide accountability for your goals.
If you’re interested in joining a mastermind group, check out our Mograph Mastermind Program.
mograph-mastermind.png

Set Achievable Goals

Having goals that are achievable — and celebrating your wins — can help you make progress and avoid burnout. Beforehand, though, you need to make sure you’re heading in the right direction by aligning your goals with your values; otherwise, you may arrive at an unwanted destination.
For example, many motion designers aim to start their own studio one day, but may be unaware of what that entails.
You may end up having to generate sales for the business, instead of animating. Is that what you want to do every day at work? Could you hire someone else to help?
These are the critical questions we should be asking ourselves before heading toward a big goal like this — and that's where the Perfect Day Exercise comes in.
perfect-day-smart-goals-exercises.png
The Perfect Day exercise:
  • Asks you questions about what you want your life to look like in three years
  • Helps you create a vision for the future based on your values
  • Establishes SMART goals to help you get there
SMART is an acronymSpecific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timebound and testing your goals against SMART can help you make them more achievable.
Both the Perfect Day and SMART Goals exercises are free to download from the Motion Hatch website.

Get Organized

The final thing that has helped me with the pressures of work is getting organized. This can be done in a few ways.
The first method is ensuring a substantial scope of work and contract are in place for all jobs, ensuring the client and you are clear up front on what is required so you can avoid headaches down the line.
It also includes organizing your business. Things like bringing on a good accountant or CPA can relieve some of the financial stresses of freelance life.
The second is putting everything on your calendar, and I mean everything.
scheduling.png
Example of how to block time out on your calendar. You would be more specific on the tasks.
I schedule in email and social media three times a day to avoid distractions, and I plan blocks of time to do work. (As I’m writing this blog post right now, there is a block of time on my calendar that says “write blog post.”)
I find that if I don’t do this I feel lost and distracted.
I encourage you to give it a try.

Disclaimer

After re-reading Adam Plouff’s article, I feel encouraged to write my own disclaimer. These are things that have helped me over the past few years gain some more work/life balance and generally live a happier and healthier life while I build my motion design business. I’m not saying it’s a perfect formula; they're some ideas you can try in your own work and life. I hope it helps you too.

More MoGraph Advice

Need more advice from those who live it and breathe it? There's nothing more inspiring or informative than hearing from your heroes.
school-of-motion-experiment-fail-repeat-ebook.png
School of Motion's 250-page Experiment. Fail. Repeat. ebook features insights from 86 of the world's most prominent motion designers, answering key questions like:
  1. What advice do you wish you had known when you first started in motion design?
  2. What is a common mistake that new motion designers make?
  3. What’s the difference between a good motion design project and a great one?
  4. What’s the most useful tool, product or service you use that’s not obvious to motion designers?
  5. Are there any books or films that have influenced your career or mindset?
  6. In five years, what’s one thing that will be different about the industry?
Get the insider's scoop from Nick Campbell (Greyscalegorilla), Ariel Costa, Lilian Darmono, Bee Grandinetti, Jenny Ko (Buck), Andrew Kramer (Video Copilot), Raoul Marks (Antibody), Sarah Beth Morgan, Erin Sarofsky (Sarofsky), Ash Thorp (ALT Creative, Inc.), Mike Winkelmann (AKA Beeple), and others:
Collection

Experiment. Fail. Repeat

Download Now

The Freelance Manifesto

If you're freelancing or thinking of transitioning to a freelance career, The Freelance Manifesto by SOM Founder and CEO Joey Korenman is for you.
som_freelance-manifesto.jpg
Split in two sections, the first half addresses in great detail what we discussed above: "the mental baggage that many artists carry around with them which can prevent them from having the career and life that they desire."
Part two is "a step-by-step instruction manual for finding and landing freelance clients."