I Design Stuff + Life + Health

Lessons learned.

Oh, hello there! Remember me? I’m Anna. I used to have a blog—this one right here that you’re reading, in fact! I also used to have time to do things like tile bathrooms, vacuum, go outdoors, shower, cook, think, and sleep.

I’ve written plenty here about what I do for a living, and I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I like working in-house for a publishing company. I love it, in fact. I’ve been at my job for nearly 14 years now, and I have no desire say goodbye to my 9–5 job (which is really more like 9:30–6:30, but you know what I mean). There are times, though, when I like to design something that’s not a book cover. And sometimes I also think it might be nice to have a little extra cash. More than both of those things, though, I really like to help people and make stuff look nice.

So I started taking on some freelance design work. Which turned into lots of freelance design work. Which then became lots and lots of freelance design work. Before I knew it, I was working about 100 hours a week between my full-time job and my “night shift.” My freelance hours started to outnumber my full-time hours, leaving me with the equivalent of about 2½ full-time jobs.

And that’s not alright.

If you follow me on Twitter, then you are probably well aware of ever-increasing stress levels and ever-decreasing sleeping hours, since that’s all I really talk about anymore. I’m busy, I’m tired, I’m drinking coffee, I’m still awake, I’m busy, I’m going to have another coffee…and holy mackerel, I’m so tired. Ad nauseum.

After this weekend, I’m taking a break from doing freelance work for a while. I’m not sure how long, but I need to stop, step back, and think about what I really want to be getting out of the work that I’m electing to do in my free time. I’ve learned some lessons over the past few months:

1. It is okay to say no. I know that seems obvious, and I’m sure we all think we know already, but it’s hard for me to say no to people. I think this is especially true of those of use who truly LOVE what do for a living, either because we tend to see our work as an extension of our everyday lives, or because we honestly just like to make someone happy by saying YES. Also—and I know my fellow designers with sympathize—sometimes you don’t want to say no to a project because you worry that it will wind up in the hands of someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing, and then there will just be one more piece of bad design in the world. Yes, that is a completely self-important attitude loaded to the brim with ridiculousness, but it’s the truth.

2. Money doesn’t really motivate me. Yes, it’s great to not have to struggle to make ends meet and to be able to buy nice things every now and then, but really—I don’t care much about money. I never think about potential income in relation to the work that I do. Book publishing is a notoriously low-paying field of design, and I’m okay with that. I always have been, because I love books and I love designing the packages that contain them. The same goes for the non-book freelance work that I do. I really have to care about the project (and the person or people behind it) in order with it to be worth my time. After all, if it’s not about the money, the reason take on a job has to be a little more meaningful than “because it’s there.”

3. I am always going to be one person, and there are always going to be 24 hours in a day. Again, I know that’s obvious, but I’ve had some moments of delirium lately in which I am fully convinced that if I could only clone myself or hit my head on the bathroom sink and invent a flux capacitor, then maybe I’d be able to get my work done. This is crazy-talk. No one should elect to live their life this way just because they don’t know how to say no (see item #1).

4. There’s more to life than coffee, you know (but not much more). I make no secret about my love of coffee, but that love should really be based more on enjoying the taste, the aroma, and the ritual of the brewing process—not on a desperate need to consume as much as possible in order to avoid drooling on my keyboard at 3AM. I mean…really now.

5. I am totally in the right field of work. I love being a designer. I love taking on challenges that require me to think about structure, organization, space and hierarchy. I love making grids. I love doing font research. I love showing something I’ve done to a client and having them get excited (and sometimes even cry—you know who you are!) about seeing their words or product or music wrapped up and presented in a way that perfectly represents exactly who they are and what they do. I love finishing a project and feeling like it looks like me, too. I like making stuff look good. I love that putting two colors together can make someone feel happy. I like pretty things that work well.

I’m really looking forward to getting normal amounts of sleep, though, and having time to just be a human every now and then.

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  • Reply Migdalia Gonzalez November 4, 2011 at 11:37 am

    This is so true. I love what I do and love helping people. But when I don’t have time to cuddle with my BF and watch TV on the couch. It becomes less important to make a lot of money and get my name out there. And more important that the cuddles, and spending time with my family and friends is all I really need.

    Great post. Love your spirit <3

  • Reply Liz November 4, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Can I sign my name at the bottom of this post, too? It completely applies to my life as a designer right now. I especially loved this line: “Also—and I know my fellow designers with sympathize—sometimes you don’t want to say no to a project because you worry that it will wind up in the hands of someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing, and then there will just be one more piece of bad design in the world.”


  • Reply Heidi @foodiecrush November 4, 2011 at 11:40 am

    Love this post and the fact that you are taking a stand against the word YES. I totally feel your pain, and it isn’t a good one to share. I’m a designer too, been doing it for years, and am launching a new project that has taken up my evenings, my weekends and every spare square millimeter of my brain for the past 8 months. In addition I’ve been taking on freelance work in an effort to replace my day job, to become autonomous. But my work/balance/life is all out of whack now, with my project taking over. Your words and actions are reassuring that we can say no. It’s essential to say no. That life counts. Thanks for a great post. Love your blog, and your thoughts.

  • Reply Flora November 4, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Thanks for sharing all your thoughts about this! I’m happy to see you are taking a break, hope you have a lovely time ‘recovering’ 🙂

  • Reply nicole November 4, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Such a beautifully written and sincere post. I’m delighted that you have come to a point where you realize that you can take back some control over your time. I know that you love what you do; that is more than evident. But you need to have some breathing space to be able to enjoy the rest of what a day has to offer. I’m proud of you and look forward to seeing what comes from this more open space.

  • Reply Dan @ Manhattan Nest November 4, 2011 at 11:54 am

    A-MEN. You’re so great at what you do, Anna, and I’m so glad you got through the thick of your totally overworked craziness and can take some time to relax and sleep and reevaluate and, of course, drink more coffee. But in the nice, fancy way, not the drug addict way.


  • Reply dkzody November 4, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Doing the work your love for pay is nice. I have been asked, since retiring from teaching, to take on nonpay jobs, lots of them, and I’ve begun to say no. If I’m going to work so hard, and for one of the nonprofits for whom I volunteer, I work really hard, then I want to be paid. It is becoming increasingly annoying that too many places want your talents without paying for it. I’m glad your work gave you a paycheck.

    • Anna @ D16 November 4, 2011 at 12:07 pm

      Please understand I’m not advocating for doing work without compensation. I am only making the case for letting the determining factors in which I take on a project (whether it’s for pay or barter or experience or whatever) be more thought-out than just responding to a sense of obligation to say yes to everything. I think what you’re talking about here is really a whole other discussion—one that I think is worth discussing, yes, but not really what this post is about. I just want to make that clear, in case you or anyone else think that point #2 suggests that i think designers (or anyone) should be working for free. I definitely don’t!

  • Reply Dusa November 4, 2011 at 11:56 am

    I spy ‘fishnet’ nails!

    And it is amazing how stuff just creeps up on you…all good stuff, but like you said only so many hours in the day!

    Enjoy your coffee!

  • Reply Christine November 4, 2011 at 11:59 am

    I made the same decision in the last year. I blame the no-freelance clause in my current contract when having to say no, but really, it’s a personal AND professional choice I would have made regardless. I love my day job, but I also love coming home and reading, building, painting, and doing OTHER things! Best decision I’ve made. I feel more energized, calm, and balanced than I’ve felt in years.

    Plus, I found that the freelance projects I took on were ultimately frustrating, because they dragged on and I wasn’t able to give them the energy and time that I can give my 9-5 projects. My relationship with clients – who were often friends and family – suffered as a result. So it’s a better decision for everybody.

    Hilariously, the only people who find my no-freelance policy crazy are other designers. As a profession it is assumed that we will all have at least 6 side projects on the go at all times. It’s an industry plague!!

    • Anna @ D16 November 4, 2011 at 12:10 pm

      “…they dragged on and I wasn’t able to give them the energy and time that I can give my 9-5 projects. My relationship with clients – who were often friends and family – suffered as a result.”

      I can really relate to that point, Christine, and I’m glad you brought it up. I need to be able to give my all to my professional work, and when I can’t, I am very prone to feelings of frustration—not just with myself, but with my clients. That’s not fair to either one of us, and it’s definitely not how I want to live my life.

  • Reply Olivia November 4, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Love your blog/writing/point of view/home/etc. I have a special request: Could you do a post on “bad design”? Could be funny and informative.

    • Anna @ D16 November 4, 2011 at 12:01 pm

      I get much more enjoyment from talking about GOOD design, personally. 🙂

    • Olivia November 4, 2011 at 3:44 pm

      Fair enough. Keep it up!

  • Reply Stef Noble November 4, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Yes and also yes. Totally agree even though I’m coming at things from a different direction. Working my fanny off right now trying to ramp up my business so that it can become full-time, rather that the thing I squeeze in at night and on random days. I don’t want the things I WANT to be doing to be the things keeping me up too late

  • Reply Stormie Dae November 4, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Okay seriously – ditto to the first comment. Can we ALL sign our names?! I went through a design breakdown a few months ago and decided to take a much needed break which has been ridiculously good for me.

    I have struggled to put it into words for my friends and family of why it was so necessary – I feel like you have helped me understand my own thoughts and feelings.

    Also – Coffee. Yes please.

  • Reply Erin November 4, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    I hate to think I contributed in any way to this kind of work imbalance! But I know what makes you such an amazing designer (attention to detail, being so available, going way above and beyond) is what contributes to being so overworked. I’m grateful that I was able to work with you but I am happy for you that you’re scaling back so you can get some rest 🙂

    • Anna @ D16 November 4, 2011 at 12:43 pm

      Erin! Neither you nor any client of mine is responsible for my inability to manage my workload. That weight is entirely on me, I assure you.

      Working on your blog redesign was an absolute pleasure, and it means everything to me that you’re happy with the result. Projects like yours are what makes me love doing what I do. 🙂

  • Reply Cher November 4, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Tear :’-( I really wish I could love my 9-5 the way you love yours. I’m trying to fix that, but it’s been hard.

  • Reply Dustin November 4, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Hey Anna! Great post! My wife is actually struggling with a similar problem. She works in a salon here in Nashville, TN and also does freelance hair / make-up for various artists, publications, photo shoots, etc. Like you, she struggles with saying “no” in order to get some decent sleep and time to recharge. I’m going to encourage her to read this and hopefully she can find some inspiration out of it. I hope you enjoy this much-needed time off. Although I love seeing and reading about all the work you’re involved in, I do miss reading about those tiling projects! Have a blessed day and well-deserved, relaxing weekend.

  • Reply Alison November 4, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    This is such a great post! My situation is different from yours – I am actually trying to build my freelance business – but I’m quickly realizing that if I drop everything and respond to each client request the second it comes in, it becomes impossible to stay organized and get anything done.

    I’m so glad you are able to take a break! Judging from what you’ve posted on Twitter, you definitely deserve it. 🙂

  • Reply Beth November 4, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    This post also applies to me.

    I’m also a designer… landscape, but I started out in graphic design.

    I too, love doing design, solving peoples’ design problems, creating something that makes them cry with joy. And it truly sucks that for most designers it’s a low-paying field. Sure, there are some who strike it rich in the design department, but that seems to be an exception to the rule. We do what we do for all the reasons noted above.

    I too, have trouble saying no, and can totally relate with your post. Best of luck keeping your focus and doing what you really love while preserving your sense of self. I will do my best, too. 🙂

  • Reply sparris November 4, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    I’m not a designer and even though I don’t know you I was becoming concerned. I have seen so many of my friends burn out to a point just short of mental illness that I was becoming seriously worried. Hope your stress levels go back down now. Enjoy your life!

  • Reply drewkora November 4, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Ann, well written. I can’t agree with you more on every count. I’m in the same shoes — designing for a living, freelancing on the side, and also trying to squeeze in volunteer work / board of director activities. I can’t do it all.

    I think “money doesn’t motivate” is particularly true. I’ve taken on side work because I wanted to maybe buy something cool that’s out of my normal budget that I dont’ want to wait and save up for (or buy on credit). But even then, rarely do I feel like the work involved is worth the object. It has to start with loving the project first, the money is sort of a bonus.

  • Reply Lea November 4, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    This is a really great post!

  • Reply eliza November 4, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    yay! good for you. take some time, recharge them batteries, etc. you deserve it. by sheer awesomeness. also, it sounds like you’ve been working your arse off. so you deserve it because of that as well.

  • Reply Danielle P. November 4, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    I found myself nodding while reading what you wrote about money not being a primary motivator for accepting jobs. It frustrates me to no end that some of the people I deal with simply don’t get this… I’d rather earn enough to be able to afford the lifestyle that I want (instead of the one I “should” have), and have free time to enjoy it.

    I recently worked on an amazing translation project for a friend’s husband, only charging him a fraction of my normal rate because it was interesting and thrilling and exactly the kind of thing I’ve been wanting to do for ages! It was just what I needed to remind me why I became a translator all those years ago. It turns out that I don’t hate my job after all!

    • Anna @ D16 November 6, 2011 at 6:38 pm

      I’ve always thought that being a translator sounds like such a rewarding and exciting job!!

  • Reply Benita November 4, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Good for you, Anna! No is a good thing!

  • Reply Jen from insideways November 4, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    I’m a cellist and it’s amazing how the SAME thing happens to musicians. There are so many fun projects out there involving incredible people that it’s been hard for me to take an honest look at the number of hours in a day and say NO.

    There’s this feeling of “I’m so lucky that I’m doing what I love – I’m not allowed to complain.” Emily Henderson posted about it recently too. I think a lot of people in the creative fields need a reminder that it’s ok to scale back.

    A year ago I had a total break down over it all so now I’ve promised myself a few things…
    1. 8hrs of sleep every night – or I turn into a crazy person and can’t get anything done.
    2. 3 meals every day – and they can be sit down meals if I want
    3. NO GUILT if I want to do nothing or something totally “unproductive”

    I’m a much happier person because of it 🙂

    • Anna @ D16 November 6, 2011 at 6:39 pm

      “NO GUILT if I want to do nothing or something totally ‘unproductive'”

      Yep, that’s a big one for me. Once I start feeling guilty about being unproductive, everything I need to do just seems that much harder, and I start getting defensive and frustrated with others.

  • Reply Peta November 4, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Anna! I’m so happy to read this post. From reading your tweets over the last few weeks I was genuinely worried about you. We’ve all been there but it’s awful to see someone in the middle of it all and not be able to help. I hope you have a lovely relaxing weekend and enjoy having your evenings back. With love from London x

  • Reply Tristan November 4, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Work/life balance, we can haz?

    Your post is timely for what’s going on in my life as well – both my partner and I are gleeful work-aholics.

    We started a small tech business together. He recently took on an outside full time job for another company in order to do stuff like, you know, have a savings account. I also work part-time on my own photography business and shoot for a production company here in SF. Unfortunately, I’ve struggled financially most of my adult life, so I have a very hard time saying ‘no’ to a paying gig.

    We’re also planning a commitment ceremony for next year, a task which has begun to feel more like work than fun! We’re quite capable of working 10-12 hours a day unless one of us intervenes, or in my case, works myself sick – because that’s what happens.

    It’s so important to make sure you schedule time off to sit on the sofa, enjoy your home, pet the pets. And have a quiet, slow dinner with the one you love. What’s the point of all this hard work otherwise?

  • Reply Laurel November 4, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    I think our consumer culture world does not naturally put emphasis on working reasonable hours and highlighting down-time activities like relaxing, chilling on the couch, sipping a coffee, sitting meditation, etc. There aren’t concrete “results” so it can begin to seem that they aren’t important. When it comes to quality of life, of course, they are so very important.

    It’s great to recognize a trend and make decisions to move in a better direction for your own happiness and sanity.

  • Reply mette / ungt blod November 4, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Oh Anna -this is so.. true.

    I often find it infuriating what freelance or extra projects does to me.

    I am still in school and often taking on side projects feel like a great gift -to do something r e a l. But it takes such a toll and what happens is way too often the feeling of doing nothing ‘right’

    hmm.. I really hope to find a way of doing freelance or self employed ‘the right way’ where it just let you do cool project and not loose control
    ..and then I will right a book about my method and non of us ever have to worry again 🙂

  • Reply Lisa Congdon November 4, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    GO ANNA! I adore you and I am so happy that you are taking some time to enjoy the other parts of your amazing life. XOXO L.

  • Reply satsuki shibuya November 4, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    i really enjoyed this post, anna. so honest, true & raw. i think people sometimes don’t realize the hard work, time (sometimes stress) & did i mention hard work(?) goes into doing design work. some people have this warped vision that all design work requires is a magical wand and *poof* a wonderful, spectacular creation is made.

    i love that you are who you are & embrace every aspect of it. 🙂 hope the new found time will allow for some more lovely posts here because… well, i’m sure many feel the same, but i really enjoy your blog! here’s to relaxation & rejuvenation!

  • Reply Samantha November 4, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    As a fellow freelancer, I can attest to how sanity-saving lesson #1 is. Sometimes a project just won’t work for you, or you can’t give the client exactly what they want, and it’s best for both parties to not even begin. That’s not to say I only take on projects I’ll OMGLUV!!!, but I think it’s important to say no when it’s necessary. I do what I do because I love it, and it’s unfair for all involved if I say yes to something I know I won’t complete well.

    Enjoy your sleep – you deserve it!

  • Reply charlie November 4, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Get yr human on, Anna! <3

  • Reply Natalie November 4, 2011 at 5:50 pm


  • Reply Robin November 4, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    A little trick I do is to tell dear friends and not so dear friends that I would love to help with their project but that I couldn’t possibly get to it for 2-3 weeks. Most people find someone else in that span of time! Especially if I give them trusted referrals in the meantime!

    • Anna @ D16 November 4, 2011 at 7:03 pm

      To be honest, even when I tell people I might not be available again for months, they are usually willing to wait for as long as I need. That is extremely flattering, and I am very lucky to have the kind of flexibility.

  • Reply Simone November 4, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    I have to laugh. More time to blog now. (Finish your basement?)
    “A no is always a yes, saying no to you is saying yes to myself.”
    Byron Katie.

  • Reply Tania November 4, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    I agree, it is ok to say no. I also need a reminder once in awhile to do so before the words “sure I’ll do it or ok, I’ll be there” comes flying out my very agreeable mouth. Once I decided to seriously work on my writing (on top of my day job), what helped me is to really examine early on everything I have going on in my life and decide what had to go to make room for time to write. Once I set some boundaries ahead of time (as you are also doing), makes it so much easier to get that no out.

    How you manage your life not making income a top priority but taking on work you love doing is what I’m working towards.

  • Reply Carrie November 4, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    Once while waitressing at an all night restaurant in the Mission in San Francisco about 17 years ago, my boss took me by both shoulders and said, “Carrie. You are only one person. Relax” I try and remember those words as I’m attempting to take on the world. They’re my mantra. Obvious? yes, honored?…not enough. keep it up.

  • Reply Kyle Henderson November 4, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    I love reading your posts about your work. I’m a graphic design student and I was checking out some of your work. I love the cover you did for “Aunt Epp’s Guide for Life”…also it’s awesome that you did the cover for “The Spellmans Strike Again” those books are great. I’m in love with the first unused concept for it.

  • Reply Adelina November 5, 2011 at 1:42 am

    I have never dared to post a comment on your blog, although I’m always visiting it to know what’s new at D16, but today I just needed to, because what you say is so true… Is soooo easy to fall for something you love that also pays, but really: stress out, stop sleeping and eventually stop loving what you do is a terrible thing to happen to anyone.
    I was searching for “something” today and I came to find it at your blog!!!! Thx a lot and please, please, keep up with D16!!!!!

  • Reply TheChangingHouse November 5, 2011 at 10:19 am

    You’re right… it is okay to say no, but I don’t think I could say no to those lattes! 😉

  • Reply MomlovesMod November 5, 2011 at 11:01 am

    I really loved reading this and so needed it at this moment in my life. I love teaching, I love all of my side projects, but I love my family more. When I give and give, I don’t have time for myself and I can see the effects. My family deserves a Mom who is Modern and Hip and Young. Not haggard and tired.

    Today is the day…I am going to call and make an appointment to get my hair highlighted, I am going to shop for some healthy food. It’s time for me and my family. Thanks Anna!

  • Reply jennifer November 5, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    how are you getting such gorgeous non-dairy foam??? HELP!

    • Anna @ D16 November 5, 2011 at 1:57 pm

      These lattes all come from coffee shops (I didn’t make any of them!) but they’re all soy milk. I used to be a barista, though, and I always foamed soy in the same way as regular milk—you need to be a little more conscious of the temperature, but the technique is more or less the same. If you’re not getting good results, try a different brand!

  • Reply Bright November 5, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    I’m so, so glad you’re taking time off for yourself, and I really appreciate your honesty. I’m learning this lesson now as well. I’m not a designer, I’m a student and a nanny who babysits on the evenings, but I’m still struggling with the idea of saying “no” and it being okay. I take a lot of pride in my work and I really enjoy doing it, but I’ve come to realize that I do have a limitation on how many hours I can commit to my job and taking care of other people. I still have to take care of myself!

    It totally delights me to make someone else happy by agreeing to come and wrestle with their baby in between naps or before bed time, but there are days where it would totally delight me even more to put on my pajamas four hours early, drink tea, and play the Sims. Maybe on a world scale, these things are not as important, but they are important to me and it’s okay for me and my happiness to be at the center of my world.

    Honestly? My joy factor when it comes to work goes up quite a bit when I am well rested, physically and emotionally!

    I have a little anxiety about implementing these boundaries, just because I am usually such an easy going person and I’ve come across people having negative reactions (disappointment, frustration, etc) to my boundary setting but I know that it is worth it.

    Super amped you’re taking some time off to give the person responsible for all of the amazing work time to recharge.

  • Reply Ricco November 5, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    Hey Anna! Great post and a wonderfully inspiring blog you have.

    I agree with most of the above comments and, living in Denmark can only add that the work/life balance here seems much better than in the rest of the world.

    I hope you get that aspect sorted and contnue inspiring us with your ramblings. 😉

    Best of luck!

  • Reply Heather Jo November 5, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    I love you’re designs and I also think you are in the right field! The fact that you love what you do really shows in your work!!

  • Reply Isabelle November 6, 2011 at 3:23 am

    Glad to read you again; was getting a bit worried as I don’t twet and twitter. Hope you will enjoy the time “regained” with enjoyable things. The basement can wait! ;-))

  • Reply Rosa November 6, 2011 at 4:10 am

    Great post on a very important issue close to my heart.

    I’m one of the “not-so-lucky-ones” – the passionate workaholics – who learned the ‘No’ too late. Completely burned out at 40, with several depressions following I’m now diagnosed with PTSD and forced into early retirement.
    It has been a major lifechanging experience redifining almost everything from personal values to work-identity – to find/discover other passions that suits my new lower-paced life.
    Don’t get this wrong: I’m fine now and this is no complaint – I have learned so much about myself and the word ‘No’ is no longer difficult – BUT I really wish I knew better then. It has been hard and difficult years despite my new and good life now *s*

    Work – no matter how much you love it, how passionate you are about it or how rewarding it is on any level, personal, economical, spiritual, emotional – is never worth your health. Never.

    Anna – I’m so glad to read that you know your priorities. The first one is the ‘me’ – no matter how selfish that can sound. And then the ‘others’.
    Take care – and thank you for this post and your honesty:-))

  • Reply 'col November 6, 2011 at 8:18 am

    Anna, this is a wonderful post, one that I envision sending around to friends for years to come. Thank you! I like to think of every “no” as a way to clarify what I *am* saying yes to–and when you are able to say no, then others can trust that your yes is free of resentment, which is an amazing gift in our relationships.

    I also wanted to tell you that I work in a bookstore, and your most recent roundup of your work had me doing a little dance. “Oh! I know this cover! AND THIS ONE!” It was very exciting to be able to pick up titles that you’ve designed and show them to my colleagues. (“I read her blog, she’s amazing!”)

  • Reply Chedva November 6, 2011 at 11:29 am

    I’ve been nodding through the entire post. Coffee, no sleep, at leat 2.5 times a sane workload – that’s exactly my last couple of months. I also made the choice to step it back a bit in order to be able to really enjoy my work (cause how can you enjoy anything when you’re tired?!)

  • Reply Holyoke Home November 6, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    I was tired of doing a million different things. So I decided to just do one thing really well. I’m still working at it.

    Isn’t the ebb and flow of ‘lessons learned’ funny?

  • Reply Alana November 6, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    I enjoy reading your blog. Good luck with your new endeavors 🙂

  • Reply Josephine November 6, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    I was so glad to see this post today. Enjoy the extra space in life that you’ve allowed yourself 😉

  • Reply chris November 6, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Good for you! Taking care of ourselves is important!

  • Reply Donna November 6, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    I’m so glad to hear this because the stress via your twitter was becoming so apparent it was starting to stress me out and I was thinking of unfollowing you for a bit. Glad I won’t have to:)

    • Anna @ D16 November 6, 2011 at 6:35 pm

      Oh no! I’m sorry, Donna! I’ve gotta be honest, though—being able to chat with my similarly-stressed friends on Twitter at all hours of the day and night actually keeps me in better spirits than I would be otherwise. 😉

  • Reply Sarah November 6, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    Good on you, Anna! I think your post is relevant not just to graphic designers and artists but it is also relevant for people who run handmade type businesses where it is very difficult to say “no” to special requests. I will keep reminding myself – it is okay to say “no”!

  • Reply Mariposa Davis November 6, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    Amen, sister (designer)! I too know the feeling all too well of putting myself into an overworked position because it was so difficult for me to say “no” (for all the same reasons). Only difference is that it was taking place in my full-time job. Things have gotten much better after realizing that I just needed to speak up about my workload and kindly ask for a bit of patience from my co-workers. Anyway, I feel like I keep seeing a similar sentiment from designers throughout the web — you’re not alone.

    I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts and I’m glad to hear you’ll have more time for this side of your life =D hehe!

  • Reply Mo November 6, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    In the last year I’ve learned to say, “Let me think about it.” It gives you time to really think about it and not just agree because you are worried about people’s feelings. Which in turn leads to more worries about their feelings because the project is too much. Thanks for sharing. I’ve missed your posts (don’t feel guilty) 😉

  • Reply jja November 7, 2011 at 7:40 am

    Good decision 🙂 I made similar one a year ago and never ever even had a flu afterwards. Since it is all about balance…

  • Reply Carrie November 7, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    I hear you! I’m not a designer, but I am a grad student who’s been trying to finish her dissertation for the past 6 months. I regularly have the thought: “if I could just clone myself I could actually meet these deadlines.” I, too, miss drinking coffee for the fun of it. Ah well. Good to know I’m not alone.

  • Reply Melanie November 7, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    Congratulations, Anna! As a former hard to say no-er, I know that this must have been a difficult decision to finally make. I’m so happy for you. Selfishly, I hope that this means more posts on Door Sixteen. 🙂

  • Reply sarah November 7, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    I am pretty sure you have been reading my mind, thoughts and emotions the past few weeks. Sounds like this is common among us designers.

  • Reply LifeLoveLuxe November 7, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    Love, love, LOVE this post!! Reclaim your life, girl, and live it hard. It’s frightening how quickly the days and years pass. Thank you for the reminder to truly embrace every moment…which typically starts by saying “no!”.

  • Reply Sherry November 8, 2011 at 8:39 am

    I was at Caffe Macchiato reading one of the O Magazines, and there was an article on burn out, and the stages leading up to it. A lot of tips were counterintuitive, but made sense, like stop exercising so much. Exercise only if it’s fun. Eat more, not less (of nutritious food). And also what you already mentioned in your blog: sleep! Say no!

    I hope Fritz and Bruno are offering lots of pet therapy.

  • Reply Stephal12 November 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Anna- I love your blog and I love you on Twitter and I’m happy to see we may get to hear from you a bit more now. I’ve been following you for a few years and completely understand that sometimes we just need a break. Enjoy!

  • Reply Fiona November 8, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Well done Anna. You’ve done a some absolutely gorgeous blog designs for great bloggers but I’m SO glad you’re taking it easy now for the next while. Full time work is demanding enough. I’m the same, absolutely useless at saying no, and worse still, for unpaid stuff like really interesting startups. But I don’t work as hard as you do or I used to, I just can’t while the kids are little.

  • Reply Mona November 8, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    I agree with this post! I work full time, but when I take on side jobs I burn out quickly! The computer screen is so hard on the eyes! I also agree that it is important to write about these issues so more people become aware of them – sometimes (not often) I feel like designers are under appreciated.

    I gave your blog a shout out in the second post on my new blog! Your back room wallpaper job was the first time I saw “tree” wallpaper.

    Check it out:

    • Anna @ D16 November 9, 2011 at 12:25 am

      Thanks, Mona. 🙂

  • Reply Amanda November 9, 2011 at 12:18 am

    Um, what you said. Perfectly sums up my life as an intern architect. I don’t care about the money one bit, but the design and the work MUST be done correctly… and if not us, who?

    So, yep, you’re awesome. Keep loving the coffee and start saying no to the less fulfilling projects. 😉

  • Reply Brandy November 9, 2011 at 4:24 am

    These years are passing by quickly. It’s funny how when we were children, we couldn’t wait to grow up. Now, we’re adults, and we’d kill to have those years of youth back – when life seemed so easy, and innocent.

    Wish that I had the same views about money, but I’m the complete opposite. I take it for granted, especially now that I’m jobless, and I can use it to pay bills.

  • Reply Sara November 10, 2011 at 7:58 am

    Great post, sounds like you have made a really good decision! Take care of yourself and enjoy your coffee!

  • Reply alice the yogi November 14, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Yes! To saying no! It’s so flattering and exciting to get work, but as you say, there are only 24 hrs and only one of me. Time to take back my weekends. Just found your blog, subscribed!

  • Reply Ana September 21, 2012 at 8:06 am


    Especially no. 1.

    I need to learn how to balance my work and life.
    I really like my work even though it doesn’t pay all that well, so I like saying ‘yes’… sometimes because I don’t want that to end up being another bad work out there because the person they hired instead of me did a half-assed job.

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