It’s Thursday morning, 3.30am. I make another coffee. I’ve been awake since Monday morning. What terrible event occurred that meant I had to stay awake for over 72 hours? Nothing, but my own stupidity left everything until the last minute, and now the Friday deadline is looming. I’m sat alone at the kitchen table, my only communication to the outside world is via MSN chat with Dave. He’s not replied in 20 minutes, I fear the sleep has taken him. I’m alone. Weeks, if not months I’ve had this brief, yet here I am, cramming it all in in a few short days. Knobhead.
That was a shitty week. I was sleep deprived, moody and exhausted mentally and physically. I made the choice to prioritise other things, and this was the result. I remember thinking it was quite a cool thing “Ah I’ve just pulled a few all-nighters and smashed it”, but it’s completely anti-productive to work this way. In this instance, the stress I felt was 100% self inflicted. Working all hours of the day/night for long periods of time isn’t a badge of honour, it’s down to poor time management and it will lead to burn out.
That’s not to say that there aren’t genuine pressures at Uni. The pressures to fit in, to be noticed, to hit deadlines and the overarching sense that your life is determined by the grade you leave with (read this). Fuck that sounds like a pressure cooker. Best not make it worse. JÄGERBOMBS.
Monday night was student night in Sheffield. No lie, you could go out and get wasted, get some dodgy food and a taxi home for £20. A pint of snakebite should not be able to be purchased for a quid. But it was, and it probably still is. Students are big business for night life in University cities, and they know what sells. Cheap booze. This was our release. Nights out were planned in far more detail than any of my college projects. It’s only with experience and hindsight, that I can look back and see that maybe strawpedoing 3 VK Blue with a Southern Comfort chaser shouldn’t have been the priority. Fun nonetheless. Booze, drugs, gaming, gambling - whatever your vice, don’t use it as an excuse to get away from the stress.
Experienced designers aren’t perfect, so why pressure yourself to be perfect at Uni? Some experienced designers get their own phone number wrong on their business card (Dave did that), others send Christmas calendars to print with the subtle typo of ‘calander’ in 70pt on the front cover (I did that). Shit happens. Use it as a lesson and move on. I’ve never once spelled calendar wrong since. The chase for perfection is dangerous, and unattainable. Nothing is perfect, and you’ll see with time that your entire career is one long learning journey - do not pile the pressure on yourself to be the finished article by the time you graduate.
When you’re deep into a project, and a deadline is looming, it’s easy to think that it’s the worst thing in the world. The pressure is building, and you’re getting stressed because nothing is working. Your body is releasing stress hormones into your blood stream, which starts to affect certain parts of your brain, including a reduction in your cognitive performance. Stress is making your ability to complete a task harder. How counter-productive is that? My advice - do not leave it until the last minute. Ensure you have enough time to perform a project, so when the stress comes (and it will) you can move away and do something that will reduce that feeling - more walking outside and less smashing back 8 pints.
University should be a time to develop your craft, and more importantly yourself as a person. Rising pressures are counterintuitive, yet rising tuition fees will only add to its ‘importance’ and increase the fear of failure, rather than encourage. At the end of the day it’s only design, don’t worry, be happy :).