Illustrators often do not have the luxury of time before a tight deadline, suddenly you might find yourself with three jobs on your hands which you can't turn down because you need the money and you're afraid they might not call you next time. I myself once worked 120 plus hours in two weeks. Six AM I arrived at my day job, then I would run four blocks to my illustration job by 3PM with frappuccinos and stay until the building closed. Repeat. So how to survive jobnado.
A dear friend of mine keeps a list with her to refer to during an anxiety attack, I have something similar for rush jobs:
- Don't drink coffee
- Don't eat cookies
- Take breaks
- Stretch/ light yoga
- Record your time
- Rise Early
- Get enough sleep
- Be kind and care for yourself
Caffeine & Sugar
Be careful with caffeine. If you don't regularly drink coffee, a rush job is not the time to experiment. A triple mocha, on an empty stomach can trick your body into thinking it's having a panic attack, which with the stress of a tight deadline can become all too real. Both caffeine and sugar can give one a stressful high and a sudden crash. Take it easy on both and don't try to give up your regular cup of joe. No sudden changes. You don't want to have caffeine headaches either.
Especially if you feel you can't. You need a moment to refocus, stretch and in my case check sitting posture. (If I don't I'll spend hours hunched with a death grip on my stylus.) There are several apps that can help. My favorite for Mac is Mindful Mynah. You can set a gentle tone at regulars interval on your computer or iphone. Runner up was Time Out, which gives you customizable 10 minute breaks every 50 mins, and 10 second micro breaks every 10 mins. For the PC there is EyeLeo, which gives short breaks with eye exercises every 10 mins. On longer breaks it's nice to clean a little, make a health snack, go for a walk, play with your pet... usually I avoid social media, video games, movies and television shows because it's easy to loses hours without noticing. Of course if you make sure to drink enough water, nature will call the breaks for you.
Breath & Stretch
It's very important to stretch on your break. Not only will it save you from sore muscles but stretches can invigorate you when they are tired. A great way to start off a day of working at a desk is with a yoga basic: Sunrise Salutations. (Disclaimer! Dear reader: I do not know your body or it's limitations, it's best to learn yoga in a class with a trained professional you trust first.) StretchClock is app for both Mac and PC with simple stretching videos. Here are some basic stretches from Real Simple. Internet friends feel free to post your favorite web stretch guide in the comments.
Record your time
Even if it's a flat fee job it's good practice to know how much time you spent for the future. A great app for this is Timely. It's free to try and a great way to keep account of your time.
ARISE Early Birds
The morning is the perfect time to hit that project. Its quieter, the sun is out (hopefully) and your brain is fresh. Usually I take a little time to eat a good breakfast, putter around for ten minutes and then get down to business. Start to work before you check your email. You want to avoid decision fatigue. Art work can contain thousands of micro decisions which can wear you down like a flock of vampiric humming birds. This ties back to taking breaks to restore your will power, however you'll never be as energized as when you first wake up.
Get Enough Sleep
This cannot be said strongly enough. According to Fast Company you need at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep, although some of us may take it differently. And seriously, stop working an hour before you plan to go to sleep. During graduate school I would work until for 4 AM and then fling myself into bed, shut my eyes tight and think "Okay SLEEP TIME.... and SLEEP." But I couldn't, I was too ramped up from the work. I would think about all the little things I needed to fix on a project. So turn off the computer, dim the lights, eat a small snack, brush your teeth and read a relaxing book. You can write a list of all the task for the next day so they are out of your head. Also, try to sleep in total darkness. This will help with melatonin production, the hormone that regulates sleep cycles. The image to the right is Goya's The Sleep of Reason Produces Nightmares... Pretty sums up how I feel if I can't get to sleep during a rush job.
Remember your self-care. During a rush you can pare it down to basics: bathing, feeding, and of course sleep. A ten minute shower can be an invigorating break. Go ahead and order delivery food, but take a break from the computer to eat it. Even better take a walk to pick up take out. If you are dead tired take a 20 minute power nap, followed by stretching.
Lastly, be kind to yourself. I'll let you in on a secret: self-deprecation is NOT constructive. Negative does not make good art. In fact, belittling yourself for not working harder, not getting up earlier, etc... makes the rush job more difficult. So be realistic but nice. You are a professional. You are working hard. Then shift your focus from yourself to the task at hand. Meditating can help you to simply be— to work on a project with a quite mind.
Work in beauty friends.