Lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions from aspiring artists about how to manage workloads and avoiding burning the midnight oil for creation. This is something that I haven’t thought about in a while, but it was definitely something that I made a conscious effort to change over the years.
When I first started working in games, I was pushing pixels then and crunching wasn’t even really a thing. Back then the art didn't take "that" much time to create. It was just pixels.
As I transitioned into console games, that is when crunching came into play. I was always crunching. Higher-quality Art. More Technical. More assets that belonged to a system.
Then when I transitioned into the Film world, it seemed like I was always working later, and later, and it was the same deal. High-quality art. More. More animation etc.
On top of that, I wanted to get better at my craft and create more of my own art too, so I was always up and working on something...
9pm. 10pm. Midnight. 2am. Sometimes 3am. Then sleep. Get up at 8 just to do it all again. Totally zombie-land after a while...
This was my routine for years. I was a night owl and always working on stuff. Screen fatigue. Burn out.
Working on your craft is not bad. Having it be the center of your life where it controls you is bad. Burning the midnight oil is not sustainable, nor is it healthy. You need balance. You need sleep. And there are plenty of studies about screen time and blue light.
I made 2 shifts in my routine. The mindset. And the goals.
The mindset was about accepting and understanding that I couldn't sustain this pattern and there had to be a better way to achieve the same goals. I did not want to be doing my own crunching on top of work crunching.
I started building new habits and routines. Rather than go to bed at 2am. I went to bed earlier at 10 and got some quality sleep. That will ultimately increase your performance. If you are tired, then you just drag through your work. Diminishing returns.
Then you can unplug and do something analogue 1 hour before bed. Read. Draw on paper. Journal—just something else not on a screen. This allows your brain to turn off, rest and get a deeper sleep.
Then...get up early! Yes this takes time to re-program. It does. It is not easy, but it can be done. Get back valuable hours in your day.
The other was goal measuring and setting up realistic goals.
Having an "all or nothing" approach to goals never works. This is why resolutions never work. We as humans shame ourselves for not achieving all of our goals. Yet, we set ourselves up to fail. For example, "I am going to do 100 drawings in one month!" Then you try to force yourself to do them, and ultimately fall off the wagon and feel like crap because you failed.
Instead, come up with ways to achieve your outcome. Define 3 goals. Use a Minimum, an Ideal, and a Maximum Target to hit.
The Minimum would be something actually achievable. Life is busy, so maybe your Minimum is 15 drawings. You can hit that in a month, no problem. That is one drawing every other day, and that is 15 drawings more than you have and much better than zero. Total win!
The Ideal Target is 25. That means you have to push a little bit, but it's still achievable and allows a little down time. Plus 10 more drawings that you achieved! Yet another win!
The Maximum would be 30 drawings. This is a real push to do one drawing a day. It takes more energy and is achievable if you take command of your time. You know what? This too is a win. It is a BIG mind-blowing win!
If you notice, all of these are all wins. There are 3 of them, not one giant one with no margin for error. With a system like this you cannot fail, you cannot shame yourself, and if you set yourself up properly, build a routine that supports it, and take advantage of Execution over Perfection, you will be a champion!
Are you willing to give this a try? Let us know your thoughts! We'd would love to hear how you do.