Developer stress and designer stress, better defined as emotional strain or pressure related to your work, can be crippling. Stress spills into your personal life, affects friends and family, and even causes issues with clients. Can it be stopped, controlled, tamed or, dare we say, eliminated?
Well, the solution to deal with designer and developer stress is multifold. It begins with accepting a hard truth: stop desiring stress.
Stress does not mean you are productive. It does not mean you have a lot of work on your plate so therefore you must at least be doing well. And it doesn’t prove productivity.
Most of the time, stress is a stark reminder of our failure — that we don’t have process, techniques or habits in place and are suffering the consequences of not taking the time to build them.
Tips and tricks for handling web designer and developer stress
In this article, we’ll explore the tips and tricks for relieving and avoiding stress for designers and developers.
In a previous article, “How to deal with business stress,” I outlined specific business causes of stress that can be addressed. In this article, however, I want to dial in on the practical ways to work through and handle the stress that arises daily through habits and techniques.
In order to build habits, we need to isolate them into two different groups: business habits and personal habits.
Business habits to relieve and reduce stress
A habit is something that, when we do it frequently, becomes regular, automatic and second nature. To establish good business habits let’s explore three tips and tricks that directly relate to designer and developer stress:
1. Limit emotional responses
As developers and designers, we need to do our best t0 bridle emotion when it comes to our clients and projects.
When I was new to the business, I got so frustrated by my limited knowledge of coding at the time, that my responses to projects resulted in regular emotional outbursts. When clients criticized my design, I would be defensive and often want to quit the project.
These instances of developer stress were better defined as taking work very personally.
Over time, I realized I was still learning and I needed to be more professional through patience. Now, many years and projects later, I have a few rules for myself to limit emotional responses.
Walk away. When feeling frustrated at a problem, walk away from the computer.
During this time you can go for a walk or call it a day and address the issue when you wake up again in the morning. Walking away and then returning to the problem can give you a better handle on your emotional state.
Wait to send emails. As designers and developers, we often receive emails charged with emotions from our clients. When responding to these emails, it’s easy to reply back charged with your own emotions.
When having to reply, first save it as a draft and wait a few hours (possibly the next day) before sending it. This allows the emotional charge of the moment to burn off, you can rewrite what you sent more professionally and be detached from the moment.
It’s not about you. When taking criticism on a design or project, realize any emotion on the client’s side is rooted in something that has nothing to do with you. It may be financial issues, their business stress, or them feeling overwhelmed with the project.
The more you mature as a designer or developer, the more you should adapt to common criticism that’s fair and formulate your argument around criticism that is unfounded. Take courage in the fact you will develop how to navigate this if you keep an open mind and realize it’s not a legit cause for developer stress.
2. Plan projects in advance (schedule)
Designer and developer stress can often be due to accepting too many projects and feeling overwhelmed. Organization and planning is the best way to combat this type of stress.
Organization doesn’t come naturally to most people.
However, proper planning can contribute to lowering stress and managing your time better — so we should all seek to be better at organization. It’s a muscle we should all work to exercise, especially if we are business owners.
Organization and planning with good habits will immediately decrease developer stress when implemented.
Schedule your week. To force yourself and your clients to follow a fixed schedule for phone calls, use an online calendar scheduler like Calendly.
For example, I only take phone calls a select few days a week within three-hour windows. This leaves time to do admin tasks, business growth and personal appointments.
Using an online calendar helps keep that schedule consistent and it syncs with my Google Calendar so busy times are booked out automatically.
Limit projects. Do you know how many projects you can realistically handle at one time?
Set a limit to how many projects can be in certain stages (i.e. design, development, launch) and then “schedule” out your next projects rather than turning away work or feeling rushed to start.
For example, I prefer to have only two projects in design at one time, therefore I’ll tell an incoming lead that we can begin their project on “X date” rather than assuming we start right away.
You’d be surprised at how accommodating clients are when they know you are in demand and want to give their job the attention it deserves.
Schedule in your business. You should consider the day-to-day running of your business a project as well. Make sure to schedule administrative tasks, invoices, billing, bookkeeping and cleanup. You don’t want to wait until “there’s time” or the need will come when you have no time!
I choose one day a week that I don’t work on any projects, but dedicate to the business for growth or admin tasks. This way I know the day is there so I won’t get developer stress at the thought of when these tasks will get done.
3. Use automation to free up time
Automation is the means in which you leverage tools and technology to help you carry out processes or repeated tasks automatically at certain times or through set triggers.
In an effort to implement automation, you need to review what pieces of your day or parts of your process could be handled by an app or automated feature in your SaaS programs.
I like to say that automation should never replace the “human” from the process, just support the human so the process run smoothly.
With that in mind, review these techniques to implement automation to gain back time and lower designer stress:
Break down current operations. According to this article, 51% of job activities could be automated. That’s a staggering number when you think about it.
What about your day could be automated but you are continuing to carry it out and waste time?
Write out your day-to-day operations and look for repeated actions like sending calendar invites, emails, reminders and notifications. If something is repeatable, automate it so you don’t have to think about it.
Replace tasks with tools. In evaluating tasks that weigh you down and cause developer stress, you’ll often find they point to tasks you can relieve with outsourcing, hiring in house, or with new shiny tools. Many times, your developer stress will be switching from one to the other.
In this case, review accounting, admin and social media tasks that can be better left to bots and apps. You might find the amount you save in staff to be the stress reliever you needed.
Change your systems or SaaS. Most of the time I run into businesses that are using outdated systems or multiple programs that can be combined into a cutting-edge one.
When choosing certain SaaS providers I like to see what Zapier automation I can run with them and it often dictates the switch.
Leverage current and growing SaaS and online application providers that play nice with automation tools like Zapier to remove you from common steps. Review the Zapier blog for ideas and get creative!
Related: 10 email automation tools
Personal habits to relieve and reduce stress
Designer and developer stress will ebb and flow with particular clients and projects. It’s the personal stress habits, however, that can really impact the quality of your life as a whole.
Putting these into practice to make them a habit is critical to you developing a technique that sustains the business stress as it onsets. To establish good personal habits let’s explore three tips and tricks that can relieve designer and developer stress.
1. Develop a hobby
As we grow and get better at our businesses, we tend to get faster at what we do, have better processes and gain back time. Inevitably, we should then have more time for passion projects and things we love.
In order to narrow in on a hobby that will aid in reducing developer stress, consider elements that encourage items you don’t find in your current work.
Go outside your field. If you don’t have a hobby already, take this time to choose a field that’s unrelated to design and development. It’s even better if it takes you away from a screen.
If you are finding yourself at a loss, use this helpful entry on hobbies in Wikipedia to scan for ideas. Choosing a hobby doesn’t mean it has to be consuming, just interesting enough to fill the gaps in your week with something that interests you besides work.
Go silent (no phone). When selecting an activity that takes you away from work and is positioned as an activity to reduce stress, choose one that allows you to turn off your phone.
Whether it’s golf, a run, or simply reading a book, it’s helpful to have a hobby where’s there’s a period of time you can unplug.
If we could all train ourselves to take a least one hour of our day where the phone is turned off, we’ll naturally find lower designer stress during the time where we aren’t listening for a notification.
In fact, my phone is on silent most of the day. I only check it when I’m ready to deal with a notification — and this has been a technique that has greatly reduced my developer stress.
Look for community. When seeking out a hobby, it’s best if the activity involves a sense of community.
Often as developers and designers, we work isolated from others and can easily find ourselves with a lack of interaction with our fellow humans. This leads to developer and designer stress building up as we have no way to share, laugh or relax with others.
A hobby that involves a community can simply be anything you do with others, from watching sports to playing games.
2. Ask for help and delegate
Developers and designers have access to numerous options for Facebook and online community to bounce off ideas, network and learn from one another. In my time as a website professional, I’ve been part of WP Elevation, GoDaddy Pro Community, and even built my own with WP Care Market.
In being part of these communities, I realized I have immediate access to others for help, as well as opportunities to get to know fellow designers and developers I can work with.
In asking for help, never be afraid to simply reach out. Whether it’s for tech assistance, business advice or something more of a personal matter, find a group or organization you trust and be encouraged that you are among your people.
Build your network. You can’t ask for help if you aren’t connected.
Build your network by finding a place to get plugged in, whether it’s a business program, a Facebook group or a community forum. Start by helping and giving back, so others get to know you, what you do and your experience.
Build relationships in person. Even more important than online communities are opportunities to meet up in person. WordPress Meetup groups currently list over 1,600 organized in-person meetups around the world.
WordCamps (WordPress-run events) are held in 75 cities. If WordPress isn’t your thing, there are numerous conferences with narrow focuses, like the one I run with my colleagues, the Recurring Revenue Retreat in Orlando, Florida.
It’s from these relationships I have formed partnerships and hired some of my favorite people.
Discover helpful organizations. For mental health and support, there are some amazing organizations that provide resources for designers and developers.
WP&UP is one of them. Their mission is to support and promote positive mental health within the WordPress community. A recent WP&UP survey found 64% of respondents stated they felt “mental health” was an area in which they wanted additional support.
Being aware that organizations exist is a great step to not just help yourself but point others toward them when they need help as well.
3. Take care of yourself and keep positive
You are the most important asset in your business. It’s critical you put you first; slow down or step away when you need to. If you aren’t doing this, you may need to retrain your brain.
Implementing these three points below can help keep you away from designer stress:
Take a deep breath. Throughout our day we need moments in which we slow down and look inward. Deep breaths as part of your daily routine, for 60 seconds at a time, are a great practice to calm yourself.
Consider meditation, daily prayer (for those who are religious) or relaxation exercises — anything you can make a habit that takes the focus off developer stress and back to the bigger picture. Many people use apps that can ping you and remind you to slow down like Calm or Headspace.
Change sleep habits. Your body is smart, and when you don’t get enough sleep, it will try and communicate the best way it knows how.
According to this article from the Huffington Post, 75% to 90% of doctor visits are due to stress. You aren’t winning a productivity race; make sure to get enough sleep.
And if you are like me, use the early morning instead of the evening for personal development time when you are fresh and well-rested.
Exercise and eat well. The American Psychological Association found that 62% of adults found exercise or walking to help manage stress. Combine that with a healthy diet and you begin to arm your body with the strength it needs to stay healthy and focused when combating external factors.
I couple my exercise with a podcast so I feel more motivated to do it (since I want to listen to the latest episode). If I get out and do my early morning walk, I start my day on the right foot (pun intended).
Be positive. A positive mindset is more than just a tip in an article, it’s a full lifestyle change. However, I don’t think I can write about practical ways to reduce designer stress and not at least highlight the principle of staying positive.
One simple way is to end the day with reflection, focusing on the positive, and consciously being thankful. That way when you wake up you’ll have closed out that day and will be starting fresh.
Start today… then rinse, wash and repeat
Habits don’t form overnight, they take time and repetition to stick. Taking advantage of these tips and techniques in your business and personal life will be the starting point for lowering developer stress and designer stress.
If any of these don’t resonate with you, check out this article about staying sane through startup stress. It outlines steps to evaluate a stress point, journal and learn from the experience. You can then create your own techniques to relieve stress off of following those steps and what you find is specific to you.
Choose at least two of these techniques and tips for practical ways to change the way you manage developer stress. I encourage you to write them down in your own handwriting, hang them on the wall, save them to your phone or rewrite the concepts in your own manifesto.
Stress can be self-created, and if self-created, it can be self-destroyed.
Use the advice in this article to create a better life for yourself, your business and those you work alongside. It’s the one task you can set aside in your calendar that will increase the value of your life.