Creative professionals across the spectrum will agree that spending time away from your desk is essential for maintaining balance and staying energised. Here’s a tip to help install some good habits.

Set “away from desk” hours in your calendar. Ban yourself from your desk during that time.

Limiting the amount of time you can spend face down in your work will force you to focus on the task at hand, and not just float around the internet waiting for clients to email you back. It will also help you wrap up for the day and get a good night sleep.

Whatever your preferred hours of working, stick to them and defend them. Don’t let other people clutter up your most productive hours, and don’t try and trick yourself by half-working for 24 hours a day.

Working Solo

Many of us work solo, from home, and for ourselves. It may seem counterintuitive to spend time away from the desk when we only “eat what we kill”, but this actually has the effect of sharpening us, and keeping essential boundaries on the day.

Most solo practitioners or freelancers will sheepishly admit that we’ve had days — if not entire weeks — of mindlessly half-working, grazing from our desks as we poke around the web, and then switch back to less-engaging projects or meta-work, like organising fonts or checking email. But we’ll also think of times when we were just in the zone, and every minute counted, either because of a deadline or the allure of finishing with purpose.

Imagine if we could optimise the latter, and reduce the former. Less time at the desk means more time for the rest of our lives. That, in turn, makes us better at our work.

In a Team Setting

For those of us working in a traditional studio or workplace, the “away from desk” time sets expectations for the rest of our team. It may be time physically spent outside of the office, meeting with clients or just going home at a reasonable hour, but it could also be designated time to visit with other departments and colleagues, or simple to be away from the desk — still available for conversations and reviews, but not available to monkey around in Photoshop, for example.

This, I admit, is a tougher challenge for most conventional workplaces. Many bosses will see any minute spent away from the desk as wasted time. (These are, very often, the same kind of bosses who will take looong lunch indeed, and skip out for golf on a Wednesday.) To get around this thinking, come up with a euphemism to fill your calendar. Perhaps a “meeting.”

How About You?

Do you have a sturdy system for leaving your desk behind? Are you better at your job when you spend fewer hours in the muck? Leave a comment to share your experiences.

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About the author: Prescott Perez-Fox

Prescott Perez-Fox is a New York-based graphic designer and brand developer with 17+ years experience in branding, packaging, graphic design, and web design. He runs The Busy Creator.

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