Nick Jones

Listening to Pavement with a migraine: or, “Let go or be dragged.”

Traffic lights

This isn’t your typical teardown of a checkout flow or a rant about tappable regions on buttons. It’s something more profound.

One morning, battling the beginnings of a massive migraine, I realized I couldn’t stare at a screen any longer. Climbing into bed, I fell asleep to high school playlist tunes, contemplating the oddity of having special skills with no place to use them.

In my over two decades as a designer, web person, front-end aficionado, UX practitioner, and various other titles synonymous with the realm of creating apps and websites, I’ve amassed a diverse skillset. Yet, these skills became a double-edged sword, leading me to measure my worth solely by my ability to monetize them.

The problem lies in specialization. Burnout thrives, moments between projects become oceans of tedium, and anxiety creeps in, questioning what comes next. The UX “industry” grapples with burnout, often stemming from professionals pigeonholing themselves into hyper-specific niches, creating a lonely landscape.

Knowledge work, to me, mirrors creative work. The transition between projects is akin to feeling like a box of shiny tools without an operator. The constant skill acquisition comes with a nagging disdain for past work. But amidst this, I offer advice, as much for myself as for you.

Learn to use the breaks to do nothing.

The emerging generation establishes boundaries, a practice I neglected. I saw myself as a resource to be depleted, rushing until someone signaled me to stop. Living life as a creative or a human in such a manner is, unequivocally, terrible.

Fully inhabit the breaks. Pick up a pointless hobby, touch grass, realize not every moment is for gathering intel for your next gig.

No permission is required. If you’ve learned to be overworked, you can unlearn it. You deserve rest, time away from honing your craft. While your skills are valuable, sitting on a log in the park, doing nothing, is equally significant. Your legacy won’t boast revenue increases but may honor the moments you allowed yourself to live beyond the hustle.

The hardest lessons in a career in design or UX involve embracing breaks, being okay with transitions, and acknowledging your feelings about the reality of your work. The next project will arrive sooner than you think.