Work Life Balance

What Work-Life Balance Looks Like for Product Designers

A product designer’s role can encompass a range of disciplines and responsibilities. Their areas of work can vary from user and customer experience to interface design and information architecture.

Often, they’ll be liaising with a different teams, depending on how big the organisation is, including product, design, marketing, customer service and more.

Balance the Grind had the chance to speak to nine product designers from around the world and different career paths to find out what their work-life balance looks like and a typical day in their life.

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Chengsu Chen, Product Designer at Facebook

During the weekdays, I walk to my shuttle stop and get to work at around 8:45 – 9:00 AM. After getting home at around 5:00 PM, I work out on Mondays and Wednesdays; sometimes early in the morning on Tuesdays or Thursdays, depending on my meeting schedule.

At work, I have weekly meetings like 1:1’s with my manager or PM as well as recurring team meetings with my product team and design team. These meetings help scope out the work among my product team and I get to learn other projects within my design team.

Sam Perryman, UX, UI & Product Designer

I’m a morning person so I’m usually up by about 5:30 am and will make my way to CrossFit (yes, I do CrossFit).

I prefer to go first thing in the morning because it sets me up well for the day and I feel like I’ve already accomplished something before I get to work. Then I jump back home and get out of the door as quickly as I can.

I usually try to grab a coffee on the way into the office and spend a few minutes just sitting with the coffee and being still or reading for a bit. I love when there’s not many in the office and it’s quiet. I’ll try work on some client work or if I have nothing on I’ll try learn something – right now I’m learning to code.

As the team filter in I’ll switch over to work for Hypothesis. Every day is a little different. Sometimes it’ll be travelling as our client is interstate, sometimes running workshops with our stakeholders, though at the moment it’s a lot of UI work and user testing because we’re in delivery at the moment.

Post work unless I’ve got client work, I’ll try relax and defrag from the day do some cooking and meal prep for the next day. But there’s also a lot of Netflix.

Alex Muench, Product Designer at Doist

Usually I wake up at 7:30am, get ready, take my vitamins, and make a cup of coffee. If I’m up to it, I like reading a book, newspaper, watching a video, listen, to a podcast, scroll through Twitter, or reply to some messages. I have a small time frame set before work where I can do anything that I find interesting or inspiring.

I start work at 8 or 9am in my home office, open Todoist and Twist, and go through my plans for the day and team conversations. As a designer, my areas of work can vary a lot. Most of the time, I work on one feature for a whole month inside a small internal team related to our apps.

I’m also active in joining product discussions, helping other designers with feedback on their designs, writing design documentations, testing our apps and new features, or coming up with new ideas to solve problems.

During the day, I try to take regular breaks and eat lunch or brunch at 12pm. Sometimes I skip breakfast if I’m not hungry. Coffee and a glass of water are always by my side. I also have Spotify playing in my headphones. One of my favorite playlists is Electro Pop.

At 6pm I finish my day and do some other activities like watching a movie, reading an article or book, going for a walk, sketching on my iPad, or something completely different.

Catalina de León Belloc, Product Designer at Feedly

We’ve been in lockdown for over 90 days, so my day-to-day has definitely changed since then. I start my workdays with a short yoga practice followed by a 15 minute meditation. This helps me stayed focused and calm. 

When I’m not running workshops like a Design Sprint, I use the Pomodoro technique throughout the day to get deep focused design work done, combined with user tests, talking to other designers and product people. This technique provides me with short breaks for coffee, reading an article, a personal call or a short check-in to chat with my 2-year old. 

At the end of the workday I hop on the treadmill for a 4km run, followed by family dinner and hopefully in bed by 10pm to watch an episode with my wife and then read a book.

Kris Niles, Product Designer & Remote Work Coach

I work remotely from the foothills of the Rockies, just outside of Denver. I’m an avid trail-runner, so my day typically starts around 6am with a trail run, to get my body and mind moving. 

After that, I’ll make breakfast for our two kids, and get them ready for school. Once they are off, I head downstairs to my home office (around 9am). 

I start my work day by reviewing my to-do list, picking my desired outcomes for the day, and blocking time for them on my calendar. These can be either personal goals, or client work. 

Once I have a good picture of what I want to accomplish, I check email / Slack / Teams / Basecamp / etc. to see what’s new with my client(s), and adjust my schedule if need be.

As I go throughout my day, I log progress in a notebook on my desk – just a sentence or two whenever I complete a task. This helps me stay focused, and also serves as a log that I refer back to for billing, or recapping progress at the end of the week.

I wrap up work around 4:30pm by reviewing my work log and updating my to-do list. Then it’s time to hang out with the family – which usually involves getting outside, walking around our property, riding bikes in the driveway, working in the garden, or swinging in the hammock. Summer is in full swing!

Una Bassil, Freelance Product Designer

I try to not set the alarm clock and allow my body and mind to rest as much as they need to (perks of a freelance schedule!).

I always have a cup of coffee when I wake up and jump on my laptop to go through emails, Slack, any comments on my designs that clients might’ve left in Figma, so I know what the tasks and priorities for the day will look like. 

I take my training pretty seriously as well, so I have my morning session 2-3 hours after I wake up. Then it’s lunch and work time. Working from home most days allows me to be frugal with my time and not waste it on commuting, so I can be more efficient with work. 

I then tend to schedule any meetings for after 1 or 2 pm as I find am is my most productive time in terms of creativity (must be the caffeine, hey)! 

I am still pretty new to the freelancing world, but I try to make sure I work the hours that suit me best in terms of productivity and other commitments. That being said, with so many clients based in the US, I sometimes need to push the work hours until later in the evening. 

For those days, I just allow myself to start the day at a later point. I usually finish work around 5-6pm, which allows me to use my evening for more training and coaching as well. 

So it’s not like I am chilling on the sofa and watching Netflix with a slice of pizza in my hand, but switching between design work and CrossFit allows my mind to also switch gears and relax and have fun.

Jake Deakin, Senior Product Designer at InVision

My alarm is set for 7:30am, but generally, my puppy (@marlothemini <- shameless plug) wakes me up at around 7am. 

I start my day at the dog park with an iced coffee and aim to get to my desk by 8:45. I use the first 15 minutes of my day planning what I want to achieve over the day.

Around 9am I get to work on my highest priority of the day and grind on this until around 11am, as the majority of my direct team is located on the west coast I am blessed with a few hours of undisrupted focus time. 

Around 11:30/12 I start to lose energy and become lethargic, at this time I head out to the local deli to grab some food and fresh air.

I like to open up my afternoons for collaboration. On a normal day I’ll use this time for project-specific meetings, customer interviews, collaborating with my product & engineering partners, reviewing work, planning sprints, and more.

At 5-6pm I’ll finish up for the day. The first thing I do after work is exercise, you can find me running with Brooklyn Track Club, at my local gym, or playing football with my team GBFC. After some ‘me’ time, I’ll head home to grab my puppy and finish the day watching the sunset from the dog park.

Darshan Gajara, Product Designer & Maker

My workday could look very different depending upon what I’m working on that day. But a few things always remain the same.

Since our company is completely remote with an office here in Berlin, I can work both from home and from the office. So I like to mix it up.

When I go to the office, my day starts with the Berlin Briefing podcast on my way to the office. I listen to this podcast every weekday to keep up with what’s happening in the city. 

I take a tram to the office with 25-30 minutes of commute. So I can finish the podcast episode and also check Twitter and other messages on my phone.

After I reach the office around 10 am, I make myself a coffee and catch up with Slack, Linear and Figma comments. We’ve our daily standup at 11:30 am, before that, I would make a list of things that I need to work on during that day.

I go out for lunch with my teammates around 12:30 at noon. Fortunately, our office is located in central Berlin so we’ve plenty of food options to pick from.

The afternoon is when I get the bulk of my work done. Yeah, it’s a little different for me, I’m the most productive after lunch until the evening.

I leave the office by 7 pm, get home, eat some snacks and go for a run. I listen to podcasts while running and I recently got myself a JBL wireless earphones, which has made the running experience even more enjoyable.

I drink a smoothie or eat something light after the run. Then I take a shower and work on my side-projects. I’m usually to bed by 12:30 in the night.

This routine works really well when I’m working from the office while things are a bit unstructured while working from home.

Tom Engström, Co-Founder & Product Designer at Timespace

I usually wake up between 8 and 10AM, do some light exercise, shower and have breakfast. Today I woke up late so I skipped my usual workout.

After the morning routine, I set up the living room table for work and get some focused work in before lunch. I dedicate the morning each day to a different topic, today (Wednesday) was about marketing: setting up analytics and drafting social media posts (I also got lost watching videos and reading blog posts about design).

At around noon I have lunch at home and then take a short walk outside. Today the weather was bad so I just spent a few moments on the balcony for fresh air.

After lunch, I get maybe an hour more of relatively productive work in and then it’s time for meeting prep, paperwork and a daily team meeting. After that’s done, around 6PM, I pack my laptop in a box under a shelf and lift the monitor on the floor to transform the work space back to living room mode.

Immediately after work, I do a light workout to get my mind off work. I got a Ring Fit for the Nintendo Switch recently, and it’s been a fun way to do this!

After the workout, we do the groceries with my girlfriend, have dinner, do chores and just chill at home. On Wednesdays we have our weekly sauna slot in our apartment building so today was a special sauna day!

Around 11PM-12AM I wind down reading a book and go to sleep 1AM(ish). 

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.