Using Gen AI to create digital boundaries and combat burnout

Image of a laptop being used.

In 2024, we don’t just live IRL — rather we now straddle multiple worlds as citizens of the digital space. We have avatars in the virtual plane that reveal mere shades of our full 3D-ness. A single digital footprint could take up an entire walk-in closet.

While the momentum of this dual reality has only ramped up since 2020, the cultural conversation continues to keep pace with buzzwords like digital hygiene, virtual boundaries, and digital burnout — each legitimate consequences of being “always on” in today’s world. And we’re “always on” — globally, the average person spends 44 percent of their waking hours looking at screens.

Especially as entrepreneurs and creatives with 9 to 5s and 5 to 9s, it’s worth it to seek balance between diving into digital pursuits while also learning when to power down. Because as a creative and someone running their own business, the nagging technology hits us from multiple angles — being a one-person show of answering emails, building marketing decks, and tasking out tech admin, while also being receptive to when creativity strikes. All to say, establishing boundaries with tech is beyond a nice-to-have — it’s necessary for creative longevity.

The art of the unplug

No one understands the relationship of balancing business, personal and professional tech and creativity better than Mikaela Pabon. She’s a fashion designer and the founder of Dressed In Joy, a Ready-To-Wear line of inclusive sizes, ecstatic prints, and classic silhouettes based out of Bed-Stuy.

Image of Mikaela Pabon.

Though she and her husband operate a physical store in Brooklyn, much of her business happens on devices. She’s comfortable in that space, though — Mikaela took a circuitous route in IT for nearly a decade before making her dream of designer happen. Along the way, she taught herself how to design websites using Dreamweaver and to create graphics and patterns with Adobe Photoshop, skills that would ultimately serve her vocation. “I do everything in Photoshop, which is not traditional at all, but I've been creating with it for over 15 years,” she says.

As a mother of two running two online businesses, she’s experienced that moment when you recognize the work bleeds into everything. “I used to struggle with always being on my phone, replying to messages, researching, and it was really hard for me to stop because there was always more to do, right? But one day my husband sat me down and reminded me, ‘Look, we need you.’ So now my phone automatically shuts down notifications at certain times, and I connect with my [other] entrepreneur friends and we help each other be very intentional about offline time,” she says.

Creativity, entrepreneurship, and tech hygiene

Gen AI tools are here to help nurture your talents and allow you to skip the tedious and get out of your devices. Adobe Firefly, a family of generative AI models, is designed to give creators the freedom to work at the speed of their imagination, and to focus on the parts of the creative process they enjoy, versus feeling weighed down by the control of traditional workflows and project demands. This all ultimately translates to cutting down screen time on longer tasks and making space for the creative process.

For Mikaela, Gen AI has enhanced her design process: “I gained access to the beta program for Gen AI in Photoshop. One of my favorite prints to date is one I created with it. I started out with a small square of an image, and through the tool, it helped to [blow it out] into a much larger image and became a beautiful garment print. It's one of my favorite things,” she says.

Colors and prints are the bedrock of Mikaela’s designs, as she grew up learning indigenous hula dancing in Chicago. “I’ve always gravitated towards color. To practice and perform, we wore a lot of prints, big floral prints, a red dress with big yellow flowers on it, live green adornments on our head and on our wrists and ankles, flower leis and all the bright colors. All the big prints. That has informed my design choices now,” she says.

In Adobe Express, Mikaela uses tools to build out graphics for newsletters, create imagery for Instagram stories, or even shape up an outline of a script for an Instagram reel. “I can use Firefly to tell it what I want the video to be about and have a full script of what I should say,” she says. “I don’t use the entire script, but having the outline is a big help.” These time-saving productivity hacks allow her to get back to her craft and feel fueled by her muses. Her inspiration comes from Christopher John Rogers, PatBO, and Farm Rio, while her unique spin fosters an emphasis on wearability. “I really want to empower women to feel comfortable in their clothing and comfortable in trying out new things. And that comfortability comes in seeing a silhouette that they're used to wearing and maybe just a new print or color.”

Tools used by Mikaela

Creative Cloud All Apps

Get 20+ Creative Cloud apps including Photoshop, Illustrator, Adobe Express, Premiere Pro, and Acrobat Pro. (Substance 3D apps are not included.)

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Adobe Photoshop

With Photoshop and generative AI, you can create gorgeous photos, rich graphics, and incredible art for your business.

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Adobe Express

30 day free trial available

Make amazing work that stands out with generative AI features powered by Adobe Firefly.

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Beyond the screen

It’s exciting to take advantage of Gen AI tools, ready to zap the overwhelm and intimidation factor out of certain elements of your creative projects. But it’s also important to remember that the well of creativity requires time to unplug, touch grass, experience a live concert, use tactile paint that makes hands dirty. You know, the stuff beyond the blue light.

As a creative, taking care of your emotional and mental wellbeing is paramount. For Mikaela, her hula dancing connects her to Hawaiian music. Now, it’s a sound that calms her mind. For creative unplugging, she enjoys going on a walk, tuning in to neuroscience researcher, Dr. Joe Dispenza — Jay Shetty’s podcast, On Purpose — or listening to Hawaiian music by Na Palapalai, Keali’i Reichel and Natali Ai Kamau’u to feel centered again.

The future of Creativity

The emerging space of automation and AI is giving entrepreneurs and creatives the space to prioritize their peace.

It’s about saving time on elements that take away from the design flow, supporting pre-production processes with intuitive hacks, and using technology in our favor. Ultimately, the relationship with the digital world should be one in which we feel empowered.