It can be tempting to stop working completely when you’re burnt out, especially when you’re not on a normal 9-to-5 schedule. It’s easy to turn down new work or to rely on savings, giving yourself breaks when you realistically should be working. It’s also easy to put off work and to procrastinate until the last minute, putting your deadlines in jeopardy.
Does the above sound like you? Have you started pushing off work? You might be dealing with burnout. The real question is, “How do I manage burnout without jeopardizing my career?”
Here are a few things I do to help get through times where I feel like I just can’t work anymore.
1. Try new techniques
One of the things that helps me when I’m struggling with tendinitis or just can’t focus is switching how I complete writing tasks. Instead of typing them, I use Speechnotes.co, which is a fantastic website. It allows you to record what you say relatively accurately. I then paste the text into Word and edit it for submission.
2. Focus on a goal (with a prize in mind)
The next thing that helps me get through burnout is to switch my mindset into one where I get a reward if I finish. It might be something as simple as getting to watch a movie if I finish by a certain time or buying a new outfit that I’d like if I complete a week’s worth of work. Having a goal in mind helps me get what I need to finish done while also rewarding myself for “good behavior.” As an added benefit, the more you reward your brain when you succeed at a task, the more likely it will be to complete the same work faster in the future- your body will literally be eager to complete a task to obtain a reward! (the brain gets addicted to the dopamine released when you succeed. Here’s the science of it.)
It might seem counterintuitive, but taking time to relax can help you reset. If taking off a day means you’ll be more productive the rest of the week, do it. Grab a day at the spa or relax and binge on TV. Just don’t fall into the trap of never getting back to work!
4. Add variety to your work
If you’re able to do different types of freelance work, this is the time to do it. Variety keeps me happy and focused on everything I need to do. I do some writing work for legal, marketing and children’s genres. I also teach kids in the morning, but I can also tutor art, teach saxophone, write books and illustrate. Having diversity in your career can be a great way to eliminate ever feeling “stuck” or dragged down by the same-old-same-old.
5. Use a Pomodoro timer
A Pomodoro timer to help remove distractions from the equation. Sometimes, the only way through burnout is to keep pushing! Pomodoro timers make you work for 25 minutes then give you a break for 5 to 10 minutes before you start again. Try one to work more effectively instead of procrastinating; I’ve seen the time I spend working decrease thanks to lowering distractions.
Burnout can be a real problem for freelancers and traditional 9-to-5ers alike. Try these tips and see how you do. What do you like to do if you’re burnt out?