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4 Tips for Breaking Up Your Day to Prevent Burnout + Maximize Productivity

One of the greatest perks of freelancing is flexibility. You get to decide when and how you work. But, without a manager to keep you accountable, it’s easy to take on way too much work or let things slip through the cracks — especially if you’re new to the game and still learning what “manageable” really means.

Whether you’re procrastinating, burnt out, or just overwhelmed by tasks, here are four simple tips to help you optimize your productivity and operate as your best self.

How to Break Up Your Day to Beat Freelance Burnout

Tip 1: Determine when you work best.

As a business owner, flexibility is your greatest tool. You have the freedom to set your own hours, so why not make your schedule work for you? The key here is to determine when you’re feeling the most energized throughout the day. Are you most creative in the morning or after lunch? Practice tuning in with yourself, and use your most productive hours to knock out the projects that require the most brain power. Daniel Pink’s novel When is a must-read if you’re looking to optimize your days.

Tip 2: Make a daily plan.

As a chronic procrastinator, one of the greatest tips my therapist ever gave me was to plan out every day in its entirety. This sounds tedious, I know, but trust me. It’s a super easy lift and it makes a world of a difference.

Towards the end of your work day, pull out your favorite notebook and write down what you want the following day to look like. Start with what time you want to wake up and continue throughout the day from there. Here’s an example to help get you started:

Wake up: 7:00am
Feed dogs and make coffee: 7:15am
Take dogs for a walk + listen to podcast: 8:00am
Sign on for work + focused work session: 9:00am
Make breakfast: 10:00am

You get the idea. This visioning exercise helps you get ahead of tomorrow by laying out a practical plan today.

Tip 3: “Eat the frog.”

Hear me out… Imagine you have to eat a frog today. Yes, an actual frog. Would you do it first thing in the morning or would you wait all day long, slowing building more and more dread? Probably first thing, right? It’s like ripping the bandaid off.

The same thing goes for your tasks. Knocking out the toughest, most annoying item on your to-do list at the start of your day alleviates stress and helps you build motivation and momentum to carry you through the rest of your day. If there’s a blog post you’ve been putting off writing or clerical work you’re avoiding, try tackling it first.

Another method we love is called task stacking — you pull together related tasks and knock them out sequentially. For example, you might tackle all of your administrative tasks first, then move to your more creative tasks, then spend your afternoon conducting outreach. We like this system because by keeping related tasks together, you’re completing an entire section of your to-do list rather than going at it task by task.

Tip 4: Not feeling productive? Step away.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your productivity is to take a break from it. If you’re sitting at your desk and you’re just not getting anything done, it might be time to take a break. Pick up a book, take a walk outside, or make your favorite lunch.

While this switch can take some getting used to, especially if you’re still stuck in that hustle culture mindset, we promise it will help you create some of your best work. By stepping away when you’re not being productive, you’re making space for yourself to do other things that fill your cup. Your work will still be there when you get back.

About the Author
Madi leads community at Harlow and cares deeply about giving freelancers resources and a space where they feel welcomed and heard. She currently lives in Chicago with her two fur babies, Ozzie and Olive, and enjoys exploring both the city and the newest cookbook in her collection.

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