How Writers Can Win the Battle Against Burnout


Globally, only half as many self-employed folks describe their well-being in positive terms, compared with people working full time for an employer. Self-employed writers juggle numerous roles, from producing content to bookkeeping, often logging long hours in isolation. It’s a recipe for burnout, which often manifests as exhaustion, mental fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and general poor health, in addition to declining job performance-a critical issue for anyone self-employed like writers. Here’s how to avoid it.

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Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Freelancers who burn through nighttime hours playing catch up to meet deadlines may, in fact, be putting themselves farther behind. Lack of sleep means less focus so that projects can take longer. Tired writers are also more prone to grammar or other project errors, and overall physical exhaustion, which can make it hard to meet deadlines and take on new projects. Plus, people who don’t get enough sleep face a generally increased risk of chronic health problems like cardiovascular disease that can cause tiredness, heartburn, and chest or back pain. Quality is more important than quantity for restful and restorative sleep, so good sleep hygiene is important. Keep to a regular bedtime. Take some time to put aside the work and wind down before bed. Don’t fall asleep looking at electronics because the light can interfere with the body’s sleep process.

Get Up From the Desk

Working hard to land freelance clients and long hours to complete assigned work makes it too easy to neglect your health, especially with sitting all the time being so dangerous; this kind of inactivity can lead to circulatory, cardiovascular, and metabolic problems. Making small lifestyle changes from sedentary to active can have short-term and long-term health benefits, including better circulation for mental clarity and focus, less distracting muscle stiffness, and reducing stress and burnout. But things like getting a standing desk alone don’t quite cut it. Getting physically active is important, such as walking, running or yoga. Yes, taking a break means you’re not working but getting seriously ill–chronically ill–will do more to interfere with your long-term earning potential than a 20-minute jog around the block.

Get Out of the House

Freelancing can be lonely work, with many writers working by themselves from home, which contributes to feelings of burnout. Overcome this by making time to meet up with locals in the same line of work to commiserate, share problems and solutions, or just generally “talk shop”. Or, take up a hobby that has nothing to do with work. Take an art class, participate in a knitting group-the possibilities are endless. What’s important is to really step away from work and cultivate interpersonal relationships for support. Being able to call, text or email someone to share the highs and lows of the writing life is good for your mental and emotional health.

Take More Breaks

Use an established productivity tool like the 10-minute method or the stoplight method to get more done in less time. Many writers may find themselves strapped for time. Whether they’re pushing themselves to meet a client, publisher, or self-imposed deadlines, writers may often feel like time is slipping away. It sounds counter-intuitive when talking about the concept of burnout for freelance writers but forcing yourself to take small breaks can help improve focus and the overall quality of your work. The magic ratio, according to a recent study to determine the work habits of the most productive employees, is 52 minutes of focused work followed by a 17-minute break.

Freelancers working at home face unique risks of burnout. It can damage overall health and wellness as well as productivity and performance. By making small behavior modifications, like getting enough rest, exercising, reaching out to develop a network of colleagues, and taking smart breaks, it’s possible to stave off burnout and still bill enough hours to make a living.

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