Working from home can be a big plus when you’re self-employed. No commute, flexible schedule, and snuggling your pet all day? Sounds like a good deal!
Unfortunately, being your own boss means you are extra vulnerable to burnout -- a special type of stress that the Mayo Clinic describes as “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”
Yikes, that sounds pretty serious! The good news is there are several simple steps you can take to avoid burnout when working from home.
One of the worst causes of work-from-home burnout is the continuous exposure to work, especially when you’re self-employed. The lack of separation between your home and work space means that you have no way to decompress and disconnect from your work environment.
The solution? Out of sight, out of mind. If you want to avoid burnout, one of the best things you can do is carve out a special space in your home JUST for working. For some lucky folks, this means a home office; but if you don’t have a lot of space, you still have options! Try a folding table in a corner of your living room, or even designating a specific side of your kitchen table.
Now here’s the key -- never do your work anywhere else, and never do anything but work in that particular spot. Invest in a good office chair, and set your space up for creative flow with plants, notepads, bulletin boards, and whatever else you need to stay happy and productive!
2) Set a schedule (and stick to it)
This is going to be a tough one for some of you workaholics! Establish a firm start and end time to your work day, and stick to it.
BONUS TIP: the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a great tool for structuring your schedule when working from home! Here’s how it works in a few simple steps:
- Pick a specific task/assignment
- Set a timer for 25 minutes
- When the timer rings, drop whatever you’re doing and take a 5 minute break
- Rinse and repeat!
Simple, right? The Pomodoro Technique is proven to be an effective time-management strategy, helping you break down tasks into smaller pieces that you can work on in uninterrupted chunks of time. All this while including breaks to get up, stretch, and drink water! Learn more here, or research a time management technique that works best for you.
3) Practice self-care
It’s not just spa days and facemasks. When we say “self-care”, we truly mean “take care of yourself.” This means eating balanced, healthy meals and exercising your body daily! You don’t have to be a marathon runner or a vegan, but finding a way to stay active and take care of your body is absolutely vital to avoiding burnout when working from home.
Try incorporating a 30-minute walk into your daily routine, and make sure you’re leaving yourself enough time around each meal to cook something simple, but healthy. Even something that simple becomes sanity-saving when you’re busy and keep forgetting to eat!
4) Stay Connected
For many of us, the office is a place where we do a lot of our socializing. Never underestimate the power of casual in-person interactions for making you feel connected and less lost in a stressful work world. It can be tricky to avoid burnout when you work for yourself, because you are your own boss -- and your own worst critic.
Make a list of 5 friends or family members that you know you can count on for a great conversation or a pep talk. When things start to feel overwhelming, send off a text or call them up to disconnect from work and remind yourself that yes! There are other people in the world outside your apartment, and they care about you!
5) Talk to someone
If you’re chronically dealing with burnout that doesn’t seem to be getting better, you don’t have to go through it alone. Mental health professionals can help you with your own unique needs and struggles, and have resources specifically for crises such as these. Sometimes, you just really need an outside perspective and someone who is trained to give professional advice. These days, there are a number of free or low-cost teletherapy options available like the ones outlined here.
Burnout can be really discouraging and take the fun and motivation out of life. We hope this gave you some actions to reclaim your time and power, and reminded you that you are not alone!