Did you remember why do you choose to be a freelancer?
You want to be your own boss.
Digital burnout is not a freelancer’s fate.
You wish to spend more time with your kids.
You hate your 9 to 5.
You want to travel.
Now as you already be a freelancer, do you get what you want?
Or do you find yourself working longer than your 9 to 5?
You used to hate your boss, now you secretly hate your client.
If that sounds like you I have bad news: you might have digital burnout.
The World Health Organization categorizes burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
Keywords here are: has not been successfully managed.
Digital burnout is not a freelancer’s fate.
It can be avoided if you take the right step.
Keep reading this article to find out how to deal with digital burnout so you get what you initially want when you take the leap to become a freelancer.
What Is Digital Burnout?
Digital burnout is feelings of anxiety, exhaustion, and apathy due to spending too much screen time.
It’s not a secret screen time is a growing problem with today’s generation. Limiting screen time is recommended for everyone.
From adults to children.
The problem is as a freelancer, we work all day every day in front of our screens.
Even when we are not working, the way we entertain ourselves, looking at a screen is inevitable.
Without taking the serious effort and discipline to limit our screen time, dealing with digital burnout is almost impossible.
I always believe the first step to dealing with the problem is acknowledging that we have a digital burnout problem.
Do you have digital burnout?
Let’s check on the symptoms.
What Are Digital Burnout Symptoms?
Do you often:
- Feel tired all the time
- Procrastinate to do the most simple thing in your work
- Drag yourself to do client work
- Do the bare minimum
- Think you’re not cut to be a freelancer regardless of the progress you achieved
If those traits seem familiar to you, it means you have digital burnout.
Oh c’mon, everybody has those symptoms from time to time.
That’s why digital burnout has become a global problem. After Covid-19, the fact that we work from home makes it even worse.
Before working from home becomes a trend, we can separate working and personal modes easily.
You work in an office and after that, it’s personal time. But after Covid-19, work and personal life are both at home.
Even after the world is open and we can travel again, digital burnout keeps becoming a social problem.
Why Do Freelancers Tend to Have Digital Burnout?
As a freelancer, we tend to have digital burnout on steroids. Here are some reasons why:
I bet one of the biggest reasons we choose to be a freelancer is because we want to arrange our schedule. Freedom of time is our love language.
We jump into working from anywhere before the world thinks it’s a choice.
Ironically after enjoying this freedom for a while, we tend to find ourselves feeling lonely.
Working as a freelancer makes us have no workmates. We are lucky enough if we have a dog to talk to at home.
This leads to loneliness even if you’re an introvert.
2. Do Everything Yourself
If your freelancing business starts to gain momentum, it’s easy to find yourself working harder than when you are in 9 to 5.
Asking for help is not something we train to do.
Society tends to see hard work as a badge of honor.
Working hard is necessary, don’t get me wrong. But working too hard is never a good idea.
Everything that is too much is too much. You need to cut it down.
Allow yourself to ask for help. Start to build your team.
Even if it’s not business related.
Sometimes having a housekeeper for several hours per week to help you deal with a house job can be life-changing.
Evaluate your life and start to delegate your daily tasks. Save your energy to do only your genius zone.
3. Have Unreasonable Deadline
Scaling our business really a challenge we want to have.
If you are full-time in your freelancing, you know your bills depend on it.
So taking more projects sounds like a very reasonable route.
The more project we take, the more tight our deadline would be. To a certain point, we might have an unreasonable deadline for our client.
Combine it with doing everything by yourself, it can be a huge disaster.
4. Compare Yourself to Others
Another thing we tend to do is compare ourselves to others. This is a very toxic thing but everybody does it.
Do you check on other freelancers on Instagram? Do you care how much they make last year? Then suddenly you feel suck about yourself?
Nothing good comes from comparing yourself to others.
So, stop doing it!
Make a list on your trigger. What makes you start comparing yourself with others? Is it by watching their Instagram story? Then mute them.
Do you watch your hero YouTube video and feel that you are suck? Choose the “I’m not interested” option on YouTube.
You can check on them when you want to. Only when you are ready to check on them. Don’t check on them unconsciously.
And end up feeding your mind with inadequacy feeling
5. Working Too Many Hours
Do you sit on your couch with a loved one and keep thinking about work?
That’s a sign you work too much.
We’re not only working in front of our laptops. We tag along our work everywhere!
We all want to scale our business to 6 figures, even 7 figures as fast as we can. But burning yourself to the ground is not sustainable.
Even if you finally hit 6-7 figures from a crazy work ethic, the price will be incredibly high.
Your time with loved ones.
What’s the point of having a lot of money only to give them back to your doctor?
Or you are too sick to enjoy it.
Even worse: end up alone because you never be there for your family and friends.
Ok, maybe I am exaggerating a bit. But you get my point, right?
10 Tips on Dealing With Digital Burnout
1. Set Your Own Goal and Stick to It
Decide your own goal. Assess what you want to have in your life and set your goal around it.
The worst thing you can do is set a goal based on someone else’s expectations.
If you do that, when you achieve your goal you might end up with a condition you don’t want to initially.
After your set, your goal, focus only on your next step to avoid overwhelm.
Run your own race at your own pace.
It will lead you to the lifestyle you want in the first place.
2. Plan Your Day
Do you often feel you’ve been busy all day and at the end of the day you wonder if you achieve anything?
You running all day long like a headless chicken.
At the end of the day, you don’t even know if you make progress.
That usually happens because you don’t plan your day.
If you plan your day, you must know when you achieve your daily target or not.
Because you set it before you start your day.
Ideally, you set your day the night before. Or at least at the beginning of your day.
Choose 3 things you want to achieve that day.
If you hot those 3 things that day: you have a good day.
The recipe for feeling like a failure at the end of your day is giving yourself a never-ending laundry list.
You set yourself up for failure.
Once you hit your daily targets, allow yourself to do whatever you like with your time. You do something good today. It’s time to chill.
3. Find the Trigger
Digital burnout trigger anxiety. Most of the time, we don’t realize having digital burnout. We only feel the anxiety and wonder why we feel that way.
The answer is: that there is always a trigger for your anxiety.
Your job is to find your trigger and set your situation to avoid it.
For example, you find yourself working from home for a month strike and talking only to your dog.
Well, maybe it’s time to work in a coffee shop or coworking space.
Maybe you need to say hi to a real human being to feel normal.
Digital burnout is impossible to avoid as a freelancer. But continuously feeling burnout is detrimental.
We need to focus on take proactive decisions so it doesn’t severely affect our life.
By being aware of our triggers and taking precautions, we can have a better quality of life.
4. Taking a Break During the Day
Continuously working isn’t a good idea for our health. It’s not even productive.
Research shows taking a 5-minute break every 25 minutes or a 10-minute break every 50 minutes can increase our productivity. This is called the Pomodoro technique.
I don’t use the Pomodoro technique religiously but I always remind myself to take a break. Set the timer. If you don’t, it will be hours before you realize your whole body is stiff.
Pro tips: move your hip clockwise and counterclockwise. You’ll take me for that.
Avoid screens when you’re taking a break. It’s too easy to find yourself scrolling on Tik Tok or Instagram for 1 hour if you’re not careful.
And the point of having a break between working sessions is to give yourself a break. Duh!
So if you’re staring at your phone while taking a break, for your brain that’s not a break.
So set your timer for 5-10 minutes. Close your eyes. Enjoy your short break. Move your body and stretch a little bit. And drink some water.
5. Have a Routine
Go search on YouTube for morning and evening routines. You’ll find plenty of videos around it. And that’s for a good reason.
We, humans, are creatures of habit. By setting a morning and evening routine we give a signal to our brain whether it’s time to work or it’s time to chill.
This routine doesn’t need to be excessive.
For me, my morning routine starts with eating half-boiled eggs as my breakfast and writing what I want to do that day.
And my evening routine is reading books. It gives a signal to my brain on what to focus on.
6. Set Boundaries
We as a freelancer is in charge of our schedule. We’re free to do everything we want as long as we don’t miss a deadline.
But sometimes, this freedom leads us to overwork. That’s why it’s very important to set boundaries to set a healthy lifestyle in our life.
Some boundaries we need to set as a freelancer:
Screen time limit
Too much screen time leads to digital burnout. So after work, be disciplined to get off the screen. Turning off your phone for an hour or two while chatting with a loved one or walking in the park can be so refreshing.
After that, you can get back to your phone for entertainment.
You can also set a screen time limit for certain apps on your phone. Let’s say you set only 20 minutes of Instagram time per day.
It’s so easy nowadays to use technology to help us not against us.
Turn off your notification
My phone almost has no notification. The beeping sounds really triggered my anxiety. I just set the ringtone for a phone call. And it never rang.
The rest is silence. So I check my phone when I want to.
Your phone should be used to make your life easier. Don’t let it control you. Take charge.
This is about the communication rule we have with our clients and family member. As a freelancer, set your working environment to help you win.
You don’t need to be ‘on’ always for your clients. Not even for your children. Well, take this advice with grain and salt of course.
What you need to set our expectations. Set expectations to your client that you will reply to their email within 24 hours on weekdays.
Teach your children to respect your working time. They will still love you, trust me.
Focus on one task at a time
Dealing with too many tasks at one time leads to being overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed for too long will affect your mental health.
The antidote to avoiding being overwhelmed is focusing on one task at a time. Only focus on your next task. Others will be a problem at other times.
This focus leads you to simplify your day, do something and make progress.
Do you ever have too many things to do and end up doing nothing? That’s what happens when you are overwhelmed.
If you focus on one task at one time, it’s easier to tackle. It will not be perfect but you’ll end up doing something.
The accumulation of the little things you do every day will give you feedback. Whilst thinking about doing everything but ending up doing nothing only keep you stuck.
There will be a time when turning off your notification and setting the screen limit is not enough.
When these two tricks don’t work, you need to uninstall the apps from your phone.
I occasionally uninstall Instagram if I feel I need to. Or sometimes my favorite game.
“Don’t worry, nobody will die if you uninstall certain apps.”
I say this silly mantra to myself when overthinking a small decision like this.
7. Batch Your Work
I used to be proud of my ability to multitask. Until I learn about context switching. It’s basically when you jump from one task to another.
The easiest example as a freelancer, is how many of you do client work while switching back and forward replying to chat? Sounds familiar, right?
When we do context switching our brain needs to re-focus on what we’re facing. This might be only a split second, but if you keep doing it, it will kill your productivity.
Those split seconds rapidly add up. And consume your energy.
No wonder you’ll feel so tired for no reason.
That’s why batching your work will boost your productivity. Batching is doing the same task at the same time. To do batch work you need to be organized with what things you need to do on daily basis.
For me, I know my creative juice work according to the sun. That’s why I always do my creative work in the afternoon.
In the morning, I can concentrate but I can’t do deep thinking. So in the morning, I do administrative and marketing work like sending emails.
There is no right or wrong on how you can do batching. You just need to trial and error to find the best rhythm for your body.
8. Move Your Body
Have you ever heard that your emotion is affected by your motion? That’s why moving your body for 30 minutes each day can boost your immune system.
As a freelancer, we lean to pay attention to our business 24/7 and neglect our health. We sit for hours and forget to move our bodies.
Then we stand up hours later to find we walk like a baby grandma.
To keep your health make time to exercise or just move your body on daily basis. You don’t need to overcomplicate this.
Just walk in the park during the day.
Caught up with rainy days? Play your favorite song and dance. Even better, dance with your partner. Move your body and light up your spirit.
9. Take Some Time Off
Dear freelancer: it is OK to take the weekend off.
Read it again. Please!
It’s not big news. When we are in 9 to 5, we make sure we enjoy our weekend. We take a day off for holiday.
Funnily enough, when we become our own boss we choose to keep working at the weekend and forget that we are the boss and we allow to enjoy a holiday.
How crazy is that?
A holiday is not wasting time. It’s a process to refresh your mind. And you’ll get back fresh and ready to make a huge jump.
So, where is your next holiday destination?
10. Have Fun!
This is the last certainly not the least tip for freelancer fellow out there.
We only live once. I dare to bet you have a fun personality that leads you to choose to become a freelancer.
So have fun with your work!
Have a little dance when you take a break. Sing out loud when you do client work.
Happy freelancers work better.
In your off time, make time for your hobby. Hang out with your family. Go grab a coffee and catch up with friends. Enjoy your life.
Your business will still be there when you get back. You just need to allow yourself to be happier.
Just like another profession, being a freelancer come with pros and cons. If you end up in this article, being a freelancer is your calling.
Digital burnout is just one of a lot of challenges freelancers face to scale their businesses. What you need to remember is burnout is not the consequence of your success.
The more success you want is not always followed by more burnout.
It all depends on how we choose to do it on daily basis. I hope these 10 tips on dealing with digital burnout can give you ideas on how to improve your life quality as a freelancer.