Why Should Freelancers Take Breaks During the Day?

Working as a freelancer has some incredible perks.

You own your time, work whenever you want and onboard multiple clients to get more cash.

Why Should Freelancers Take Breaks During the Day?

While these things give you career freedom, the downsides can sometimes outweigh the benefits because of the health consequences, like burnout and stress.

Learn why taking a break is crucial when you work remotely or at home.

The Impact of Continuous Work on Freelancers

Most freelancers don’t stop working when the clock strikes five.

Instead, many hustle for hours more to meet deadlines, do their marketing and communicate with clients — all to get continuous work to pay bills.

This cycle often spirals into exhaustion and burnout, leading to productivity concerns and compromised client relationships.

Roughly 41% of freelancers report high levels of stress, which could be reduced or avoided by taking breaks from work.

Scheduling regular work breaks — in contrast to taking them when needed — can support a work-life balance.

Benefits of Taking Regular Breaks

It may sound counterintuitive, but giving yourself a short recess after long minutes of focused work allows you to manage your energy and become more efficient.

1. Increased Productivity and Focus

Distancing yourself from work can facilitate a new stream of thoughts, leaving you feeling mentally refreshed and increasing concentration.

Based on studies, a brain break can improve cognitive functioning and attention control, helping you manage your limited energy efficiently.

When you return, you have sufficient mental bandwidth to tackle unfinished tasks.

2. Enhanced Mental Well-Being

Many freelancers tend to overwork, increasing their risk for psychological problems like exhaustion and extreme stress.

Completing a multi-hour project in one sitting is the recipe for burnout.

Taking relaxing breathers throughout your workday can facilitate recovery and boost your performance.

Stepping away from your desk lets you reset your mental and physical functional systems to their baseline — like how a computer increases its speed after a reboot.

It can relieve stress and improve mood, allowing you to take a brand new look at your projects and sidestep burnout and other mental health concerns.

3. Boosted Creativity

Writing is a creative task requiring brainpower.

Easing off for a few minutes may help reignite your creativity if you run out of ideas to address a challenging project or solve a problem.

The brain has an upper limit to how much information it can process at once due to a constant yet limited energy supply. Creative work, like writing, is a highly conscious activity.

If you’re trying to brainstorm innovative solutions but can’t focus, you might need to empty your brain to make room for new information.

A short snack break may help you escape this rut, rejuvenate your cognitive system and prepare it for optimal functioning.

4. Improved Work-Life Balance

Stress reaching up to your neck can negatively affect your health, career and relationships.

Frequent breaks serve as mini-sessions of decompression to reduce the impact of tension and exhaustion on the body, especially if you work more than 40 hours every week.

These few minutes of relaxation allow you to manage stress, time and mental bandwidth to support work and personal life equilibrium.

It also ensures you don’t spend all your resources at work and have reserved energy for hobbies, kids or social activities.

Strategies for Incorporating Breaks

Time management is critical for freelancers to maintain work-life balance, so using techniques that allow you to inject some timeouts throughout the day can help.

Here are some strategies.

1. Time Block and Prioritization

Time-blocking allocates chunks of time to focus on one task.

For example, block an hour in the morning to work on one project and take a 10-minute break afterward.

For this strategy to be effective, schedule the task at your most productive period — like after breakfast.

Since the maximum time the brain can focus is 60-90 minutes, you can spend as long as an hour and a half on uninterrupted work.

2. Set Alarms or Timers

The Pomodoro technique is one of the most popular productivity tools among those who work at home.

It divides tasks into increments of 25 minutes of deep work and five minutes of rest.

After three or four Pomodoro periods, you take a 20-30 minute break.

These are customizable depending on your needs — but the idea is to alternate focused periods and brief downtimes.

3. Set Boundaries and Manage Distractions

Work disruptions can derail timelines and ruin productivity.

A straightforward solution is to set up a home office where you can tackle client projects in peace.

This dedicated workspace serves as a boundary between work and personal life — you’ll do nothing but work when you’re in this room. Moreover, implement office hours if you live with family members.

Tell them not to disturb you unless necessary.

Imposing these rules will help you focus on work and meet deadlines.

4. Integrate Physical and Mental Breaks

Sitting for long periods can cause stiffness.

Break away and do some stretches, take a nap, play a game, or watch a funny video to reinvigorate your body and keep it active.

You’ll feel refreshed after a short recreational activity and be more ready for another round of focused work.

5. Assign a Designated Break Area

Many freelancers take a break at the pantry or kitchen table.

After working for some time, you’ll eventually feel hungry or thirsty, so why not head there to fix yourself a delicious cup of coffee and a sandwich?

This short lull away from your working desk is good for the brain.

Taking a Break Is Vital for Productivity

Contrary to popular belief that you can be productive if you work nonstop, taking frequent breaks throughout the workday will help you accomplish more things.

Forcing yourself to finish a single task continuously is mentally draining and stressful.

Afterward, you’ll be too exhausted and spent to tackle other responsibilities.

Taking frequent breaks gives your brain time to destress and work on tasks bit by bit without building stress.

You only have limited energy, so manage it by incorporating rest periods.

Follow these tips to integrate short timeouts in your freelance career.

Cora Gold is a freelance writer and Editor-in-Chief of women's lifestyle magazine, Revivalist. She has been featured on sites including Mediabistro, Wrkfrce and Remote Tribe, covering productivity, mental health and organizational tips for freelancers.

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Great blog post! I’ve found that some form of movement/exercise really recharges me during breaks and helps to relieve tension.Reply to Jonathan