Digital burnout is a thing. I would know, as I’m a full-time remote digital marketer with an ever-changing home base. An average day consists of staring at a screen for 8-12 hours, visiting 250-350 different web pages, sending emails, scheduling social media posts, looking at data, photos, words, and a million other things. Sometimes your brain feels like you’ve been doing math all day, sometimes you’re on a creative high with so many great, new ideas or you’ve accomplished some great milestones!
Personally, I’d recommend trying to achieve the latter. But as any other remote freelancer could tell you, that’s often easier said than done. I have learned a lot in this work, and while discipline in your work is crucial, the discipline needed to recharge when you’re not in front of a screen is so much more important! The following list is my advice on avoiding digital burnout, have a more balanced freelance lifestyle, and hopefully avoid the many mistakes I’ve learned the hard way:
1. Eliminate the unnecessary clutter like your life depends on it.
Put away the stack of papers on your desk. Close the internet tabs you haven’t used in 30 minutes. 20 apps running on your computer or phone at once? Make it a habit of closing them all when you’re not using them. Believe me, you’ll feel better instantly. Don’t go onto Facebook to browse – just don’t. Don’t read the news while working. Turn non-work notifications off for the day. Getting an IG ding for every comment on your latest personal photo isn’t worth the distraction. Do your best to focus wholeheartedly on one task at a time and take a quick break when it’s finished. Believe me, all of those little micro distractions really add up through the day and week.
2. Prioritize your tasks and stay organized.
Having an outline for your day with a start, middle, and end can really be useful for keeping tasks moving. Even if you struggle with organization, write down your 3 urgent tasks and your 3 main important (but not urgent) tasks so you know where to apply your focus. In addition to rule number one above, eliminate mental clutter as well. Trying to juggle 15 things when you only need to focus on 3 will lead you to frustration and burnout way faster.
3. Change your “office” regularly
This might sound odd, but as my job requires a lot of creativity I’ve found that one of the best ways to keep the day feeling “new” is to change your workspace. This can simply mean moving from the office to the kitchen table, however I would usually find 2-3 cafes to work in throughout the week, however in quarantine it’s been various corners of my house to switch things up.
Pro-tip: Also taking 3 ten-minute coffee/tea breaks without any electronics throughout the day makes a huge difference. So does 10 minutes of sunshine and fresh air.
4. Invest in blue light-blocking glasses
The difference in fatigue after working with blue light glasses is enormous in how you feel at the end of the day. You’ll get fewer headaches and your eyes won’t feel anywhere near so tired. When I first started working online I was burnt out at the end of every day for months and couldn’t stand watching TV or movies because my eyes were so tired.
5. Use your non-work hours to fully disconnect from the internet.
You need time to recharge, period. Working online full time is endless stimulation, focus, and has its plenty of its own unique challenges. Your mind will need time to unwind and relax, and your body will need some challenging exercise stay in balance and avoid burnout. Go for a run or a long walk surrounded by trees and fresh air, spend time with others and have a good time, pour yourself a glass of wine, watch a sunset, cook a meal and listen to your favorite music, and really try to make your routine one of grounding, play, and tranquility.
6. Focus on building self-awareness when it comes to your online job.
Everyone is different and thrives on different things. If you feel stuck and frustrated with something, pay attention to it. Some people focus better in absolute quiet while others, like myself, love being in cafes and around people even though I’m totally engaged in my work. Experiment with your work routine and find something that really works for you, and make sure you find ways to take care of yourself outside of being an amazing freelancer for your clients!
What have you learned so far in remote or freelance work? I would love to hear your favorite tips too!