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7 ways to avoid burnout while maximising productivity

So, this blog has suddenly become controversial due to the fact that I started this at 7:30 pm midweek, after walking an hour to buy myself a plant pot from Dunelm. But I promise I only made notes…

Throughout my whole career and education, I’ve snatched every opportunity. This has been great, but my mental and physical health took the fall.

During my third year of university, I was writing my dissertation, developing my visual project, photographing for two football clubs, one basketball club, two university societies, one music publication, and regular one-off freelance work, while also working close to full-time hours at Currys.

This mindset of over-committing continued for years to come until I came to a complete crash. I ended up with migraines, and constant anxiety whenever I’m not being “productive”. It also began to take a toll on relationships.

I was a workaholic. I couldn’t go on holiday without thinking about or doing work and you’d regularly find me on my laptop in the early hours of the morning.

This is until recently when I took the opportunity to educate myself on productivity. So, here is what I took onboard to maximise my productivity and avoid burnout.

1. Organise your day

The first thing you should do to maximise your productivity and avoid burnout is to simply block out time for certain tasks or jobs. Mine looks something like this.


  • 7 am – 3 pm – Work (with regular small breaks and a 1-hour lunch).
  • 3 pm – 6 pm – Freelance/decorate.
  • 6 pm – 8 pm – Downtime. Dinner, movies, TV shows, exercise or anything that allows my brain to shut down for the day.
  • 8 pm – 10 pm – No screen downtime. This will be reading a book, listening to a record, podcast or doing nothing at all.


  • No alarms.
  • No work.
  • Socialise, and spend time with friends and family.

With this plan, I’ve managed to work full-time, develop my freelance business, and renovate my apartment. While, most importantly, having hours of relaxation along with plenty of socialising.

For this to work it takes a lot of self-discipline and is now something that I do out of habit. However, for it to work, you must listen to your body.

This schedule is not rules, it’s a guideline. If I wake up tired and exhausted in the morning, then I won’t go for that run, or I may start work at 8 am and take an hour out of my freelance time.

It is important to understand that, when you are tired, ill or mentally exhausted you must take the right precautions to rest and get back to full fitness, even if this does mean taking a day out of work.

It is so crucial for me to provide a mental and physical reset over the weekend. It helps to head into Monday energised and productive for the week ahead.

2. Say no

For a while, I had an obsession with taking every opportunity I could. It was great to get my foot in the door, but at times we have to take a moment and think, is this beneficial and worth my time?

Saying no is one of the most productive things you can do when working with/for others.

An example of this relates to my freelance photography. I get many emails and friends asking for me to photograph portraits, weddings, and business events. A few months ago, I’d have done them all, but I work in the music industry, and none of these opportunities benefits me or my line of work.

All these extra jobs offer me is some more cash in the bank, which is great. However, I don’t freelance for money, I freelance because I love music and I love photography.

It’s worth taking a moment to consider your goals and priorities. Is what you’re doing beneficial to the bigger picture or are you just doing it for the sake of doing it?

3. Focus on one thing at a time

If you’re anything like me then your brain will be going a thousand miles an hour and you can’t keep up with yourself. I have hundreds of business ideas and services I want to offer, but realistically, I’m only going to give one or two a go. This is why it’s important to focus on one thing.

Attempting to do multiple tasks and work towards multiple goals will not only tire you, but you will see extremely minimal progress towards each of them. The ideal situation will be to set one goal: provide x amount of money, reach x number of visitors, or even spend x amount of time on something.

This way you will see a large amount of progress on one project rather than minimal progress across multiple.

The solution that I found for this to work is to make mini to-do lists. Select one project you need to work on and create smaller bite-sized tasks that will lead up to the project being done.

Don’t work on anything else until those smaller tasks are done. This method is beneficial as you always know what the next step is and how far away you are from reaching your final goal. Doing so will stop you from spinning off and instead will keep you focused on the next stage of that task.

However, once an idea or a spark comes to mind, then note it down straight away. Get it out onto paper or in a notes app and move on – it should stay a note until it’s time to come to it.

4. Develop workflows

Now, note taking can get very messy, which is why a well-developed workflow is key.

Where you do this is entirely up to you. I use Notion myself, this allows me to build my own workflows and keep track of all my ideas, projects, clients, finances and develop them into an actionable to-do list. But something like Excel, Sheets or Todoist works perfectly fine. It’s key to find the workflow that works best for you.

For every project, there should be a workflow to it with an area for notes and to-do lists. This is not only to improve productivity but to also manage your project effectively and monitor progress to make sure that what you’re doing is benefiting the bigger picture.

5. Consistency could be more important than intensity

This statement is used in many areas such as fitness, business, and finance. They say it is better and more effective to do something easy, practical, and beneficial over a long period of time. However, small periods of intensity followed by long periods of rest is also a reasonable way towards your goal – the rest part being key to this.

Sometimes you are hit with tasks that have a tight deadline, meaning that you can’t work slowly over a long period of time. This is where the intensity comes into play. With time-sensitive tasks sometimes you have to work intensively in order for it to be completed on time. This is perfectly fine to do so, as long as you take the appropriate time to rest.

What is key to take away here is to either work in smaller bite-sized chunks or intensely with long periods of rest. Or, if you find yourself with constant time-sensitive tasks to which you find yourself unable to rest appropriately, then perhaps delegating should be taken into consideration.

6. Motivation should not lead to action

You don’t need motivation in order to take action. Sometimes you can just choose to do something because it needs to be done.

If you struggle with motivation (I know I do a lot of the time) then it’s crucial to understand that action leads to motivation. The more you do and the more you see small success the more motivated you will become.

7. Rest

The most important thing to take away from this blog is rest.

Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is to rest and get enough sleep. Especially over the festive season.

Bonus Tip: Start your planning now

With the new year coming up, now is the perfect time to start planning out your routine and workflows ready for the months ahead. A couple of hours spent organising, planning and optimising your workflow will save hours upon hours over 2023.

Get in touch

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Find out what we can do for you. Email or call 0115 8965 300.

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