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How to Take a Break When Working from Home: Tips for Avoiding Burnout

Updated on March 14, 2014

Is work taking over your life?

A home office can be a dream come true, but it still needs to come with boundaries.
A home office can be a dream come true, but it still needs to come with boundaries. | Source

Working from home is a common dream, and one that brings many benefits if you can do it. Whether you're self-employed or telecommuting, you can save time and hassle by simply not going anywhere to work. People hoping to work from home also hope to be able to spend more time with family, do more around the house, and otherwise govern their own lives. If you're currently working from home, you know it's not quite the idyll that people might think.

I'm a self-employed, work-at-home mother of three. As you can imagine, trying to balance self-employment, time with the family and doing my part around the house is usually pretty challenging. Every day is hectic. If I'm not careful, it quickly disintegrates into pure chaos. Not to mention, my family only has a place to live and other necessities if I'm able to bring in enough money.

No matter how busy it gets, it's absolutely crucial to find time for a break. If you don't allow yourself some time out, you will fizzle out and lose all creativity and motivation. Stop work. It sounds simple, doesn't it? It's not as easy as it sounds, but these simple steps may help make it easier.

Take time to avoid terminal burnout

No matter how fast-paced life gets, it's crucial to take a break and tend to your own well-being
No matter how fast-paced life gets, it's crucial to take a break and tend to your own well-being | Source

Set a schedule and stick to it

The first step to finding time to take a break out of your work day is to set office hours. It may not always be possible to stick by your schedule, but at least set it. Be sure to use a daily planner or scheduling software to help manage your time, and do your very best to do what the schedule says. Work when it says to work, take a break when it says to take a break. Stop working when it says.

Sounds simple, huh? Unfortunately, other responsibilities sometimes keep you from working when planned. Maybe you have kids or a spouse that need your time, volunteer obligations, or other interruptions. Being self-employed, you may feel compelled to take as many projects as possible while they're available because you never know when the next dry spell will come along. Despite the challenges, do your best to take those breaks. No matter how tempting it is, DO NOT work on your day(s) off.

Would you like being stuck in a cubicle 24/7?

No one does well being stuck in an office all the time. Let yourself come home from work even when your body doesn't physically go anywhere. Your mind and family will thank you.

Separate work from the rest of life

Work may be at home, but that doesn't mean home must be the workplace. Set aside an office area, or some other dedicated work space. This doesn't have to be a whole room if you don't have it, even a nook or desk that's exclusively for work is enough. Confine your work to that area. Hobbies, relaxation areas and everyday living should be as far removed from the work area as possible. This reduces the temptation to hop back on that computer and do just a little bit more work. If at all possible, reserve a computer that's never used except for work as well -- it's a lot easier to stay away from work if you don't have work-related files at your fingertips.

Tired of struggling with burnout? Learn how to use it constructively

Transforming Burnout: A Simple Guide to Self-renewal
Transforming Burnout: A Simple Guide to Self-renewal

Burnout is the inevitable result of not taking a break, no matter how much you love your work. Here are simple tips on how to use burnout to your advantage by better tailoring your life to suit your needs.


Know when to say enough is enough

Limit your after-hours work as much as possible. If you don't have any urgent work left at the end of the day, STOP! You need to take the time to rest. Most self-employed people are, by nature, workaholics. Without the "work your butt off" mentality, it's nearly impossible to succeed in an environment where no one is telling you to keep going except yourself. That said, it has to have its limits or you just won't be able to keep going indefinitely. Figure out how many hours you'll work every day, and stick to that the majority of the time. Inevitably, something will come up -- you'll have an emergency every now and then. Make sure it doesn't happen more often than it needs to, and don't work past the dedicated work time if it can wait until morning.

Still having trouble separating work and home life? Scheduling is an absolute necessity for a healthy home work life

If it's not what you dreamed, then something is wrong

What is the biggest challenge in working from home?

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Keep your goals and priorities in focus

Remember, you're working to live, not living to work. Take a moment to reassess why you became self-employed in the first place. Likely, one of the main factors was to spend more time with family or doing things you want to do. Have you been doing it? Without taking breaks and keeping yourself from burning out, it's easy to forget why you're doing all this in the first place.

Take a moment to sit down and list the five most important things in your world. Maybe you think you don't have time to spend with your family, but what if your child or significant other were in the hospital? You'd drop everything to be with them, right? So -- why does it have to go to those extremes before you'd drop everything? Figure out your priorities, and then let them truly be your priorities.

What's more important than work?

Remembering why you wanted to work at home can help you stop and enjoy the important things
Remembering why you wanted to work at home can help you stop and enjoy the important things | Source
The Focused Business: How Entrepreneurs Can Triumph Over Chaos
The Focused Business: How Entrepreneurs Can Triumph Over Chaos

It's not just about taking a break. Here are some down-to-earth suggestions on how to cut through the chaos to structure your home and business life for success. Learn why businesses usually fail, and what you can do to keep working from home despite the odds.


So let's sum up...

Taking a break doesn't have to be any huge thing. It could be making a cup of tea and sitting down with a book, taking the dog for a walk or flipping the TV on for a little while. Whatever you enjoy doing, whatever you want to do that will take your mind completely away from work for even 20 minutes is an excellent break. What happens if you don't? Let's review the primary consequences of burnout.

  • Diminished productivity
  • Lost creativity
  • Motivation vanishes
  • You dread working every day
  • Quality of work declines
  • Health deteriorates over time
  • Life is not enjoyable

The biggest thing to remember is that you don't get breaks, you take breaks. If you want to have a happy, productive day every day and not get burnt out, you have to make yourself take that time. It won't set you back, it'll probably help you work faster and finish the day more rested. Consider it a wise investment of time that will pay off, and really is the difference between loving your life and dreading the start of every day.


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    • Purpose Embraced profile image

      Yvette Stupart PhD 3 years ago from Jamaica

      These are helpful suggestions. I like the idea of organizing yourself, in your home business, as if you were going to an office to work each day. Thanks for sharing.

    • abhitgo profile image

      abhitgo 8 years ago

      nice tip... will try for sure.. thanks