How-to stay productive when you’re feeling burnt out

If you’re part of the Beautiful Life gang, you know burnout is on my mind (this week’s Beautiful Life Letter was all about getting to the REAL reason you’re experiencing creative burnout.) Here’s the thing about burnout—it strikes when you’re busiest and then impairs you from getting anything creative done. Pretty sucky, right? As a person who keeps my plate (too) full, I’m no stranger to feeling burnt the heck out.
Through a few cycles of burnout, I’ve learned what you can do to stay productive during the hour or days you’re too burnt out for creative work.

Set things up for when you get creative again

We waste a lot of time switching between tasks, gathering what we need, and deciding what to do first. Do all this prep work now by writing a detailed to-do list and gathering all the resources you’ll need to do the work and put them right out in front of you. The strategy is that as soon as inspiration strikes and you are ready to get back to work, you’ll sit at your desk and start writing/designing/creating—no time spent opening internet pages, or looking for a working pen. 

Do the things that have to be done but don’t require your skills + creativity

We all have those tasks in work and in life that we know we have to do eventually but we wait until the eleventh hour. For me it’s things like ordering a birthday gift, cleaning out my e-mail inbox or full hard drive, booking a dentist’s appointment—you get the picture. I know it’s coming, but I wait until my inbox is at 99% capacity or my driver’s license is expiring tomorrow before I deal with it. Do all these sorts of upcoming tasks so that they don’t disrupt your super productive days (that they otherwise always seem to fall on).

This approach doesn’t work when you start doing make-work projects. Unless you’re positive you’ll have to do it in the next month, don’t waste time on it now.

Consume content

I hold the controversial opinion that you should be creating more than you’re consuming. All this changes, when you’re feeling too uninspired and drained to create things yourself. Not only is this time more productively spent on consuming, you may read something that sparks an idea in you—helping you overcome your burnout and be inspired to continue in your own creation.

Show some love to your space

A clean and well taken care of space makes us more productive. When our space is clean, we don’t waste time looking for things, or clearing space to work. But I find the biggest difference a clean space makes is in my mindset. When my space is messy, it makes me feel overwhelmed and stressed—that, and I’m constantly distracted by the things I see out of place. Try using this burnout time to organize everything that’s in your line of sight when you’re sitting at your workspace.


Guys, I suck at this tip. I know it’s great advice—and when I do manage to drag my tired body to the gym I’m paid back tenfold. Not only is it great for your body physically, but it can give you that energy and endorphins you need to kick a slump of burnout. But I'm still really bad at following this tip when I'm drained and exercise is the last thing I feel like doing. Want to be my accountability buddy?

Have you experienced burnout recently? How do you get through it?