For many of us, there’s an innate tension between productivity and mental health. We want to get things done, but we also want to maintain some balance and some sanity. We want to stay productive without feeling constantly stressed over everything on our to-do list.

That tension is real, but it’s not insurmountable. Let me offer a few insights into how you can be an efficient, creative person without feeling like you’re losing your mind.

Stay Productive (Without Being Stressed)


  • Schedule some time for voicemails and emails. Something I find is that it’s easy to get caught up in emails, missed phone calls, and social media notifications; these little distractions can eat into your day and make you stress about all the work you should be doing! A simple solution: Schedule two blocks of time into each work day—maybe one in the morning, one before you leave the office—to catch up on correspondence. And otherwise, don’t worry about it!
  • Start your day with uninterrupted creative time. I also think it’s helpful to start your day by getting some good, substantial work done on a big project. Schedule an hour or two where you can work without interruption; close your office door, turn off your phone, silence notifications, and just take a big bite out of your current project.
  • Use lists. To-do lists are valuable, but let me also stress the value of not-to-do lists—basically, lists of all the far-off tasks you don’t have to get done today. Write them on the list, then give yourself permission not to worry about them!
  • Think in threes. Finally, let me commend to you the rule of threes to help you stay productive. Basically, this means starting each day with a list of three essentials—the big-ticket items you’d like to accomplish before the day is done. It sounds simple, but giving this kind of structure and focus to your work day can really help you stay on-point, without feeling like you have a million things to do.

How to stay productive when you’re self-employed. There are a lot of perks that come from being your own boss—but motivation isn’t always one of them. When you’re a freelancer or a solo entrepreneur, self-discipline is imperative, and in some cases hard to come by. There’s no boss breathing down your neck or holding you accountable; you’re the boss, and it falls to you to stay on track and get things done.

Maybe that’s something you struggle with—but there are steps you can take to keep yourself moving forward. Let me recommend just a few of the strategies I’ve picked up from self-employed leaders over the years—strategies to help you get things accomplished.

Productivity Tips for the Self-Employed


  • Take care of yourself. First and foremost, being productive does not mean burning the candle from both ends. If you want to stay motivated, you’ve got to keep your energy levels up—and that means getting eight hours of sleep each night, staying hydrated, and getting some physical activity. Build some personal time into each day so that you can take care of you, before you try to take care of everything else.
  • Make a To-Do list… and a Not-To-Do list. Here’s an ingenious little productivity hack that I think more solopreneurs could benefit from. In the morning, make a list of all the things you need to get done that day—your top goals and priorities. Then, on the other side of the page, make a list of the things that just aren’t as important—the things you’re happy to drop. This prioritization can really help you maintain perspective, and it can bring a sense of structure to the unfolding of your day. Most of all, a Not-to-Do list prevents you from becoming overwhelmed.
  • Connect with people. You might think it’s easier to be productive when you’re all alone in your office—but sometimes, solitude can be counterproductive. You need to talk with other people, brainstorm together, and bounce ideas off each other. Have a regular appointment with colleagues, mentors, or peers, and make sure you’re recharging those social batteries at least once a week or so. Online chat programs can sometimes be helpful in a pinch.
  • Schedule some quiet time. By quiet time, what I mean is a few minutes where you don’t have a vibrating phone or a blinking inbox. Plan an hour or two of time every morning where you just get stuff done, and let all your notifications and electronic communications sit for a while. Learning to turn off your devices is a critical step toward self-discipline.
  • Say no. Working for yourself brings unlimited possibility—but that’s not always a positive thing. If you want to be productive, you’ve got to pick and choose your priorities, rather than stretching yourself too thin and getting nothing done. This takes us right back to the Not-to-Do list, in a way: You’ve got to develop your sense of the things you don’t need to do, you don’t need to take on.

Guard your time. Focus on the things that need to get done. It sounds simple—but as any solo entrepreneur will tell you, it can be tough to master. I hope these tips will help you.

Those are just a few of my tips, but if you’d like to learn more about achieving true balance in your life, give me a call! Connect with Dr. Rick at or call 888-267-6098.

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