New Year… same ‘meh’? Not everyone is jazzed about another lap around the sun and relies on resolutions to improve their life and profession. And hey, that’s fine — but if the thought of 12 more months of freelancing has you feeling anxious or nervous, it could be time for a much-needed mental reset. To put it lightly, owning your own business and building a career all by your bad-self can be exhausting.

As leadership development and career expert Elizabeth Whittaker-Walker explains, not only are you balancing a myriad of clients with various expectations, but you are also using the creative part of your brain constantly. Not to mention all of the left-side work required to save money, prep for taxes and file invoices. It’s a lot, and it can be overwhelming. The good news is you can find a way out from under the mess and feel that inspiration again with these strategic tips from pros.

Use these mind hacks to make the new year your best one yet!

Mind hacks for freelancers that increase productivity.

1. Commit to decompression time.

When business is soaring, it’s a double-edged sword: plenty of money but little time to rest. Many freelancers worry about taking any time to decompress, for fear that the well will run dry. Even though it may be terrifying, having an intentional routine that allows your brain to heal and relax will actually improve your performance.

Whittaker-Walker suggests adding an hour of downtime three times a week, in the morning, evening, or whenever works within your flow. “If you’ve been struggling with stress, commit to making time to do the things that help you fight it,” she explains.

What can take it a step further is using the ‘down’ time to focus on gratitude, whether you write it down, speak it out loud or just say it to yourself. Paying thanks and honoring what brings us joy have been proven to improve our mood, and set us on the right track.

2. Address your priorities and commitments.

We’re all guilty of saying ‘yes’ more often than we probably should. Maybe it’s another client we actually don’t have time for, a networking session that seems great in theory but in practice is likely a waste of your time. One smart way to put your mental energy at the top of your priorities is to actively seek open spaces in your life, according to business strategist, career expert and CEO of the Impact Academy, Amber Swenor.

This means letting go of certain activities, volunteer commitments, a side gig or whatever it might be. Rather than looking at it as something you are letting go of or are going without, reposition that mindset to how it’s opening up and creating space for yourself. When your schedule is too packed and you’re running exhausted, it’s difficult to do anything well.

Instead, Swenor suggests having a few must-haves in your schedule that bring you inspiration and joy, and try to resist the temptation to do it all. It’s better to do a handful of things great, rather than to do all things lackluster.

Mind hacks for freelancers: Implement a morning 'brain dump.'

3. Implement a morning ‘brain dump.’

It might not sound sexy but it’s effective, according to psychotherapist Bianca L. Rodriguez. After all: when you have so many lingering to-do items bubbling in your brain, it can feel exhausting.

Instead of letting it all fester and thus, grow, she suggests implementing a five-to-10 minute brain dump into your daily routine:

This will include limiting thoughts that once put on paper have way less power. Externalizing your thoughts allows you to gain perspective on them and decide whether to keep them or kick them to the curb.

4. Do something different.

And by something, Whittaker-Walker means anything. It can be as simple as working from a new cafe, joining a co-working space or even filing deliverables from a beach somewhere in Mexico.

If you can manage it, try to shake things up five days in a row — no matter how large or small. “Sometimes a small change in daily routines can give us just the jolt we need to approach ideas with a new perspective,” she adds.

Mind hacks for freelancers: Have a ‘year in review’ session with yourself.

5. Have a ‘year in review’ session with yourself.

Considering you don’t have a boss to critique you, it’s your job to do a quality check-in with how you’re doing.

At the start of the year, Rodriguez suggests hosting a ‘year-in-review’ session by yourself or with a trusted mentor or friend in the industry, and answer these five questions.

Just remember, the more honest you are, the more you’ll receive from the exercise:

  • What worked?
  • What didn’t work?
  • What were the highlights?
  • What does the new year look like if it’s full of what works?
  • What do your highlights say about you?

Then, Rodriguez says to take a day or a week to simmer on your answers and then use them as a starting point to set goals for the following year.