Many have said that one of the biggest drawbacks to being a work-at-home entrepreneur is that you will be prone to burnout. It’s inevitable, no matter how much you love what you do or how goal oriented you happen to be. As you will be working out of a home office and there is no set work schedule, it becomes increasingly impossible to separate work and play. So, how do you manage to stay as productive as possible without tearing your arm out of its socket?

Speaking for myself as a freelance writer, one way that I keep productive is to take on a number of varied projects. This way, I don’t pigeon-hole myself. I do both freelance writing for a niche and for the masses; by keeping the variety up, I can largely manage to keep it fresh as a freelance writer. Even so, I do hit a brick wall from time to time, no matter how motivated I am to get things done that day, that week, or that month.

So, just as you would with a regular 9-to-5 kind of job, you have to remember to take well-deserved breaks from your work. The emphasis here is on well-deserved. If you find yourself slacking off all the time, playing Internet Reversi instead of putting fingers to keyboard, you don’t deserve a break. If you find yourself chatting with friends on instant messenger rather than researching the information you need for that new freelance writing project, you don’t deserve a break. However, if you’ve been tracking your hours (and dollars earned) and you see that you’ve reasonably accomplished your goals for the week, taking a lazy Friday is perfectly acceptable. Go ahead. Get out there and experience the real world.

Today, for example, has been a rather slow day for me. I’ve kept pretty busy for the first half of the week — not only finishing off some last minute projects, but also taking care of all the administrative tasks that accompany the end of the month — so I just spent the last two hours playing Puzzle Fighter on my Nintendo DS. I plan on getting a couple more things done, like writing this blog post, but I intend to take it slow and take it easy on myself for the rest of the day.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do to improve your productivity is to stop working, if only for half an hour at a time. Spending hours on end staring at a computer monitor isn’t going to do you much good if your writing quality suffers. Your freelance writing clients deserve better than that. When your brain is turning to mush, as it inevitably will after an extended writing session, it means that you need to leave the computer and do something else.

Again, I have to emphasize that these must be well-deserved breaks and not just breaks. After a few minutes away from the keyboard, you can return refreshed, recharged, and sharper than ever. This is why many high-stress, high-volume jobs (casino dealer, customs officer, etc.) require their employees to take frequent breaks. The same is true with freelance writing.

Deep breath…. OK, now I’m ready to go back to work.