Being a freelancer is great. You set your own hours, and you don’t have to brave a long commute. You can manage your time however works for you.
But there are negatives. The pressure of hustling to score new gigs, the deadlines, and the isolation can all take a toll on your health if you let it.
The pressure of hustling to score new gigs, the deadlines, and the isolation can all take a toll on your health if you let it.
You need to build some self-care strategies into your routine to make sure you don’t burn out.
Log Your Hours
Some weeks time just trickles through your fingers, and you end up spending a precious Saturday night at your computer.
If you are pacing yourself and your workload, you shouldn’t be giving up weekends to finish jobs.
If you’re aiming to work from 9-5 Monday through Friday, then there are plenty of working hours to get stuff done. That’s 35 hours a week to get the jobs done, even if you give yourself an hour for lunch every day.
If you’re constantly running to catch up, then you have to find out where your time is going.
My habit of procrastinating by doing laundry was totally exposed by tracking my time. I also found that if I read the paper with my lunch, it takes me twice as long to eat. These two small things were costing me nearly two hours every day!
Once you see the patterns in your day, you can tweak the schedule to become more time-efficient. Try making one change per week until you’re happy with the balance.
Look After Your Body
It’s tempting as a freelancer to wear pj’s all day. If you get up and get into your gym or running or yoga gear, then you set the expectation for yourself that you’re going to get moving.
If you’re healthy and fit, you will be raring to go as soon as you hit your desk. Take advantage of the endorphins racing around your system to be super productive.
A recent study showed that workday exercising can boost up your productivity by 72%.
Which is a lot.
Three hours per week of low-intensity cardio training is the type of exercise that shows the most benefit. That’s just 30 minutes six days a week of going for a jog or doing a fitness class, or even a home work out on YouTube.
Prioritize Your To-Do List
The list you have in your head of things to do is probably enormous. This can lead you to adopt the scattergun approach and bounce from one task to the next without achieving very much at all.
You need to write all your tasks down, then figure out how to prioritize them.
Not everything on your list needs to be done today, so spend a bit of time at the beginning of each week and day organizing and mapping out your goals. I like to have three goals for each day, which I commit to achieving before I shut my computer down for the evening.
Down with Multitasking!
Freelancers who haven’t learned how to maximize productivity often try multitasking to get on top of their workload.
The problem with multitasking is that you don’t have the bandwidth to focus fully, and your work suffers. If you can’t focus on one task properly, then you run the risk of making errors that you don’t pick up.
You need to learn to work with your natural rhythm. Work for one hour, or 90 minutes or whatever feels comfortable, on just one task, then take a break. Stretch out your back, or make a cup of tea but leave your desk for a few minutes.
When you return to work, you will find it easier to refocus 100 % on your next task.
Try and do the essential tasks first when you’re fresh, then you can spend time at the end of the day when you are more likely to be tired, on the more routine jobs.
When you’re a freelancer, it can be so easy to fall into the habit of eating convenience food on the go.
You think you’re economical with time if you grab a sandwich at your desk, or you can’t be bothered to make a ‘proper meal’ for one.
You’re not doing yourself any favours by eating rubbish, though. You’re just increasing the chance of falling foul of the afternoon slump in energy.
If you plan your work snacks and meals in one go for the week, you can save headspace for other things. Try apps such as Yummly or Foodplanner to get ideas on what you can whip up in advance that will contain your five a day.
Learn to Focus
If you’re working from home, there are distractions in your path at every turn. The radio, the TV, your phone, your laundry, shopping, cleaning, the list is endless.
Distractions can turn a short task into a whole day’s work by constantly undermining your focus.
Keep your workspace clear of clutter and in an area of the house where you won’t be tempted to get a head start on the washing up. Then you can police your use of social media or time ‘non-work’ internet browsing by downloading a plug-in such as Google’s Stayfocusd, which limits playtime.
Freelancing is great because you can work from where you like. Freelancing sucks because you can work from wherever you like.
Maintain that work-life balance. Stop checking work emails when you’re at the park with your kids (guilty!), stop Pinteresting when you’re watching a film with your beloved in the evening.
Try to have time at the weekend when you’re not working, taking time off is as important as all the other tasks you do in your business, as if you don’t, you run the risk of burning out. Resist checking work emails or following up on projects in your off time, and you’ll bounce back to your desk bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on Monday morning.
If you use your laptop for personal projects, then create two profiles, one work, one play, and separate out your apps and programmes so that you’re not tempted to check work projects during your downtime.
Make Time to Chill Out
Look after your mental as well as your physical health. Often freelancers work alone and do all their work-related social interacting online or via email. You don’t have colleagues in the same office to take a break with and chat. There’s no water cooler to gather around to discuss how Game of Thrones ended.
Social isolation one of the things that puts freelancers at risk of developing depression and other mental health issues. T
he critical thing is to recognize when to use some of your work time to step away from your desk and catch up with other people.
There are ways you can join a community as a freelancer.
Have a look in your area to see if there are any networking events or meetups that you could attend; Meetup is a great app that connects people with similar interests. Research coworking spaces to see if they would be a good fit for you once or twice a week.
Or simply be strict with your time off and enjoy catching up with friends, or keeping up with a hobby you love. Again, it’s all about prioritization.
Whatever your freelance business, you learn early on to be disciplined about professional tasks, but its equally as important to recognize that you need to practice self-care too.
Don’t just prioritize your work but understand that staying on top of your health and wellness is critical to being a happy, productive, individual too.