Hustle culture. Working all hours. Scrounging all your resources. Early mornings and late nights and the phone just won’t stop ringing. Sound familiar? Are you a freelancer or do you know one? Because that can be the life sometimes. Slowly but surely, the myth is being busted and turns our slowly working towards a complete breakdown is not as glamorous as some people may sell the idea to be. What really was an epidemic, glorified for many unknown reasons, is really under the microscope. There should be no reason anyone works so solidly and properly and yet feels as though they have not done enough - and that they must keep working. But, wait, aren’t we always warned about work-life balance? Isn’t it yet another thing you SHOULD be doing? Herein lies the point of this article: assessing how a work-life balance is possible for you - yes, you deserve it, but there must be a method within the madness.
How to know when your life and work are not balancing out
Are you tired, like, all the time? Mornings are hard, no matter all the superfood granola you eat - but, hey, the end of the day is hard too and the temper is always a little shorter than what you are used to. Sometimes you yourself can find yourself with time - time for a morning run, time to reflect and yet when it comes time to start work you find and realise you do not have the energy, creative or otherwise, to spend on this task. Perhaps you are feeling a little more sensitive to insecurities and valuing your work. Regardless, anyone of the above things will affect you and therefore your business. They may seem tedious, menial or irrelevant but there is no doubt in any case: it is time to change something about how you are working.
You could be new to the game or a seasoned fox who knows all the ins and outs - it will not stop this moment from coming and needing your attention at some point, and sometimes, many points. Avoiding the above issues, and the many I did not mention, requires great discipline, and internalised sense of work ethic and work quality. Now, isn’t that sentence easier to say than do? Why, of course, it is. But with some strategic techniques, you can find a way to negotiate a new system that really works for you. This will probably take time you feel like you do not have - but it is far more valuable in the long run. After all, your business won’t work unless you do.
There are some serious implications when it comes to the stress of work and impending burnout as applied to mental health. Please do not refrain from seeking help and asking for help, and getting it from professionals, if you need it. Sometimes it is not so simple and sometimes it has been going on so long - you forgot what normal feels like, and that is O.K. But for those who are just looking to evolve or educate themselves in the first instances of seeking change, the following tips are for you.
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Start with accepting you are not coping
Forget the ego, forget the pride, forget that you are your own boss and this ‘should not happen’. Just forget it all. And accept it is not working: maybe you are not producing as you are used to, maybe you are not feeling healthy. As soon as you accept that something isn’t working, you can start figuring out how to fix it. The key to this is very much, at first, in the little habits. This is especially important when it comes to WHERE and HOW you work. Maybe you find it easier to ignore your work because you are tucked into bed, or you do not get dressed for the day, or maybe because the home is the office everything is a bit too messy so it no longer feels like a workplace. Well, these are small practical problems that can be addressed and changed almost instantly, and therefore it is a good start.
So start with really differentiating your work and home space. This means - when it comes to balancing it there will be a clear definition of what space is for what… see where this is going. Really, begin by acting the same way as if you were going to an office. Yeah, take the bathrobe off, and brush your teeth. Stick to your to-do list for the day and integrate new items or requests so that they can be handled realistically. Do not live in a world where everything can be done on the same day. If you find that there are always some / many points left on your list, think about and revise your time management. It’s a sign that you’re either always overreaching or your time management is not effective. Be kind to yourself, but be fair to your work and goals.
Get out and see something other than your screen
Even though you work at home, go out to start the day or aim to get out during the course of your day. Anyone who works alone is in dire need of contact with the world, at some point, at least. Of course, you wanted to be undisturbed and fully concentrated and that is great with no colleagues or non-stop phones catching you off guard. But - it is still important you do not just stay in the place you live and work, or, in the very least the place you work.
Have a coffee in your favorite shop or find one you don’t mind, read the paper when you arrive or fix a special kind of breakfast. Habits, routines, rituals - whatever you want to call them they are important and it is in our nature to repeat habits we find rewarding - which is why it is so hard to change bad ones. So focus in on what sort of routines might suit you? Are they food or coffee related? Is it about time-blocking or does that disrupt your flow? This is about understanding what helps and what hinders your workday - in terms of habits, and therein lies the foundation of a structured workday.
Know your temptations
If you work at home, avoid any distractions. Banish the TV from your office. Be careful about what is in your space: and know yourself, through knowing your temptations. The same goes backwards into the home space - you don’t want to look over when the work day is done and think about sending one more email. You may think that is one less thing to do tomorrow but this is about achieving BALANCE and consistency over quantity. Really, to repeat the point, you should pay attention to fixed rituals, with which you conclude your day, operate throughout the course of the day and pass into the evening. Everything that helps you and what you enjoy is allowed: sports, meeting friends, spending time with the family.
If you can integrate these points into your daily work, you are already well on the way. But working life always brings new demands and challenges. So, even if you adapt the above things, there can still be a kind of routine that can paralyze you. The only way is from time to time to put your freelancer life to the test. Are there again little blocks on the door? Am I stuck somewhere? It is a steady process. No one works the same 365 days a year. Sometimes you have to react spontaneously and adapt your workdays and your functionality to the external conditions. You can ask yourself the following questions and compare the answers regularly with your current state:
- If you feel like you’re always taking too long for some things, how can I do more in less time?
- What is superfluous or where is my time management hooked?
- Do you have enough space to recharge your batteries?
- Do you give your head some time for rest or for creative breaks?
- Do you enjoy yourself enough free time?
- Do you really finish your work in the evening, even mentally, and start again the next day?
What you can do to really make your every day in the future
In addition to the small changes recommended above, there are other tips to help you become more productive, content, and fulfilling, not just in your job, but ultimately in your entire life. Because both belong together and are inextricably linked - you know, self-employment…
Let movement in your life In addition to the above morning rituals, you should actively pamper your body. There needs to be some sort of physical movement in your working day - and this is no different advice to anyone else working! But it is key and most studies show it. Find something that you enjoy moving with or too - lifting weights or salsa class, or maybe some Yoga with Adriene - whatever floats your boat just make sure you get the boat to float - if you catch the drift…
Go with your natural pace and rhythm It will make little sense that you set the alarm clock at 6 o’clock in the morning because of sheer enthusiasm, although you are actually a night owl. It makes little sense to eat at 8 am like the app tells you, when you need an hour or two before you have a full breakfast. Maybe working out after work doesn’t work - the point it, you need to be realistic and not push the square peg into the round hole.
The first thought of the day The first thought of the day has an impact on the whole process. Are you lousy and already thinking after waking up of all the unfinished or unpleasant things that await you today, what do you think in the direction of your mood, your day and everything that has to do with it? Just give it a try, think of something positive in the morning, all the good things that await you - even if the to-do list is long and you may have to make an unpleasant customer call. It’s just a small difference in thinking, but it can have a big impact. If you manage to think about this customer with a smile and that the conversation will be on your best terms, it will take the steam out of the cauldron and the day will be much more yours. But: It may take a bit of practice for that.
What is the one thing that you want to achieve today Instead of constantly losing yourself in a thousand small things to do and ending up with frustrated or fragmented things at the end of the day, you should plan what you want to accomplish today. Maybe today you are just taking care of your bookkeeping or doing a customer task that has been on your list for so long, that you start over and over again, but never finish. Better to take care of one thing in a well-structured way, than never finish several at the same time. So, what do you want to achieve today?
Make, and stick to, office hours You know this as a freelancer - in times of The Internet we are reachable at any time, at any place. Customers can also send an inquiry in the evening at 22 o’clock and those who are not in the mood to leave it until the next morning are busy with their business until well into the night or on a Sunday. In the long run this is counterproductive. We have seen that tree. Make very clear office hours for you, when do I just organize? When do you have phone office hours? Every office does it. Why not you? You can also structure your whole week according to this pattern, when do I do something? This will make you more productive and effective in your business in the long term. And you can learn to make yours every day.
Yes, you can have it - the elusive work-life balance that makes the whole self-employment gambit sustainable. But you have to be realistic, smart and thinking long-term. However, that is just a matter of the mind - so mind your matters and keep chasing the dream!