FREELANCING: Finding A Healthy Work-Life Balance
I've worked for myself since September 2016 and it's been a seriously steep learning curve. As you may know, I ended up becoming fairly seriously ill last summer and it was a direct result of pushing myself way past my limits. I was convinced that I should be working 10 hour days, getting up early to do yoga and responding to emails at any time of the day. I worked weekends, evenings and gave myself minimal (if any) breaks throughout the day.
It seems so obvious now that burnout and health issues would occur, but at the time I truly couldn't see it. Since returning back to work after three months sick leave, I've had to make a conscious effort to ensure unhealthy patterns don't slip back into my routine.
Today's post is my guide to finding balance, based on the experience of someone who learnt the seriously hard way. Let's go.
HAVE AN ASSIGNED WORKSPACE
I used to work at a desk in my bedroom, and occasionally even worked in bed. It meant that the one room that was meant to be all mine, and where I could relax, was also the space I was wanting to be my most productive. The result was that I never fully switched off from work and, even worse, it was far too easy to flip back into doing my job when I was supposed to be switched off.
I now work downstairs in our dining room, at my two favourite cafés in town and I'm looking into a co-working space too. My bedroom is strictly for relaxing and absolutely no work.
INVEST IN TWO PHONES
This might sound extravagant, but hear me out. When my mobile contract ended and I was called asking if I'd like a new one, I said yes, knowing that having two handsets would mean I could have a work phone and a personal one. I use my old number as my work contact and got in touch with everyone in my personal life to tell them my new number. It means that at the end of the day I can switch off my work mobile, knowing I won't be tempted to check for messages and ensuring there will be no work distractions during my downtime.
On my work phone I keep just the apps and accounts I use for my job, so I don't find myself quickly looking at my Instagram or getting distracted by WhatsApp chats during my business hours. Equally, my personal phone receives no work emails and is now set up so I'm only on it for fun.
DON'T BE AFRAID TO TAKE TIME OFF
I ignored all the early warning signs that something wasn't right last year. My stress meant my sleep pattern was completely messed up, and instead of going to the doctor and having a sick day to catch up on rest, I continued to "push through" and exacerbate the problem. I wish I had taken naps instead of pseudo-working and given up defining my success by the hours of work I was doing. There's nothing productive about running yourself into the ground.
COMMIT TO YOUR DOWNTIME
If it's the weekend, switch off. If it's breakfast time, resist the urge to scroll through emails. If you're on your lunch break, take some time away from your work. Tell others when your days off are, and what time you finish for the day, so that they can hold you accountable to what you've promised yourself.
LEARN YOUR BODY'S RHYTHM
My brain is useless after about 5:15 pm. I feel noticeably more tired during the day if I am up past 10.30. I could get up at 7.00, but I notice the difference if I sleep in until half seven. I've had to learn to listen when my body is telling me something, rather than "powering through". Some afternoons I need a nap, some mornings I sleep in; I'm now making the most of choosing my hours, rather than using flexibility to overdo it.
Are you guys working freelance? Do you have any tips and advice on how to make it really work? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!