Is Your Work/Life Balance Killing Your Chances Of Freelancing Success?
You left the company because you were fed up with the hours, right? You wanted more freedom, more time at home and you didn’t want anyone telling you what to do anymore…so you started freelancing.
And now you spend more hours in front of your computer, constantly think about work and whilst you see the kids or your other half more frequently, you don’t really see them or spend ‘quality time’ with them – you’re too busy keeping clients happy.
Ok, ok – not everyone is in this situation with their freelancing business but I bet some of you are; and the other scenario is that you’re the kind of freelancer who now loves what you do so much, it doesn’t feel like work. You get so absorbed in what you’re doing that time passes in a blur and before you know it, it’s gone midnight; the problem here is that you find it difficult to let go and focus on anything else because it’s your passion.
Investing time in yourself and your wellbeing is a vital strategy for successful freelancers – you are your business. If something happens to you that’s it, there’s usually no back up.
Take a look at yourself right now….
Is your health currently suffering? Perhaps not in a major way but maybe just small niggles that are occurring, problems that have never been problems before. Are your relationships with the people who matter most suffering? Is your business suffering from the lack of time you spend on ‘you’?
If so, here are 12 tips to claw back a good measure of balance between your freelancing life and your other life:
#1 Remember your mission
Most of us go into freelancing to create a better life for ourselves and our families – whatever “better” means. Remembering what your motivation was to begin with can help you get things back in perspective, even if money was the motivator. Surely that money wasn’t for money’s sake but to be able to do something more with it?…Remind yourself what your ‘better’ life is and re-define your priorities if necessary.
#2 Set your boundaries
If you work from home as a freelancer, then you’ll know how easy it can be to let your office stuff creep into the rest of the house or vice versa. Setting physical boundaries for your work can help create psychological boundaries between your home life and your work life.
Once you’ve set them, share them; the boundaries will only work if everyone else is aware of them and sticks to them.
#3 Plan specific activities
It’s easy to say “I’ll just take a bit more time off” or to try to schedule your downtime in your diary but often, unless you have a specific activity planned to do in your downtime, the work will creep into that time and you end up telling yourself “It’s not worth stopping now, I may as well carry on”. Planning specific activities to do in your downtime – especially with other people – is a great way to stick to it.
Usually your work will expand to fill any time you have, scheduling specific activities gives you a deadline hopefully making your more productive knowing you’re going to have to stop at a given time.
#4 Get hired help
If you find yourself bogged down by all the administrative and non-client tasks, then consider getting some help. You can use a virtual assistant or pay someone local to help. Whilst it might seem like an unnecessary expense that you can do yourself, there’s a great thing a mentor once said to me that I always remember: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”.
It’s a question of resources; you, the freelancer, are the most important resource your business has. Doing tasks which drain and distract you from the business of making money, however necessary the tasks are, is a poor allocation of your resources. Outsource these tasks to free up more of your time for play or to allow you to concentrate on the core activities that make your business tick.
#5 Maximize your efficiency and productivity during your working hours
Each of us has our own favorite productivity or GTD system; it’s a great idea once in a while to review it and see if you can make yourself or your system even more efficient.
I recently realized (and admitted to myself) that I spend far too much time reading through my feeds (all in the name of research, you understand) and checking out all my stats (all in the name of tracking and measuring, of course) which take up far too much of the time I’ve scheduled to write on blogs. As a consequence, I often end up writing blog posts late in the evening when ideally (from a health perspective), I should be winding down.
Identifying your time-wasters and productivity-destroyers is the first step to addressing them – this tool might help.
#6 Say “No!”
Too many clients, multiple offers to work on exciting projects, a list as long as your arm of your own pet projects…there is always something a freelancer can be working on. Learn how to be more selective about what you do and say “no” to everything else.
After realising I had over 7 rather large projects on my plate, I re-assessed, decided what I thought would be most fun to work on and ruthlessly cut them down to 3. Traveling the world as I do, means I often have far more exciting things I could be doing with my time that working; which means that the projects I do take on had better be even more exciting and inspiring than shark diving, lazing on a beach or wine tasting in South Africa’s wine region!
#7 Don’t dwell
The psychological impact of freelancing often means you’re constantly thinking about your work. It becomes much more of a personal thing (“your baby”) that it can be hard to switch off – especially when things have gone wrong. As a freelancer, even when you’re not actually working you may catch yourself dwelling on a mistake you’ve made, a missed opportunity that’s passsed or the next big project coming up.
Don’t dwell, identify what your ‘off’ switch is and use it….frequently. Maybe it’s exercise, maybe it’s a drink with a friend (just the one, mind you!) – whatever it is that helps you turn off the thoughts about work, do it and stop dwelling.
#8 Define the values in your life
What are the key things that mean the most to you in life? What do you value? If you’re not sure how to answer this, then try it this way: what would you miss the most if it were gone? Your answers might include health, family, your partner, your kids, your money, your home, your business.
Now if you were to prioritize them, what would your list look like? How much time do you spend nurturing and paying attention to the top few things on your list? Is the way you spend your time currently balanced to reflect the main priorities on your list?
#9 Sort your processes out
Inefficient business processes – the bane of many a freelancer’s life but what to do? Check out this post to make a start. Creating a standardised approach to do the most common tasks in your business is not only a great way to cut down wasted time in your business, it’s also a way of laying the foundations for getting in some help.
#10 Schedule family time
Like scheduling specific activities to do in your downtime, scheduling specific family time and activities is a good way to set more boundaries and be accountable to your family. This doesn’t have to be complicated, even sitting down for your evening meal together is enough.
#11 Practice extreme self-care
Taking care of yourself as a freelancer should be one of your top priorities. You are the most important asset your business has and if anything happens to you, your business is screwed. Extreme self care is a life coaching term and it’s basically a way of ‘topping up your well’ on a regular basis and creating an environment that nurtures you and your soul.
Extreme self care can mean choosing to do something on a regular basis that you might usually consider a luxury or a treat (a massage, a facial, a poker night) or it can mean doing something on a daily basis that you know energizes, inspires and nurtures you like calling your best friend for a good old chin wag or taking 10 minutes out to just sit in the sun (or wrapped up enjoying the frosty air) every day. It’s about building an activity into your routine that regularly energizes and inspires you.
#12 Know the signs and symptoms – prioritize your health before you lose it
The life of a freelancer can be a particularly unhealthy one with irregular routines, challenging deadlines, demanding clients and a general lack of focus on your health.
As a former health coach and personal trainer, I realized that the reason most people don’t focus on their health is that you never fully appreciate it until it’s gone and you’re suffering. The question is, how much do you have to suffer and how many signs and symptoms does your body need to give you before you’ll listen and take action?
If you suffer from any of these symptoms, then it’s a sign your body is not a happy bunny and you should start focusing more on your health:
- Fuzzy head and spacey feelings
- Needing coffee to get you going every day
- Poor sleep
- Niggling aches and pains
- Constant headaches
- Digestive problems
- Unwanted weight gain or weight loss
It’s an age old battle – getting the balance in your work and life that creates the optimum experience for everyone.
These tips mean nothing if two things aren’t in place: your acknowledgment that you don’t currently have balance in your life and your desire to create it. Work on those first and then try out the above and let us know how you get on…