Aren’t we lucky to be able to pick and choose our hours? Aren’t we fortunate to have the freedom that freelancing offers?
We’re regularly told we’re ‘lucky’ by our friends and family who seem to think we can basically do as we please and get paid for the privilege. What they don’t seem to understand, despite our attempts to explain it to them, is that it’s not quite as simple as that.
As a freelancer, you’re likely to spend a lot of time on your own while working. And, if you’re anything like most of us, you’ll spend a lot of time working. Of course, we choose when we work but when you’re relying on yourself to do every job that comes along with running a business, it’s likely you’ll ‘choose’ to work a lot.
At the beginning of our freelancer journeys, we are often super strict about making sure we have ‘me time’. But it’s easy to slip into habits that are bad at best, terrible at worst. Checking client emails as soon as we wake up, at our desk with that first cup of coffee, making a start on today’s tasks. We work well into the evening and often don’t stop properly to eat.
We’re so busy working in our businesses, we neglect to work ON our businesses. We also often completely neglect self-care time, something of huge importance and great value to all of us.
Why is it that we deprioritise ourselves?
How does this happen? When does balance cease to become a priority? One minute we’re nailing the self-care whilst ensuring the effective running of our business, working both in and on it. The next, business begins to boom – which is great – but we find ourselves stuck in the employee mindset and eternal loop of work, work, work.
So, what can we do about it?
Prioritise Your Mental Health
Remember: we can give you tips but we can’t promise cures, especially if there are other issues at play – go to the doctors if you need to. Speak to someone. Don’t suffer in silence.
We all need to look after our mental health, no matter what. Depression and anxiety are rampant in modern society and it’s especially easy to fall prey to mental ill-health when you’re isolated and under pressure.
The state of our mental health has an impact on every area of our lives, from our personal relationships to the quality of our work. It has to be absolutely number one on our list of priorities.
One of the reasons many people choose to leave full-time employment was because of the stress it often causes. Freelancing offers freedom from external pressures and an opportunity to break away from the confines of office life. If this backfires, we can find ourselves just as stressed and unhappy as we were before. So how do we make sure our mental health is prioritised?
Put quite simply, effort. And it is effort.
It’s strange that we procrastinate over and resist the things that add value and meaning to our lives.
If we’re feeling anxious, depressed or stressed, it’s often because we’re ignoring something that’s calling to us. The something that’s missing. It’s not always easy to identify, sometimes lurking in the background, but something nonetheless that we are craving.
This is worth exploring.
We’re often told to make time for things, but that’s impossible – you can’t ‘make time’. You can only sacrifice time doing one thing for another.
You may think that putting your feet up in front of the tv time is your ‘you time’, but is it really? Is it adding value to your life? Or is it merely distracting you from all the other things you’ve got going on?
That’s not to say we don’t all deserve to take our brains out once in a while and numb ourselves in front of the telly. We just need to make sure we’re aware that that’s what we’re doing. And make sure to pop our brain back in pretty sharpish, before distracting ourselves from life instead of living it becomes the norm.
Usually we sacrifice entertainment for learning or vice versa. For many of us, entertainment comes in the form of fiction and learning in the form of non-fiction. So, some evenings we might watch a film because our brain needs a break from learning. Other evenings we’ll read something we’re interested in learning about, because our brain needs stimulating in a different way. It’s fine to enjoy both of these things but we need to make sure we get the balance right.
What is the thing you can sacrifice most easily in favour of spending time on something valuable?
Do the Little Things That Make Your Heart Happy
How often do you take the time to do something small for yourself that makes your heart happy?
For some people it’s a relaxing bath, reading a good book, or baking. It could be spending time by the sea; you know that driving to the coast and treating yourself to a walk along the shingle will give you time to breathe and reflect. It perks you up and reenergises you. Sometimes though, you want to go in your heart but end up staying indoors. You just can’t be bothered to get in the car and drive, despite knowing how awesome you’ll feel while you’re there and the sense of calm that you’ll carry through your day afterwards.
For some reason, we fight against doing little things that enrich our lives. We resist. We sacrifice these things for work or housework or doing things for others. It’s ingrained in us that if something is fun or makes us happy then it’s considered leisure and not what we ‘should’ be doing. We think our duties and responsibilities must always come top of the list. We forget that in order to perform these tasks effectively and to the best of our abilities, we need to be at our best mentally. We need balance.
We need to become more aware of this resistance and call it out. We need to identify the little things that make our hearts happy and then do them. And do them regularly.
Yeah, you knew this was coming.
Granted, exercise isn’t everyone’s favourite activity. Much like the happy-heart activities mentioned above that are sometimes met with resistance in our minds, it’s something we know we won’t regret doing. Yet somehow we can’t bring ourselves to actually do it (some of us, some of the time).
If you’re mega into yoga, or Pilates, or hula hooping, or whatever physical activity of choice floats your boat – don’t do yourself the disservice of sacrificing your morning exercise routine in order to get started on work straight away. Even just going for a walk will help clear the cobwebs away. Sitting at a desk all day is genuinely terrible for us, so exercise isn’t just about getting physically fit, it’s about preventing other issues further down the line.
And while we’re on the subject of physical health – you know you should be eating more fruit and veg too! What we eat has a direct impact on our mood and energy levels. We all know this, yet we rush around, eat convenience food and really aren’t fuelling ourselves in the way we should.
We wouldn’t neglect our pets like this so why neglect ourselves?
A lot of us work alone and it can be quite isolating. Maybe you love being alone, but even the most introverted souls can find themselves craving human interaction from time to time.
There are plenty of ways to incorporate other people into your working day if you find yourself craving that, from a quick chat on the phone to lengthy Zoom catchups. There are even virtual co-working spaces you can sign up to for when you don’t necessarily want to interact with people, you just want to work in the company of others doing the same thing. You don’t need ideas on how to have regular human interaction, you just need to do it!
Even those of us who are quite happy being isolated most of the time can feel more perky and energetic after having had some interaction, meaning our work reaps the benefits for the rest of the day.
Remember Your Passions
Lastly, for this post at least, don’t forget to work on your passions. Your side hustle, your hobby, whatever.
When business is booming it’s easy to let work completely eclipse everything else, and before you know it it’s been months since you’ve worked on your own stuff. Remember that pastime you used to prioritise and ensure you always made time for? Revisit it. It happens; work and responsibilities take over, leaving little time to enjoy a hobby, craft, or personal project.
When this takes hold, it’s time to sacrifice something or re-jig your schedule. From this day forth, vow to carve time out for your passion.
Be Considerate of Your ‘You Time’
The old cliché ‘life’s too short’ is a warning to all of us. The thing is, without a definitive deadline, we think we have time to put stuff off and procrastinate, neglecting those little things that make our hearts happy.
Time passes us by regardless of what we do with it, so we ought to be making the most of it. That includes looking after yourself mentally and physically, striving for balance and meaning, and making room for joy.
If you need some help with refocussing and realigning, you can book a 1:1 with Lou via the contact page.