Have you ever heard the saying, “Leave work at the door when you get home” or vice versa? But what happens when your work and home have the same door? Freelancing is a great opportunity in today’s economy, but it isn’t as easy as it sounds. As with any 9-to-5 employee, freelancers have deadlines to meet. While being a freelancer offers large amounts of flexibility, that flexibility can actually cause chaos if not controlled.
When freelancing, balancing out your life plays a pivotal role in your success. An excellent freelancer knows how to manage their time between work time, “me” time, and “we” time. Allowing your mind to leave work and rest is a healthy way to avoid the all too common case of the burn-out.
Time management isn’t about setting a strict schedule and sticking to it. Let’s face it, you were probably drawn to freelancing because of the ability to be flexible around your life. You actually want to avoid setting strict schedules because if you set a goal of working at specific times and something causes you to not meet this goal, it is disheartening and counterproductive.
A great way to accomplish time management is to start out tracking where your time is going. For example, if you work at the computer for 15 hours, are you really working 15 hours? Probably not. The truth is there are a wide range of distractions such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Many people will admit that they get sucked into the internet black hole and realize they have lost an hour watching videos or reading funny posts.
Google search time tracker apps for smart phones or computers and you will find a plethora of available apps that will help you track what you are doing when. Try tracking your time for about a week and average out the time spent on work and non-work tasks. If you are working 90% of your time then it would be wise to trim that down and apply your time elsewhere. If you are losing 5 hours a week on Facebook, try cutting that down to 15 minutes a day. Play around with your results and for the second week try to balance each out and see the difference between the numbers. This takes time but each week you will see a progression in your balance between work and recreation.
When you are working, you need to dedicate that time to work tasks only. Breaks are OK, but they can become major distractions, so use them wisely. First thing in the morning (or the night before) plan out the day ahead of you. This gives you a starting point. Don’t focus so much on the amount of hours you want to work, but rather the amount of work you want to get done.
For example, you have 10 tasks on your list for work today that have to be done and 2 that can be done at a later date. Focus on those 10 tasks. Start with the task you do not want to do or are the hardest first. By starting with the tasks that will be the hardest or you have been avoiding, you are going to see a significant boost in your mood and productivity. If you start with all the small easy ones, you run the risk of not doing the hard ones at all because you either drag out the easy ones or feeling satisfied with completing a bunch of tasks you call it a day.
When you are working you need to be firm with the people around you that this time is work time. With the exceptions of stay-at-home parents who sometimes don’t have a choice, all freelancers should abide by this rule. Create a dedicated workspace where you are less likely to get caught up in the things going on around you. Set your phone on vibrate or shut it off altogether. Blocking out the distractions around you will not only help you focus, but you will see an increase in your productivity per day. With an increase in productivity you will have more time available on leisurely activities.
After your work is complete you are feeling accomplished and it can actually be really difficult to wind down. Instead of jumping from work to chores or errands, take some “me” time and allow your brain to rest. Many people will finish up there work and just dive into another task. Freelancers are notorious for being workaholics. And just because you don’t get paid doesn’t mean it isn’t work.
Try taking a minimum of 15 minutes to yourself and do something that is for you. Try to do anything that will take your mind away from work, like reading a book, doing yoga, or exercising. Remember that balancing your life isn’t just about managing time, but also managing your brain. You need to essentially shut down that part of your brain for a small chunk of time so you can properly apply yourself to other areas.
It isn’t fun to try and read a book while simultaneously creating a task list for your next project in your mind. The goal is to shut off the work brain and turn on the home brain. Be careful not to take so much time that you do nothing but read or watch videos the rest of the day. Just long enough to refresh your mind and move forward.
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Whether you have a family complete with 2.5 kids and a family pet or just a small group of friends you need to take time out and spend time with them. When working from home it is very easy to get so wrapped up in work and chores that you forget to take time to enjoy the people around you.
There is an all too common saying that goes, “If I work from home I’ll have more time with my family.” In reality that’s not true if you’re not managing your time properly. Dedicate a specific routine you can do to keep in touch with the people around you. Great ideas are always spending meal times together, playing a game on a specific night, or simply calling up a friend to chat.
Freelancing is one of the best opportunities available, but if a freelancer doesn’t balance their time it can quickly become a burden. Work towards better time management by see where your time goes and altering it to suit you better. Keep your boundaries with what you are doing to stay dedicated to either work, “me” time, or “we” time. Remember that balancing as a freelancer is just as much about the mind as it is about time. Give your mind time to rest by doing things you enjoy so that your next day will be just as if not more productive than the last.