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As a freelancer, you’re in the driver’s seat. You decide when it’s time to work and when it’s time to play. You no longer work for bosses and managers. You work with clients.
This all sounds great in theory. And it really is nice in practice, as well. But the truth is, if you don’t take the time to create some work-life balance, you’re going to struggle. This could be due to overachieving just as much as procrastination, and both can have some pretty nasty side effects.
Here are a few tips to help you balance your work and free time as a freelancer.
Figure Out Your Tendencies
The first step in finding balance is to consider your own tendencies. As we already touched on, the work-life balance struggle can come from overworking just as much as underperforming.
Start the process by evaluating yourself and figuring out which area you struggle with. Are you scattered and scrambling to meet deadlines? Do you always feel stressed out and don’t know when to stop working?
By getting a greater understanding of your own proclivities, you can figure out what areas of your life you need to work on to find balance.
Create a Dedicated Workspace
The need for a dedicated workspace is repeated ad nauseam — and for a reason, too. If you don’t have a specific area where you can work, it can mess with your freelance rhythm (or even block you from ever tapping into it in the first place.)
Make sure that you have an area of your home that is clearly dedicated to your work. If you have a luxurious office or outbuilding you can take over, great. If all you have is a corner of your bedroom, you can still own that space, as well.
By dedicating your workspace, you set clear spatial boundaries between your personal and professional lives. This can help you shift mindsets in and out of “work mode.”
Distractions are a huge struggle for freelancers. And it’s a problem that goes both ways.
On the one hand, you can struggle with focusing on work. For instance, a family member might be too willing to interrupt you or you might find that the dog is barking or otherwise disrupting your schedule. If either of those is the case, you need to communicate with your loved ones or retake ownership of your space from your dog to minimize distractions.
On the other hand, you may have issues detaching from work when you’re done. After all, as a freelancer, you can’t “leave the office” at the end of the day. Your work is always with you. When that’s the case, make an effort to disconnect when you’re finished with each day by turning off notifications, removing apps from your phone, and so on.
A freelancer juggles a lot of responsibilities. As such, it’s important that you set priorities or you’ll quickly get overwhelmed.
Priorities allow you to invest in all areas of life. This can start with basics like maintaining your energy and focus through good eating, sleeping, and exercising habits.
From there, take the time to order the rest of your life. Make sure that you’re tending to important clients promptly. At the same time, make an effort to invest in important personal activities, like attending family events or planning a date night in with your partner.
Having a priority list can help you keep things from falling between the cracks every day in all areas of your life.
Find the Tools to Help
Finally, if you find that you’re still struggling with finding balance, look into tools to help you stay on track.
For instance, if you’re always pushing yourself to work harder because you’re afraid that you’re going to miss a deadline, it may be time to invest in better organization. This can be as simple as creating a to-do list or a schedule to help you stay on track.
It could also mean finding a good scheduling or workflow tool that you can use to gather all of your assignments. Make sure to input deadlines and keep everything in order so that you don’t lose track of things.
On the flip side, if you find that you’re procrastinating often, try using apps and other tools to help you stay focused. For example, the Pomodoro technique is a common way to help you stay focused for spurts of work time with breaks built in.
Finding the Balance Between Work and Play
Freelancing is fun. It’s freeing. It’s invigorating. But it can also be overwhelming at times.
If you’re struggling to find balance, you certainly aren’t alone. Even so, don’t use camaraderie as an excuse to suffer from an unbalanced life.
Dedicate your workspace, minimize distractions, set priorities, and otherwise put in the leg work to restore some sanity to your schedule. Once you settle into a new, well-balanced rhythm, you’ll be glad you made an effort.