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25 Steps To A Healthy Work-Life Balance When You’re Your Own Boss

It can be difficult enough to juggle work and the rest of your life when you have a typical nine-to-five job. When you work as a freelancer, finding such a balance can be even more challenging.

When your job involves a supervisor and coworkers, you have a built-in structure of sorts. You generally have clear deadlines and people to whom to report, who often give you regular performance reviews. You have meetings on your schedule and agreed-upon work hours. Sometimes, if you’re fortunate, you develop a friendship with one or more of your colleagues that, whether or not it extends beyond your job, enhances your hours at the office.

However, as a freelancer, you set your own schedule. You have only yourself to be accountable to. You decide how much or how little you work. You evaluate the quality of your work. And you are often your only company for much of the day.

Many, if not all, of these characteristics may be major reasons why you opted for the freelance lifestyle. However, they can also contribute to a lopsided and stressful life, unless you take steps to create and maintain a healthy work/life balance.

Some tips to help you on your way:

  1. Regularly (at least once a week), remind yourself why you’ve chosen the freelance lifestyle. Was it the ability to set your own hours? More time with family and friends, or for other activities and hobbies? Greater earning potential? Chance to utilize your creativity? The ability to work from anywhere, even when traveling? Determine your “why,” and keep this in mind.
  2. Put aside some time for meditation and quiet at the beginning of each day. Even if it’s only five minutes, sitting quietly before launching yourself into your daily activities will help you to settle your thoughts and calm your body. At this time, ask yourself what qualities you’d most like to embody this day, no matter what else you accomplish. Honesty? Courage? Patience? Kindness? Try to remember your intentions as you move through the day’s projects.
  3. Choose your top three priorities for the day. What do you absolutely need to take care of today? What can wait?
    • Why are these goals important to you?
    • When beginning a task, ask yourself: Does this activity or choice support the kind of life I’m trying to create? Proceed accordingly.
  4. Create a daily schedule. Know when you’re at your best. Are you a morning lark or a night owl? When are you at your best mentally? Emotionally? Creatively? Physically? Schedule blocks of work accordingly.
  • Set work hours for yourself. Do you work better with four 10-hour days? Five 8-hour days? With several big breaks throughout the day?
  • Make use of technology to manage task lists. Google Tasks & Calendar can be your friend, allowing you to free up your mind for more creative endeavors.
  • Batch – group similar tasks into blocks of time. Similar to mindfulness, batching allows us to put our full energy into one type of task, without exerting (wasting) energy frequently shifting focus (which would only take up more time getting back to what we were initially focusing on).
  • Create a routine for the things you do often. Creating routines streamlines daily processes. It cuts down on wasted time and allows for more productivity in your unused time. In other words, schedule specific tasks at the same time, on the same days, each week.
  • Track your time, to know where you are wasting it.
  • Be realistic about how much time things take. Some tasks will take significantly longer than anticipated, and other tasks much less time. Try to plan in the best way you can, and make adjustments as you go.
  • Block out specific times on your calendar for specific tasks. As they say, fail to plan – plan to fail. Just because you’re your own boss doesn’t mean that you get to work on a whim and only when you feel like it. Develop the willingness to do the things you deem important even when you don’t want to do them. Accountability partners can be very helpful here, but ultimately it’s up to you to do the work.
  1. Gain some ground early in the day. You’ll feel more accomplished and probably more relaxed for the remainder of the day. “Eat the frog” – tackle the hardest problem on your plate.
  2. Break things down into manageable chunks. If you’re having trouble procrastinating, focus on the first order of business rather than the whole task. Try the Pomodoro Technique of working single-mindedly on a task for 25 minutes, taking a three to five minute break, and then repeating this sequence four times, before taking a longer (15 to 30 minute) break.
  3. Create a designated workspace/office. Not only will this keep you better organized, it will help you close the door on the workday by not having work paraphernalia pile up on the dining room table.
  4. Have someone to be accountable to. This could be a friend or your therapist. Commit to them that you will accomplish certain tasks, and follow up with them.
  5. Minimize distractions such as social media, noise, and interruptions.  
    • Don’t check your email too often. Set a timer, if necessary, to remind yourself to check your mail every couple of hours, for example.
    • Ration your time on social media.
    • Put away your phone and check it only periodically.
    • Know whether you work better with some music on or in silence, and act accordingly.
    • Be firm with loved ones about interruptions. Be clear when it’s okay to knock on your office door, for instance.
  6. Don’t multi-task. Contrary to popular belief, we are less effective when we multi-task than if we give our undivided attention to one task at a time.
  7. Be mindful. Wherever you are, really be there, mind, body, and spirit. Strive to live in the present moment as much as possible. Studies have shown that we are happiest when we live in the present (even if what we’re doing isn’t particularly pleasant) than if our minds are wandering.
  8. Take care of small tasks immediately – if it will take less than five minutes, attend to it right away. You’ll be glad that you dealt with the issue, and it will be one less thing on your to-do list or on your mind. However, do set a time limit as to how many brief tasks to tackle (say, 30 minutes), so you still have time, energy, and focus to tackle those projects you’ve deemed as most important for the day.
  9. Schedule meals, snacks, and breaks, and make sure you don’t work through them. We need nutritional sustenance as well as the opportunity to shift gears during the day. Also, build in a reward system by telling yourself that you’ll get to enjoy a hot mug of cocoa, 30 minutes with your favorite book, or a hot bath, for instance, once you’ve completed a specific amount of time on work.
  10. Make time for your family, friends, hobbies, and yourself. Seek out human interaction (personally and professionally).
    • Make agreements with your loved ones to have times when you’ll all put away your phones and other distractions and simply focus on your time together. Try to make meals a phone-free and TV-free time.
    • Say ‘yes’ to participating in fun trips, activities, or social outings. Running a business can turn you into a hermit if you’re not careful. Take the time to hang out with friends and discuss things other than work. We all need a strong support system.
    • Consider how accessible (or inaccessible) you are to social interaction when you’re out and about. Are you on your phone, laptop, or wearing ear buds, all of which may discourage interaction with others? Try to open yourself more to conversations with others, or even just a smile and a ‘hello’ as you go about your day outside your work time.
  11. Take at least one day off work a week. We all need our R and R time.
    • Stepping away from our job gives our subconscious brain a chance to work on our projects; we often have a better perspective when we return to our projects.
    • This means not checking work emails on your day off. Really. Doing so just puts you back in that work mindset and is likely to lead to ruminating about work tasks. The idea behind your day off is to recalibrate your system and turn your focus to other important parts of your life.
  12. Be aware of signs and symptoms of burnout, so you can take steps to remedy the situation. Are you irritable? Angry? Sad? Low on motivation? Exhausted? Feeling disconnected with other people? Bored? Catching colds or other bugs more often than usual? Experiencing GI problems, nervousness, or body aches? Have chronic headaches, back pain, shoulder pain, or neck pain? Turning to excessive coffee, other stimulants, too much alcohol, or raiding the frig? These could be signs that your work/life balance is off and that you need to make appropriate adjustments.
  13. Know when and to whom to say ‘no’ to. Don’t take on too much at one time.
    • We cannot say yes to everyone and everything. For one, this sets up impossible demands on us. Two, trying to accomplish too much is a sure recipe for burnout and consequently not having the energy or mental focus to take care of our highest priorities.
    • You don’t need to give a reason why you’re saying no. If you really feel that you must, simply say that you have other commitments.
  14. Let go of perfectionism. This often results in procrastination, paralysis, spending too much time on a project, or not finishing the project (due to thinking that there’s “just one more tweak” we need to make).
  15. Be effective, not efficient. Work smarter, not harder. What activities on your part lead to the results you desire? Spend more time on these. What activities don’t really pay off, financially or otherwise? Decrease or eliminate the time you spend on these.
  16. Do a constructive end-of-the-day review.
    • Appreciate what did get done instead of stressing over what didn’t. Look on the bright side and choose to see your accomplishments rather than any missteps. Acknowledge what you were and are good at. You’ll feel better, sleep better, and be better prepared to be productive again tomorrow.
    • Remember that we all fall off-course from time to time – just make adjustments and get back on course. Don’t be a victim or hold pity parties for yourself. Instead, learn from your mistakes. None of us is perfect – we are all continually learning and growing.
    • What was the highlight of your day? Determining this will give you clues as to what is most important and fulfilling to you, and what you can spend more time and effort on in the future.
  17. Work with other professionals. Don’t try to go it alone. Know when to delegate. Learn to make (mutually beneficial) use of other people.
  18. Draw a line between personal and professional. If you’re working at home, do not let the dirty laundry or dishes give you an excuse to become distracted from your work, if you are on “work” hours. When you’re working, work. When you’re not, don’t.
  19. Take good care of yourself: good nutrition, exercise, sufficient sleep (7 to 8 hours a night), and stress management. Schedule at least 30 minutes a day for some down time. Use that 30 minutes to meditate, read a book, call a friend, or whatever activity relaxes and refreshes you.
  20. Get outside for at least a few minutes every day. Change of scenery may spark your creative mind which takes us out of just surviving and more into thriving. A 10-minute walk outside will also give you some exercise, boost your endorphins, and lower your anxiety level.
  21. Try to maintain a positive attitude.
    • Appreciate and list the good things in your life – what you’re grateful for.
    • Don’t compare yourself to other people – run your own race.
    • Don’t let your emotions dictate what you will (or will not) do that day. Sometimes you’ll need to practice tough self-love in order to do those things you’re been putting off.

Self-love and self-compassion are essential. As a freelancer, you don’t have a boss (other than yourself) to give you a performance review or promotion. Be your own cheerleader, in addition to having a few supportive other people on your side.

 

25 Steps To A Healthy Work-Life Balance When You’re Your Own Boss


Rachel Fintzy Woods, MA, LMFT

Rachel Fintzy Woods, M.A., LMFT is a licensed psychotherapist in Santa Monica, California. Rachel counsels in the areas of relationships, the mind/body connection, emotion regulation, stress management, mindfulness, emotional eating, compulsive behaviors, self-compassion, and effective self-care. Trained in both clinical psychology and theater arts, Rachel works with people to uncover and develop their unique creative gifts and find personal fulfillment. For 17 years, Rachel has also been conducting clinical research studies at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the areas of mind/body medicine and the interaction of psychological well-being, social support, traumatic injury, and substance use. You can read more about Rachel at her website: http://www.rachelfintzy.com


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APA Reference
Fintzy Woods, R. (2019). 25 Steps To A Healthy Work-Life Balance When You’re Your Own Boss. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 19, 2019, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/cultivating-contentment/2019/03/25-steps-to-a-healthy-work-life-balance-when-youre-a-free-lancer/

 

Last updated: 3 Apr 2019
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network (blogs.psychcentral.com) prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.