So many of us believe that working from home is a guarantee to achieving work-life balance. It sounds like a no-brainer, right? You don’t need to commute, don’t need to need to waste time putting together the perfect work-day outfit, don’t have to rush through breakfast. To the harried office-goer, freelancing or working-from-home seems like the panacea for all evils.
But the truth is, work-life balance can be challenging even for freelancers. Let me count the ways.
First, since you’re at home, you’re expected to do most of the chores and errands. And if you have kids, especially really young kids, then you have the added fun of running around to get them fed, bathed etc. etc.
But it’s more than that. As a freelancer, you don’t have the benefit of the necessary routine of a job to keep you disciplined, unless you decide to make one for yourself. Slacking off can be very easy, as many a freelancer has discovered.
On the other hand, some freelancers may find themselves taking on too much work now that they supposedly have more time. And this can lead to burnout.
So, here are a few ways to find that balance in your work and life:
1. Let go of the perfectionism: Wanting to finish every single thing in your already-long to-do list, no matter how minor or non-urgent, means you’ll be tearing your hair out in frustration with every delay or every new thing that comes up (and come up it will). So, ease up on the perfectionism. It’s okay if the house is a mess now and then. It’s okay if a few things on your daily to-do list go unfinished. Remember to not sweat the small stuff and to live a little. In other words, don’t miss the forest for the trees.
2. Delegate: If you’re one of those happy, lucky, hard-working freelancers who have too much work on their plate but feel bad about turning down additional projects given the fickle nature of the business, you may want to consider hiring an assistant to do some of the legwork — research, posting, marketing etc. On the other hand, even if you’re managing to get your work done by yourself, hiring domestic help (for cooking/cleaning etc.) when possible can free up your time for things like spending time with family, stepping out to meet friends/clients, exercising etc.
3. Pick your battles: So, your assistant has an annoying habit. Or, your maid is a generally good worker but will happily take time off every now and then. Let it go. As long as these things don’t affect your schedule or seriously mess up your work, accept that everyone has their quirks. Save your energy and breath for the real deal-breakers. Of course, everyone will have their own take on what’s a deal-breaker for them. Do what works best for you.
4. Take a break: For the enthusiastic newbie freelancer, or even for an experienced one, the high of getting and pursuing interesting new assignments can sometimes lead to burnout. So, pace yourself. Take a break from long hours at the computer. Even looking away from your workstation every few minutes can offer some much-needed rest for your eyes from all the squinting.
5. Cut down on TV: For a whodunnit and sitcom addict like me, the new/old wave of sumptuous TV programming (yes, I’m talking Castle, The Good Wife, New Girl, Scandal, House of Cards, CSI, Law & Order etc. etc…*sigh*) can sometimes be too hard to resist. But when I’ve been disciplined enough to ignore the yearning (okay, ahem, when the cable Gods have suddenly decided to crash due to bad weather), I’ve found my productivity soaring.
6. Exercise and eat well: All of us know by now that regular exercise and eating well can improve not just your health but also your focus. And yet, ‘creative’ people get extra creative in coming up with excuses to not do this. That includes me. But I’m going to change (really!).
7. Get organized: Creating daily/weekly to-lists is a great way to help yourself stay on schedule. Also, writing down or clarifying your career or personal goals can help you stay focused too.
How do you maintain a work-life balance?