It’s getting very close to the end of the year and if you are anything like me your internal batteries will be running very low. But the fact is that very few of us freelancers will take the opportunity for a break this holiday season. A combination of the fear of missing out on assignments and simply running to keep up mean that this Christmas will see many of us sneaking away from the family festivities to fire up the laptop.
The signs are all there, but I’ve been steadfastly ignoring them for some time. I’ve developed a back problem from sitting at my desk all day and into many evenings, phone calls to friends have got shorter and less frequent, my temper is short. Is this resulting in new or better work? No.
But it’s the every day symptoms that are really get in the way of progress for most of us. Staring at the screen for hours hoping for inspiration to strike, trying to summon the energy to be even half good at what you are doing.
Honestly? I want to give up right now.
Most of us feel like this at one point or another in our independent careers. So this year, why not stop? Pause. Reboot.
To reboot successfully, you’ll need a plan to make the most of your break. Here’s our 5-step reboot programme for stressed out freelancers.
1. Daily time for thinking
I’m going to allocate at least half an hour or more every day for the whole period to thinking. Really deep thinking time. Walking or running is great for this and you get the added bonus of aerobic activity and a sense of clarity from just being outdoors and getting a bit of exercise.
Not having time to think is stressful in itself, particularly if your career depends on your ability to think around problems. So don’t see this as a luxury. Make it part of your everyday routine.
2. Be a bit selfish
Do you find it hard to say no? When you are your own boss, the onus is on you to keep all the balls in the air, from finding new clients to keeping them happy and making sure that all the other administration is done. Life gets in the way too, usually when you least want it too.
You don’t have to be super man or woman. You should be a little selfish sometimes. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t look after your friends and family, just that you need time to recuperate and nurture yourself sometimes. If you don’t, you will eventually run out of steam and could even make yourself ill.
We all have different ways of recuperating. Find yours and stick with it.
3. An early spring clean
A bit like the in tray, our working environment can often suffer neglect when there’s lots of other stuff happening and tidying up is low on the priority list. The problem is that the worse it gets, the worse it makes you feel. Not being able to put your hand on that missing receipt or find the stapler, or important paperwork will only add to the feeling that things are getting out of control.
Spending a day tidying up, cleaning and filing does wonders for your sense of wellbeing and will give you a lift.
4. Be honest about what I really want to do
There is no point in going it alone in your career if you aren’t honest with yourself about what you want out of life. Chasing someone else’s dream or doing what you think you ‘should’ be doing isn’t going to make you happy. That said, we can often start off with a clear vision about what we want to do, but lose sight of that dream when things aren’t going so well.
Take time to think (see point one in your plan!) and write down what makes you happy. Think about what steps you need to take to make that happen and what you’ll do next. You may be surprised!
Taking the external pressure off yourself to perform will do wonders for you and you may find that you actually become far more productive as a result of having reconnected with your passions.
5. Set out a plan to pay for it
We are often held back from leaving situations that we aren’t happy in – like jobs, or not taking a vital next step because we believe that we can’t pay for it. If you already have a lifestyle that you have grown used to, it might be more difficult to let go. But setting out a realistic plan to allow yourself to cover your costs whilst making those changes will put you firmly in control of it.
Beware however. Doing things differently is uncomfortable. That’s why we become adept at continually making the same mistakes. but stay with it.
Right. I’m having a day off and I’m off to the shops having spent an hour staring into nothing. So far, so good! Now all I have to do is to shut down the laptop..