Anyone who freelances will tell you that there is your life is a constant juggling act as you try to manage life, clients and simple day-to-day administration. Some of us even get quite good at it. You know what they say about going to a busy person if you want something done.
But it also means that there’s very little wriggle room when something unexpected happens. Ask any self-employed person and they will tell you that sudden illness or something that renders them unable to work is their nightmare scenario.
But it can also be the short-term problems. We’ve all had those times when you are left wondering how you could possibly get everything on your to-do list done, be that client work or urgent domestic issues that simply need sorting. And that’s usually the point where you feel your energy is at its lowest.
So what can you do to deal with the unexpected? It may feel like you have no options, but there are some practical things you can do to keep the show on the road:
1. Stop and give yourself a break.
I don’t mean a holiday (although if you can, that’s always a good idea). I mean literally put your ‘tools’ down and accept that things aren’t going to be normal for a while, work out what absolutely needs to be done and cross out all that extraneous clutter that you have come to accept as normal.
So, stop looking at your email inbox for example and worrying that you haven’t responded to so-and-so. If they really need you they will recontact you. If not, no harm done. Stop trying to fit in hundreds of networking events because you feel that you need to be out there hustling for the next client project. They’ll still be there when you are back on the waggon.
Taking a break from the normal treadmill is an essential part of accepting that you are not super-human. Well, maybe you are, but even super heroes need a break!
2. Ask for help.
Almost all of us are bad at this. Why do you do it? What are you trying to prove?
You’ll be amazed at how readily people are prepared to fall in behind you to help you. Whether that’s temporarily picking up your domestic chores whilst to plough on with the client work, or helping you work out a thorny work issue.
Delegate some of the responsibility for now. Noone will think any worse of you and they’ll probably admire your stamina anyway. Your real friends and collaborators want to see you succeed, because it’s in no ones interest to see you fail.
Arianna Huffington reckons that sleep is the absolute must for anyone, and I think this applies particularly to those of us who are working for ourselves. When you’re already stressed about not having enough time to get everything done, getting to bed early and not working through the night seems counter-intuitive.
But common sense should tell you that we need sleep for a reason. It recharges you and allows you to grab your waking hours by the scruff of the neck and get up and at ‘em. That’s not how you feel after a disrupted night’s sleep.
So by all means get up early, but try and get your full 8 hours sleep. You know it makes sense.
Let’s face it, we could all do with getting some better habits, whether that’s eating healthier, getting more exercise or getting our work and home life in harmony.
Often, it’s the unexpected events that cause us to revaluate the way we live. So perhaps it’s time for a few adjustments to help you get a sense of perspective and actually to help you cope with the tough and crisis times. I can’t promise you’ll never have these, but I can say that having more energy and feeling fitter certainly helps you cope.
5. Hear the good stuff
If you’ve got your head down dealing with a crisis, it can feel like you are completely alone and this is when your confidence is at its lowest ebb. This is where your friends and supporters come in. They’ll remind you of how resilient you are and how much they value you.
And when you get through it (I have every confidence that you will….!), don’t forget to keep an eye on your comrades and collaborators. Give back some of that goodwill that you’ve received. It’s what makes the world go round and you never know when you’ll need to draw on that goodwill again.