Guest post by Rae Steinbach, 15five.com / Published August 30, 2018
Working as a freelancer is unique. It allows you to choose when and how you work, which can be a blessing. As more companies hire remote workers, employee performance management software allows them to keep an eye on progress. However, freelancing can also be challenging in that you run the risk of burning out. This is the point at which you feel like there is just nothing left in the tank to motivate you to keep going with your work.
It can be exacerbated by tight deadlines, multiple responsibilities at work and home, or the feast and famine cycle that freelancing can sometimes present. The nature of creative work can occasionally make burnout harder to avoid, but it is possible by keeping a few things in mind and noticing signs you might be headed in that direction.
Spotting Burnout Before It Happens
Burnout is caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It’s typically accompanied by feelings of lethargy and cynicism towards your work, a lack of satisfaction from what you do, missing deadlines for no good reason, or a change in sleep habits (insomnia or excessively sleeping). Burned out employees may also attempt to self-medicate with food, alcohol, or drugs to feel better.
Having any one of these symptoms can indicate you’re headed for burnout, and all of them indicate that you’re already there. Before you start running too low, it’s wise to take some mitigating steps to look after yourself and your career.
The wide variety and range of projects that are open to you as a successful freelancer are sometimes hard to say no to. Or you may be afraid of losing income or client if you decline a project. Feeling like you just can’t keep up with your work or frequently missing deadlines is an undeniable sign that something with your schedule isn’t working and needs adjusting.
You need to set boundaries between work and life so that you can be at your best for your clients as well as yourself. If a project is too good to pass up but you have enough on your plate already, suggest a later date. It’s far better to be up front with your client than take on more than you can ever hope to complete.
Schedule your day to include breaks from technology, creative activities that have nothing to do with work, and moments of relaxation. Also be sure to get plenty of sleep. Something as simple as colouring in a picture for 5 minutes between projects or at set times each day will increase your productivity and renew your focus while guarding against burnout.
Reframe Your Work
On average, people in developed countries spend around 7 hours a day working, be it paid or unpaid work. The beauty of being an independent professional is deciding when you will achieve your tasks.
It is important as a freelancer to self-manage well. That means choosing to do various types of work at optimum times for your personal rhythms as often as possible. So, if hanging your wash out in the middle of the day and working first thing in the morning when your mind is fresh works best, go for it.
Understand your tendencies toward spending too long on crafting an email, researching, or focussing on various elements of what you create. Easily manage them by setting a timer for certain tasks or simply recognizing that not every aspect needs to be done to absolute perfection.
Focus on the parts of your work that you love and the benefits of the parts that aren’t so great. While invoicing and tax are a bore, getting paid is great. Create balance in your work and life by taking time to be with friends and family as well as working.
If you work alone and find that spending hours on your own is driving you toward burnout, consider using a coworking space a few days a week or month.
Eat Well and Exercise
Our minds and bodies are connected and our health inevitably impacts how well we think. Sitting at a desk is a creative freelancer’s habitual state.
Breaking up the day and week with regular exercise is important for reducing the effects of sedentary work. Just getting outside for some fresh air can do wonders for you. Eating healthily will also ensure that you are creating the environment your body needs to moderate your mood and aid clear thinking. Try setting a timer to get up and move at certain times each day, or ensure snack and lunch breaks include a little more movement beyond hand to mouth while you tap a keyboard.
Looking after yourself and creating habits that support a positive lifestyle both in and out of work will help you to guard against burnout. Keep an eye out for warning signs and don’t be afraid to say no, or work a little differently, to avoid creative burnout.