But freelancing isn’t always a bed of roses, and in a lot of ways can be even more stressful than working for an employer.
We’ve all heard the stories about hard-working freelancers burning themselves out (and in some cases, we’ve been the subjects of those stories). But it doesn’t have to be that way. Before you burn out, tune in — and use — these time-tested tips to keep freelancing stress to a minimum.
Powerful Ways To Combat Freelancing Stress
- Stick to a schedule. A huge amount of our daily stress is caused by commitment overload — feeling pulled in a hundred different directions at once. Deciding what you’re going to work on each day and laying out your tasks in order can help you focus and dial down the stress. If you know you’ll get to other tasks later in your schedule, it’s easier to push them out of your thoughts in the here and now. Sounds simplistic — but most stressed-out people aren’t doing this.
- Schedule downtime. If you work yourself to the bone and then feel like you need to take a break or you’ll snap, you’re likely to take longer breaks than you need to just to recover (and in some cases, you’ll just throw in the towel for the day). You know your limits better than anyone, so when planning your workday schedule some time for yourself before you know you’ll reach your breaking point.
- Make downtime restorative. When most people take breaks, they just do something to distract themselves — a little YouTube, a little web-surfing, or some other “empty calorie” equivalent. If you get caught up in that, you’ll never feel refreshed afterward. Make breaks an opportunity to do something to balance work and play — devour those novels you’ve meant to read, hit the treadmill or yoga mat for 15 minutes, or just take a walk and appreciate your life. More balance = a happier you.
- Shut out distractions. If you’re feeling overworked, maybe it’s because you’re working at half the speed you’re capable of. As fun as Twitter, Gmail notifier and their lot are, the addictive thrill of instant notifications is probably draining your ability to focus and slowing you down. Experiment with shutting down your external internet stuff for one- or two-hour blocks and compare your focus and stress levels with how you feel when you’re “always on” — there’s a noticeable difference.
- Define a quitting time. If you don’t have a time you’ve set to close up shop, you’re going to be plugged in so much that you’ll never feel like you can relax. Set the most important part of business hours — quitting time — and stick to it. You’ll find your focus improve instantly, and if you fall behind you’ll discover that it’s less stressful to show up earlier tomorrow to catch up than it is burning the midnight oil.
- Stop tolerating and start demanding. The saying “you have what you tolerate” is 100% true — and it’s something that’s directly under your control. If you’re stressed about your current working conditions, you have to take responsibility and realize that you’re living according to the level of life you’ve decided to tolerate. You want to be free of something? Stop tolerating it. Decide you’re going to raise your standards and demand that you fix the things you don’t like about your freelancing life.
- Get inspired to grow. Read the Four Hour Workweek or The E-Myth Revisited to get a healthy dose of motivation to design a freelancing lifestyle that gives you more of what you want with less of the stress you’re experiencing now. It’s hard not to read these books without feeling inspiration well up in you. And since you can get them on the cheap at Half.com, you’ve got no excuse to put them in your own library ASAP.
What Are Your Favorite Stress-Busting Tips?
When it comes to defusing freelancing stress, these strategies are only the tip(s) of the iceberg. Add your tactics of choice in the comments below and pave the way for a less stressful freelancing career for everybody. I’ll see you in the comments!