We’ve all heard the familiar time management tips, productivity tips, tips on how to focus and tips on tapping into creativity. But what some of us need is serious practice in bringing balance to our lives.
We freelancers are a motivated bunch. We take the time to learn the greatest technologies and stay on top of industry standards. We work hard on behalf of our clients, better known as our bosses. (And I’ll bet you thought being a freelancer meant you were going to be your own boss…)
Here are a couple things I’ve learned over the years about keeping balance in your life as you manage your own business.
Self-Care is Key
I don’t think I can stress this one enough. You have got to take this seriously, especially as you get older. How many times have you pushed yourself to your absolute limits leading up to an important event, opening, launch, etc.? You barely sleep, eat terribly, stress yourself to the max, and finally, it’s over! Then you crash. You come down with a huge cold, the flu, a stomach virus, whatever. It’s your body’s way of telling you, OK, I held it together when I needed to, but now you better pay attention to me.
This is really not the most practical way of doing things (overstating the obvious). If you must push yourself past your normal limits of endurance, then at least try to get enough sleep, minimize your coffee intake (at a certain point, it taps into non-existent resources and just drains your vital energy), and eat nourishing food. Fresh fruits and veggies are great, and not too many sugary, fried things. So yeah, the cronut and latte diet you had in mind is not going to be your best bet.
And don’t forget to exercise. Now don’t look at me like that – exercise is not a punishment. In fact, anything that involves working up a sweat by using different parts of your body will do. Getting your bones and muscles working keeps your heart pumping and your lungs nice and strong. Stretching on a regular basis (yoga!!) helps keep you from developing low back pain and other chronic muscle aches and spasms. Playing sports, going for long walks, having sex – these are all fun activities that will help you stay fit and relieve stress… yes indeed…
Make Time for Yourself and Your Family
Another vital piece in maintaining balance is making sure that you spend enough time doing fun things by yourself and with your loved ones. There’s a reason why we have weekends. There’s also a reason why we have vacations. You can’t just keep going without a break and not expect to lose your mind.
If you are worried about your level of productivity, then you should also want to program in time for relaxation and fun. You know as well as I do that there are times when you’d do better taking an extra-long lunch break than forcing yourself to sit at your desk, when all you’re doing is anxiously looking at the screen, or worse, relieving your anxiety by flitting all over Facebook or Twitter.
Remember the yin/yang symbol? That equal mix of black and white? It’s the symbol for duality in the universe. We have to give ourselves downtime to balance out the uptime. You might be tempted, but don’t feel guilty about needing to veg out in front of the TV at night, or indulging in other “time wasting” activities. Spend some time with your kids doing silly things, whenever possible… or your pets, or your nieces and nephews, or yourself. Read a book, write a poem, bake some quiche, knit something. Ride your bike. Go out to the movies. Have fun. You won’t regret it.