There was a time, not that long ago, when all of this was a side-hustle for me – I worked full-time at an incredible creative agency as a developer. I was writing code 40hrs/week, then coming home and along with another few hours of writing code, I was also taking care of everything else that comes with starting your own business. Calls, emails, updates, finances, scheduling, writing code until my eyes crossed. I know this is the story for most freelancers, and honestly, I loved and still love, simply doing the work – but sometimes…okay often, I loved doing the work a little bit too much.
I woke up hours before heading into the office, worked all day, came home and worked well into the night. I left no time for self-care, no time to fill my soul back up with things other than my work, heck this post isn’t even about finding the time when you’re still building a business on the side, because I didn’t strike a balance, but it is about finding the time when you do take the leap.
We all daydream about working for ourselves, being our own bosses, working from the beach. I dreamed about all the extra time I would have when I was no longer working a full-time job, but, while I’m totally living that dream now, time is strange and those 40 hours gained from leaving my job, simply got redistributed to new tasks and jobs. I actually found myself far busier because I felt like I had to say yes to every job I was offered, I wanted to make sure I could fill the gap left by my salary, but burn out is real. Aches and pains in my neck and hands, headaches and a total lack of motivation started wearing me down until one day I realized I couldn’t keep it up at the pace I was going, and that it’s a-okay.
Being independent is hard, I am learning something new every single day, but it is so much harder when you don’t take care of your number one employee first. These are a few things I’ve incorporated into my day to add a bit more balance:
1. Coffee First, then emails.
I’ve always been an early riser, and since the early days of us dating my partner and I have had a morning ritual. Wake up, sit and have a coffee together, and then get ready for work – this ritual is something that helps me start the day in a much calmer, happier way, connecting with him first. So when I started working from home and walking past the office on the way to the kitchen every morning it was impossible for me to not ‘just check a few emails’ first. When I let go of the ritual I realized how important it was to me, so I’m back to coffee first, then emails.
2. Treat the home office like any other office.
What I mean is, treat it like a destination – even if the destination is your couch. I went full sweatpants-mode when I started working from home full-time, which lasted about a week before I realized for me, part of feeling good is looking good, which means showering and putting on actual pants. So these days I shower and get ready before sitting down at my computer.*
3. Get outside.
Spending time outdoors is always something I can count on for hitting the reset button. When I’m stuck on a problem, uninspired, or just plain tired, getting outside even if it’s just for a quick walk around the block always seems to do the trick.
4. Take breaks.
We all get into the zone with our work, we’re lost in a project and look up for the first time six hours later, but breaks are oh so important. I usually take small breaks throughout the day and then around lunch time I’ll work-out for an hour before going back to work. I find it really helps me remain focused and solve problems that much faster.
5. End the day.
Without the routine of a drive home, it can be really difficult to stop working at the end of the day. I found myself still working at 10pm last night (old habits die hard), it takes discipline to be your own boss, but not only to get down and do the work, but also to know when it’s time to stop. I love to cook, so I find that cooking dinner is my way of winding down and turning off my work brain, a glass of wine helps too. So finding a thing, be it a yoga class or sitting down with a magazine, to be your drive home.
It takes effort to trust in the work you’re doing and not over-extend yourself, and it takes effort to actually make sure you’re taking care of yourself, along with everything else on your plate, but I’ve found that there is always time if you simply make the time.