The balancing act: Juggling work, life, and healthy boundaries
Living that #bosslesslife is one of the best parts of freelancing. No one tells you when to clock in, what to do, or how you should do it.
At the same time, no one tells you when to clock out, what to do, or how you should do it.
As much as we love the flexibility and freedom of working for yourself, it can also be a major pitfall. Many freelancers end up spending way more time working than they would at a typical job. And since you make the rules, it’s easy to let work bleed into your personal life.
Being happy in your life and with your work (the ultimate goal), means building a life with boundaries and balance. Keeping your work and life separate is essential to fully enjoying your family, home, and activities.
This advice will also help you reclaim your mental space. We don’t want you to bear the burden of constantly thinking or worrying about your work and finances. You have a great life to live and this chapter will help you claim it.
When you don’t define your lines, it’s easy to cross them. Setting boundaries gives you space from your job and improves your focus during work hours. Everyone’s boundaries look different, but they all offer similar benefits, such as:
- Lower stress
- Improved physical and mental health
- Higher productivity
- Better/more sleep
- More time with loved ones
- Healthier client relationships
- Less risk of burnout
People weren’t made to sit at their desks all day or strategize constantly about their jobs. With a few boundaries, you can offer your best in every area of your life.
Defining your work/life balance
Not having a set schedule is great, but it often leads to work creeping into your personal time. When you’re always on, your brain can’t recharge like it needs to.
Structuring your day into a set but still flexible schedule keeps you motivated during your work hours. You’ll learn to be better at prioritizing and organizing your work when you know you only have so much time to get it done. When the end of the workday arrives, pack it all in until the next day. Along with getting a much-needed break, you will be more present with your friends and family in the time you have together.
As you create your schedule, ask yourself:
- Am I okay with working nights or weekends?
- If a client has an urgent request on Friday evening, am I willing to bend the rules to accommodate them?
- What is my ideal work schedule? (Do you work better at night? If it works with your personal schedule, become a night owl! As long as it works for you, it’s a good choice.)
When your boundaries are clearly defined, you will be better at sticking to them.
Learn to disconnect
In our digital world, everyone can be on all the time. Taking time away from the office is useless if you keep checking your emails and making notes for projects.
Instead, work on being present in all areas of your life. Give what you’re doing and who you’re with your full attention. You will strengthen your relationships and make lasting memories that you might have missed. It also allows you to have fresh eyes when you return to your work, improving your effectiveness.
One way to achieve this is to set rules for your off-time. Some things to think about include:
- Will you view and/or respond to client communication during off-hours?
- Does work have a place on vacation? If not, are there any exceptions?
Your family, friends, and significant others offer excellent sounding boards for these boundaries. They are the ones that are affected the most by this problem and can give you honest feedback about what they think is best.
How to improve your productivity
Deadlines are often the biggest boundary breakers. When work is due yet unfinished, you have no choice but to get things done — no matter the time of day.
So, how can you improve your focus during work hours to avoid working overtime?
Learn what works for you
Organization starts with the right tools. Find resources that can help you stay on top of your work and deadlines. A tool like Hectic, for example, can help you track your time, keep up with tasks and deliverables, schedule your work effectively, and keep everything in one place. Managing all of your needs together ensures nothing slips through the cracks and leaves you trying to catch up.
Sometimes, the right tool isn’t software or hardware, but good advice. Read books about productivity, freelancing, and bettering your craft on a regular basis. Podcasts are a great way to get tips while driving or exercising. You won’t use everything you see or hear, but even the smallest change can bring incredible benefits.
Did you know we have a podcast? Tune in every week to learn good freelancer habits, ways to avoid common mistakes, and the best ways to confidently pursue your career — all from freelancers just like yourself! Give The Hectic Podcast a listen for an easy way to hear from top freelancers in their industry and start transforming your business.
Start good habits, such as getting ready in the morning, staying off your phone, and only checking your email once an hour. These little rituals can put you in the right mode to sit down and get stuff done.
Last but not least, give yourself regular breaks. If you find yourself staring at the screen or stuck on a problem, go get a snack, water your plants, or do some yoga. These short reprieves nudge your brain awake and restore your focus for the next task.
Create the right workspace
As a freelancer, you can work from anywhere. But...you probably shouldn’t.
Your environment strongly affects your focus. Some people need a lot of noise, such as background chatter or a sound machine, to get in the zone. For others, loud places offer endless distractions.
We recommend creating a space dedicated to your work. For most people, this is a home office or a shared workspace. Whatever shape it takes, make sure it allows you to shut out distractions, preferably with a door. If you can find a place with plenty of natural light, space, and quiet, you’ve hit the workspace jackpot.
Keep your space fresh by changing it up every now and then.
Isn’t that exciting?
Care for your mental health
Many independent workers operate from home. As great as this can be, it’s also easy to forget about the world outside. Avoid becoming a hermit by being intentional about seeing other people. Meet a friend for brunch, join a local group, or call your family and friends for warm conversation throughout the week.
Getting outside for some fresh air is another way to take care of your mind and body. You could join a sports team or do yoga with a group in the park. Since your work schedule isn’t a significant obstacle, you even have the freedom of taking a midday class! If you’re not athletically gifted, taking a stroll down the street or hiking on a nearby trail offers low-impact exercise that is both pleasant and beneficial.
Most importantly, take a vacation at least once a year.
Crazy as it sounds, vacations can be a sore subject for freelancers. Not only are you paying for the experience, but you’re also losing any income you would typically make during your time off.
Though you don’t have any PTO, vacations are critical for your well-being. Even if it’s a staycation or a trip to visit loved ones, dedicate a chunk of time to getting away from your routines and responsibilities. Rest, relaxation, and resetting are the perfect remedies for burnout and stress. After a genuine break, you’ll come back with more energy to devote to your work.
When you do decide to get away, don’t forget to give your clients a heads up. Set up an automatic out-of-office message for your email, letting people know that you’re disconnected for a bit and when you’ll be back. If you work closely with specific clients, you can also send a quick message to help them plan around your absence.
You should also avoid taking time off during big projects. If you’ve committed to something, make sure you’re available to fulfill your agreed-upon role until it’s finished.