As freelancers, we have to juggle so many tasks – from keeping multiple clients happy to taking care of the admin side of our business.
Add to that the chores that stack up when we’re on a deadline and the occasional misunderstanding about freelancers magically being available for errands at all times of day.
This is exactly when self-care should become a priority, not an afterthought. In this guest post, Aileen O’Leary advocates for putting on our own oxygen mask first and ditching the guilt that comes when we’re taking care of our own needs.
Here’s Aileen’s advice!
Have you heard of the law of diminishing returns?
Just in case you’re not familiar with it, the law of diminishing returns is a pretty simple principle with tremendous impact on our daily lives. It basically says that in any project, there comes a time when the level of benefit or productivity becomes lower than the amount of energy or work being invested.
Picture this: it’s almost midnight and you’re exhausted.
You got up at 4 AM to make sure you had enough time for all your projects. The deadline is in eight short hours, but you still have so much left to take care of. If you soldier on now, it will probably take a good two hours to finish. Alternatively, you could head to bed, get some sleep, and come back at 6 AM.
When you’re rested, that work will only take one hour and will likely be of a higher quality than anything you can produce when you’re exhausted.
Ok, that makes sense, but how do we keep from getting to that overly-caffeinated, zombie state in the first place? By practicing self-care of course!
It sounds simple but the first thing you have to do is get into the right mindset.
Here are a few tips to help you prioritize self-care as a freelancer.
1. Say Goodbye to Perfectionism
It sounds so simple, right?
We’re just going to throw perfectionism out the window. HA!
This is one of those things that’s definitely easier said than done.
The thing is, we really have to make an effort to do it in order to get into a mindset of prioritizing self-care.
Nobody is perfect, and striving to be is only going to lead to a downward spiral. I’m not suggesting we abandon our standards altogether; I’m just pointing out that perfectionism is what often drives us into that horrible state where we can’t see the forest for the trees.
2. Delegate the Extras
It may sound crazy, but even as solopreneurs, we can delegate.
I don’t know how others feel about this, but because I work from home, I feel this constant pressure to have a clean house.
Every day, I run around like a crazy person before my boyfriend gets home from work so that it looks like I “did something” that day.
That’s ridiculous, right? I did put in a lot of work for my business, but it’s all on my laptop. It’s really not reflected by the state of my coffee table.
A mama who works from home shouldn’t have to do all the cleaning, laundry and cooking.
As women, we need to make a greater effort to stop pretending we can do it all.
The best case scenario is to work out some kind of chores and errands schedule with our partners and our families. It’s really the only way to avoid burnout.
3. Think of the Oxygen Mask
I didn’t come up with this myself, but I still think it’s a great analogy for self-care.
Any airplane safety announcement always includes a section about the oxygen mask. They all say that we should fit our own masks before helping those around us. Fit our own masks first. That’s because if we pass out, we not only can’t help anybody else, but we’ve now become a hindrance and someone that needs to be helped.
Working from home is the same.
I’d guess that most readers have taken at least one of Gina’s courses, right? So we’ve all sat down and worked out our “why” for starting down this road. Mine is being able to contribute to my household income without having to sit in an office all day.
Well, how can I do that if I’m burned out?
How can I help my family if I’ve passed out from lack of oxygen?
4. Don’t Fall for the Comparison Trap
This is another one of those things that’s easier said than done.
We all know people who boast about not having slept, as though that’s something to be proud of. I’m here to tell you that it’s not. It’s important that we not compare our writing speed, social media following or monthly income to anybody else’s.
You have to keep in mind that every person is different.
We all have unique circumstances driving our freelance dreams. Again, I’m not suggesting we abandon goals or targets, but there’s a difference between falling into the comparison trap and pushing ourselves to improve. The former only brings frustration.
Don’t forget what Mark Twain said, “Comparison is the death of joy.”
5. Schedule Alone Time
A common suggestion I see for fitness programs is “schedule your workout.”
We need to start using the same principle for self-care. The problem I’ve found is that if anything needs to be rearranged in my calendar, the workout is the first thing to go. Why? Because I don’t prioritize my workouts. Instead, I prioritize self-care as a freelancer.
Part of learning to schedule alone time is choosing something less important that you’re willing to reschedule or cancel if a busy week threatens a pre-scheduled self-care routine.
And finally … give yourself permission to rest!
All of these tips and tricks are useless until we can give ourselves permission to rest.
There’s no point delegating tasks and scheduling alone time if, when we finally have even half an hour to ourselves, we spend the full 30 minutes feeling guilty.
That would be like going to a spa and spending the whole time stressing about work. What’s the point?
Each and every one of us deserves a break. We are worthy of rest. Not because we work so hard all the time (although we do), but just because we are human. The sooner we learn to accept and embrace that fact, the better we’ll start treating ourselves.
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Aileen is a recovering perfectionist and freelance writer. After struggling with her Type A personality and impostor syndrome, she founded epistoleary.com to help women find the freedom that comes from embracing imperfection.