This past weekend, I took a trip with friends. A weekend getaway spent with visiting 4 different lakes in 2 days, taking hikes, eating good and talking it all out. To be one safe side, I took my laptop with me, even though I knew I wasn't going to need it. Sure enough, it just sat there next to my bed, reminding me of work and making it a little harder for me to disconnect. I wondered: why do we, on the one hand, constantly strive to get some time away from work and then when we have the chance to do so, we find it hard to accomplish?
When I started freelancing and building my business, I was ready to work hard. I knew I had to hustle if I wanted to make this work and I definitely wanted to do so. Unfortunately, I mistook "working hard" for "working long hours" - or at least I thought one meant the other. I never set any real office hours which was fine by me, but it also made it difficult for me to stop at a certain point. And as you know in every job (even if you're Batman), the work is never done - which resulted in long nights spent in front of my laptop obsessing over details.
It took me some time to figure out that working hard also means working smart (someting the brilliant Maya Elious noticed a lot earlier than me) - using your time efficiently, prioritizing your workload and, most importantly, listening to yourself and no one else. So what if others tell you about their all-nighters? If you manage to get your work done in 5 hours instead of 10, not only will your clients thank you but you yourself will be able to spend the other 5 hours doing something else you want to do, whether that's doing a Target run or watch YouTube videos. It's obviously a work in progress - it seems that even after 3,5 years, I sometimes find it difficult to consciously uncouple from my job, even for just 2 days. Nevertheless, I do believe pursueing a life outside of your business is just as important as concentrating on your business itself.
Here are a few pointers that helped me in working smart and prioritize right:
- Invest in a great to-do list. Either choose one of the countless customizable options on Pinterest or simply come up with your own, as I did. I tend to fill them out every Sunday in order to see what the coming week will bring for me.
- Doesn't matter if you're a photographer, a designer or a journalist - make sure you squeeze in 30-45 minutes a day for the dreaded admin work. I usually do this at the end of the day to slowly wind down. Sometimes, I do this while wearing a knit cardigan and drink a glass of wine, #OliviaPopeStyle. OK, most of the time.
- Talk to other freelancers, even outside your niche. I always find it extremely interesting to find out how other people structure their days and what they are doing to work efficiently and be productive. Sure, everyone has their own preferences, but being able to organize your workload as you wish is one of the biggest benefits of being a freelancer; why not try new things?
- Last but not least: Know when to stop. Go outside. Have a break. Eat a cookie. Go somewhere without your laptop. Look up into the sky.
I'm curious: What do you do to get your mind off work completely, at least for a few hours? How do you unplug, figuratively and literally?
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