Freelancing has some incredible benefits: flexible schedules, choosing who you work with, and variety in what you work on. But with great benefits comes great responsibility. You have to get comfortable with the uncertainty of not always knowing where your next client is coming from. You have to take control of your healthy downtime (no one’s going to force you to take a vacation). Sometimes, freelancers get so used to living with this low-level stress that they forget it’s there. Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic pill to get rid of stress altogether (sorry if that stresses you out). But there are a few habits you can cultivate that will, in time, naturally bring down your stress levels.
Low-grade stressors like traffic, deadlines, and constantly needing to make delayed-gratification decisions (“Should I eat salad or cake for lunch?”) all add up to make modern humans an anxious wreck. Stress isn’t going away, (although you can and should remove unnecessary stressors), but mindfulness of your anxious thought patterns can help freelance life be less of a roller coaster. Meditation is one method—training your mind by sitting, focusing on your breath, and recognizing your thoughts and feelings as phenomena, instead of being caught up in their drama. If being alone with your thoughts sounds like torture, try simply making a list of your fears and how you might resolve them. For example, you might write, “I’m not getting enough sleep.” Then write an actionable explanation, like, “I take on too much and work too late,” or “I have a newborn and I just have to wait until their sleep schedule evens out.” Even if the solution isn’t possible yet, having an understanding of what or when it might be more manageable can give you an end in sight.
Go on an Information Diet
Getting a constant feed of he-said-she-said from your partisan social media bubble isn’t doing your mental state any favors. Staying informed doesn’t mean you need hourly updates on every egregious political reform, the current state of COVID, or whatever environmental catastrophe is currently besetting the world. At the very least, narrow your news focus to a handful of topics that you really care about and are motivated to take action on. Remember, you don’t have to have an opinion about everything!
Focus on What You Can Control
What could you do now or during a short downtime that would make life easier for future you? You can choose to prep veggies before putting them in the fridge so you have healthy snack options and simplified dinners all week. You can choose to take a nap after lunch. You can choose to respond calmly to an upset client. You can choose to turn off screens a half hour before your ideal bedtime. You can choose to participate (go vote!) in a democracy. Focus on what is within your control and let the rest go.
Organize Your Work
At the end of each day, set aside five minutes to check things off your todo list and pick 1-3 of your most important tasks for tomorrow. Rather than starting your morning with uncertainty about what you’re supposed to be doing, you can trust in you of yesterday’s priorities and leave yourself to focus on a healthy morning routine.
Then, at the end of each workweek, take a higher-level look at your to do list. This is especially important when you feel overwhelmed with a nebulous feeling of having too much on your plate. This can also help you concentrate on long term projects, not just the urgent important (Check our the Eisenhower matrix for more on this productivity rule). An hour is ideal, but even a half-hour to look at your calendar, review your projects, turn your notes into todos, and map out an overview of your upcoming week brings a clear mind so you can enjoy your time off and confidently greet the coming week. (If this sounds familiar, it’s an abbreviated version of the weekly review routine from David Allen’s Getting Things Done.)
Organize your space
Whether it’s your home office or just your home, cleaning and decluttering can give you a sense of control over your space. Channel your inner Marie Kondo and pick a specific area to focus on—a closet, a junk drawer, attic, etc. Anything that doesn’t bring you joy or doesn’t serve a purpose anymore can be donated (or thrown away). Best of all, donating stuff you don’t need makes you happier and healthier.
Remember Your Why
This tip is an often forgotten element of stress management. A study from University of Wisconsin found that having a clear purpose and drive behind your work gives people the ability to rebound faster from stressors—both within your control and outside it. However, it can be particularly difficult to link back to your purpose when the challenges come from something systemic or lasting (like a pandemic, a fraught election, or an economic downturn). But simply having a raison d'être or reason for being can keep you grounded to yourself and your personal goals.
No matter what direction the political pendulum swings this November, Artisan is here to help take the stress out of finding great projects and companies to work with.
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