Today I want to talk about the importance of not overworking yourself when you’re a freelancer. I’ve hit this point before when I wrote The Downsides of Working as a Freelancer, but there is a lot of misconceptions when it comes to the amount of work and free time that a freelancer actually has. Working for yourself means that you’re always wearing many “hats”, and, if you’re not careful, wearing those hats can really wear out your physical and mental health.
Earlier this year I went through a serious burnout. I had spent all last year working like a maniac trying to grow my business and acquire new skills along the way, while studying full-time, and eventually (of course) I hit a brick wall. It’s actually funny because it takes you some time to realize that the reason you haven’t been productive or interested in doing anything at all, is because you’re going through a burnout.
In the beginning, I would get angry at myself, and repeat over and over in my head that the reason I had no energy and could not focus on anything was because I was lazy. Every time I thought about resting I would tell myself that I was only wasting precious time that I could’ve been using doing something productive. What I didn’t realize at the time, however, was that taking care of myself and resting was just as important and “productive”, if not more. And not doing so was causing my lack of energy, focus, and interest.
It is impossible to perform at your best when your body and mind aren’t feeling healthy. And taking care of your health isn’t just going to the doctor for check-ups. I learned that to be truly “productive” I needed to exercise, eat well, spend time with family and friends, and make sure that I had time during my days set aside for hobbies and relaxing activities. It was only after I made these changes that I began noticing that not only I was feeling better, but I was also more productive, energetic, and ready to go!
I’m certainly one of those people that think they can take on the world, disregarding my most basic needs (sleep, food, social interactions, etc.). It took a lot of soul-searching to convince myself that sometimes doing something that may not look productive from the outside, is actually the best for you and your career. Wanting to take on the world all at once may seem nowadays as the only option. With the world moving this fast we’re conditioned to think that we need to be constantly working and being productive – how else can you keep up?! But I’ve come to learn that if you truly want to be the best at what you do, you need to be the best with yourself first. You can’t be the best version of yourself at work if you don’t try to be the best version of yourself in your personal life.
Do not follow my example and wait until your body decides on its own that it’s time to shut down for a while. So, go take that long walk around the neighborhood with your dog. Take that weekend trip with your friends. Watch some TV to distract your mind. Make time for hobbies that will relax you and take your mind off responsibilities – even if just for a little bit. You’ll come back refreshed and ready to hit the ground running, and work will feel way less stressful and a lot more enjoyable.
How do you make sure that you’re not overworking yourself? Have you ever experienced a burnout? Share your thoughts on the comments below!