The line between “work” and “personal” is often thinner for freelancers than it is for other workers. After all, it’s hard to leave the office at home when the office… is the home.
When that line is so thin, it can be hard to manage spillover. Before you know it, you’re obsessively checking your professional email on family holidays and boring your spouse with endless obsession over the flaws of whatshername in Project Management.
Some of this overlap is inevitable. But balance is key to finding happiness personally and professionally. Fortunately, a few simple guidelines can help you even out your commitments – without robbing yourself of opportunities.
Don’t take out stress on loved ones:* *
Listen, you cannot completely compartmentalize your life – or at least, you, ah, shouldn’t.
It is natural and healthy to talk about, examine, and reflect on your work life with the people in your personal life. The problem arises when you take out the frustrations of your work life on your loved ones.
Don’t do this. Your boyfriend is not responsible for Donna in Accounting. He would probably also like to tell Donna where to send that late invoice, okay?
But taking it out on him is not fair – and it won’t ultimately reduce your stress levels. At some level, you’ll feel guilty for your misplaced anger… which will lead to more stress. Which will lead to more anger! Which will lead to more stress. Which… you get the picture.
If you’re super-stressed, feel free to vent to your loved ones. But don’t make that your ONLY method of stress relief.
Find some self-soothing stress relief techniques: meditation, yoga, exercise, punching a pillow repeatedly, writing angry screeds and tearing them up.
There is a middle ground between isolation and making others responsible for your work. Take steps to reduce your stress independently; that will help you balance your healthy need for commiseration.
You can talk about work all you want here (membership is free!)
Don’t become one-note:
Yes, you probably love your work – or, at the least, have a love/hate relationship with your work. Don’t let it become capital-E Everything.
All work and no play makes for a dull, dull freelancer – what’s more, your work suffers when you have no perspective. Obsessing endlessly about your clients, gigs, and productivity is bad for your work, and bad for your personal life. Resist the temptation.
I assume (hope) you arrange time for physical breaks within your workday; similarly, make time to de-plug entirely from work.
Spend quality time with your loved ones. Take up a silly hobby or two. Every aspect of your life will benefit.
Don’t confuse work setbacks with personal setbacks:
We will all screw up an assignment someday. We will all get a bad evaluation, or run smack into a nasty note. We will all get let go from a gig, or get kicked off a project, or clash with a boss.
It’s easy to judge your self-worth by your professional performance; after all, you take pride in your work, and it hurts to fail. But success is no indicator of intrinsic worth.
It doesn’t mean you’re a good person – or the opposite. Indeed, present success isn’t even a sure indicator of future success. “Success” is a transitory, temporary, subjective condition – and often has very little to do with our character.
Try to keep professional setbacks in perspective (I know this can be really hard). It will help you bounce back faster from ‘failures’, and maintain your self-esteem.
You may indeed have a terrible, messed-up workday and emerge with your sense of self intact – because that is NOT ALL THERE IS. You are worth more than any temporary slip-ups (or even any temporary victories)!
You always have more to offer.
Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.