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Carving out “me time” can help give you the energy and focus you need.

Self-care and taking time to rest, stay healthy, and accomplish other goals besides work—we’re all familiar with these principles. Articles and blog posts often emphasize their importance.

Ironically, however, they can seem harder to achieve as a freelancer than a full-time employee! My schedule as a freelance writer and editor is supposed to be flexible and under my control. Yet for a long time, I couldn’t seem to get past the unhealthy habit of forsaking all else in my life and hunkering down to finish a job—then accepting yet another one.

There’s always the excuse of the inherent insecurity of freelance life: worry over losing a client or not bringing in enough money.

But what else was stopping me from finishing the novel I’ve been writing for years, in the hours when I wasn’t working? Perhaps you can recognize some of your own habits below; these obstacles can halt any pursuit, creative or otherwise:

  • Lack of discipline to write (or do whatever it is you want to do) regularly, at about the same time most days of the week
  • Not (writing) until or unless inspiration “strikes”
  • Waiting for free time to open up, or magically appear between jobs

The following strategies helped me tackle those issues and get out of my rut:

  • Take even just a few minutes for yourself, every day: get outside; go for a walk, swim, or bike ride; read (for pleasure!) a magazine, book or some other non-work-related material; make or cook something; get a massage, do yoga or meditate—even house- or yardwork can be mindful and keep your focus in the present moment.
  • Create concrete and achievable goals, whether daily, weekly, or monthly. For example: “write every day for an hour at noon,” “revise book chapter tomorrow,” “submit story by week’s end,” “writer’s retreat/residency this summer,” “finish book by next year.”
  • Put these goals in writing: on a bulletin board you can always see, on a physical calendar/agenda, in your phone, Google calendar, Evernote, etc. This way your priorities stay foremost in your mind, not buried by mundane stuff like work, bills, and email.

Since I began putting this plan into action, I find it easier to visualize how close I am to my goals, and to make time for things that give me pleasure or respite. Once I go for that bike ride, I come back with a clearer head, full of energy and ready to continue with the next task of my day.

Irene is a freelance writer and editor and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She enjoys hiking, loafing, and a good book on a rainy day.