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Summer is here and the living is easy, right?
Well, that depends. As a freelancer, you know well that the ebb and flow of freelance work can be unpredictable. You might have plans for a long weekend at the beach with family and friends, then you get a call from your biggest client with a last-minute request that will take you most of the weekend to accomplish. You don’t dare say no, because repeat customers are the bread and butter of the freelance life. You give up your weekend for the sake of the job, knowing that you’re not alone.
Naturally, you’re disappointed, or even depressed, as you watch everyone head to the beach without you. You had grand plans for a good time with family and friends—or perhaps some precious downtime under a beach umbrella with the latest bestseller.
How, then, can you give yourself a break?
Realign your expectations
The first and most important thing to do is realign your expectations. Because of the ebb-and-flow nature of freelance work, you know a free weekend will come along—and if it’s too cold for the beach, you can hit the ski slopes instead.
Meanwhile, don’t let your disappointment make you settle for all-or-nothing thinking. If you can’t do what you intended to do on your long weekend, find other, smaller ways to rejuvenate in the meantime.
Another consequence of disappointment and depression is often the inability to think creatively. That can be a problem for your work, but it’s also a problem for your rejuvenation plan. For that reason, here are some suggestions for giving yourself a break, depending on what kind of timeframe your work schedule allows.
Just because a rush job has filled your weekend, you don’t have to chain yourself to your office. In fact, that’s a really bad idea from a physiological perspective. We all need to take mini-breaks whenever we work. Here are some suggestions for breaking up a busy workday.
- Take a beach ball out in the backyard and toss it up in the air a dozen times.
- Visit a photography website with beautiful images or videos.
- Walk around your block. Pretend you’re visiting it for the first time. What do you notice?
- Mix up a quick batch of your favorite cookie dough. Let it sit in the fridge while you work some more. Bake one tray when you’re needing a pick-me-up during your low-energy time of day.
- Break out the crayons and draw for five minutes.
If you only have an hour (or two) available, you’ll still need to stick close to home. Here are some ideas for activities that can get you away from the computer and reconnected with the world around you.
- Go to the closest park and fly a kite.
- Take that bestseller to the park and sit on your beach towel in the shade of the biggest tree you can find.
- Search out the closest museum and go discover something new about your town or city.
- Find a local pond and feed the ducks.
- Head to the nearest bookstore and browse. Don’t head for your favorite section right away. Instead, choose an area you never visit and see what you find.
If you have a whole afternoon
One of the advantages of weekday afternoons is that lots of folks are at work, while you’ve got freedom to do what you want. Here are some ideas for rejuvenating when you’ve got a longer stretch of time.
- Find an after-school ballgame and go cheer on the kids. You don’t have to know anyone on a team to believe that every child deserves to hear “good job” yelled from the stands.
- Head to the local public pool for a swim. It might not be the same as a beach, but the people-watching is probably just as good!
- Take public transportation to a part of town you’ve never been before. Look out the window and really notice what you see.
- Go buy something new at the grocery store and learn how to prepare it for dinner.
- Go to the local plant nursery and wander the aisles. Discover new plants, see what’s blooming, learn what plants might work in your own yard or on your apartment deck.
If you have a whole day
Sometimes that ebb-and-flow thing works the other way. You expect to have a big job coming and clear the decks, then the client says you won’t see it until tomorrow.
You’ve got a free day! You could clean the house or catch up on the laundry (or make some cold calls to find additional work!), but why not choose to take some time for yourself?
Here are some suggestions for taking advantage of those unexpected free days:
- Call a nearby retreat center or B&B and see if they have a room available just for the day.
- Take yourself to a local spa for some pampering.
- Go hike on a nearby mountain, or in a forest, or along a stream. Take some photos on your phone so you can keep them as reminders when you did have some downtime.
- Browse the art galleries in the nearest quirky town.
- Head for that beach after all. Yes, you might not be able to bring friends and family, but if your kids missed having you at the beach party last weekend, pull them out of summer daycare and take them with you.
There are endless possibilities for rejuvenation when you take the time to think about it. Some of these cost more than others, but others will only cost the gas or transit fare it takes to get you there.
Just remember: These times will come. When you have to give up one opportunity because of your busy freelance life, give thanks, and know that another rejuvenation opportunity will come along.
Shirin McArthur is an editor, writer and writer coach who lives in Arizona and specializes in spiritual works and memoirs. She is also a photographer, spiritual guide and retreat leader who focuses on self-care for busy ministers and freelancers.