• Advice, Health

Why you, a freelancer, deserve some guilt-free time off

Rihanna once sang, “Work, work, work, work, work.” The beat was rhythmic and the lyrics memorable. Many of us still sing along when it streams or plays on a local radio station. Yes, many of us work, work, work, but are we equally committed to rest, rest, rest?

For too many of us, the answer is no. We’ve become so engrossed with staying busy that we often mistake it for productivity. Yet, productivity and busy-ness are not interchangeable. In fact, productivity often includes resting and being focused on your overall well-being — and that includes aligning your work with your life.

How's your alignment?

First, let’s talk about what alignment doesn’t look like. Constantly being on the go, not sleeping, not socializing with friends and family and /or overcommitting are all signs that your work/life may be imbalanced. They are also indicators that you are not taking care of the most important person in your life—you.

Contrary to popular belief and even societal pressures, putting you first is not selfish; however, it may feel slightly counter-intuitive. As someone who spent two decades of her life putting her career and others first, I woke up one day and decided that I needed to rethink how I was prioritizing my time. My life was imbalanced and work was being privileged over everything else.

Over time, I discovered that one of the most important components of life balance is self-care—the recognition that taking care of you enables you to maintain your overall well-being and wholeness. There is nothing quite like trying to get something finished or completed and you have very little energy. Think about a time in school, on the job, and/or in the community when you were just one drop away from being on E—empty.

In a fast paced, digitized society focused on outcomes and end goals, what might balance look like? I’d suggest that you start by looking at your current schedule. Ask: What do I want from this season in my life? Where am I spending the majority of my time? With whom am I spending my time?

Clear Goals

By having a clear map of what your life currently looks like, you can start to parcel out what you would like to change. As I often tell my mentees, focus on the areas of your life that are manageable and measurable. Let’s say that you want to spend more time with your family. What does that look like? Realistically, how much time per day, week, month do you want to allocate to this goal? Establishing the goal is the first step.

Write It Down

When it comes to work-life balance, I find that just saying it or filing it away in a mental cloud is not enough. There is something powerful about writing things down. If you don’t journal then use the notes function on your smart device. One of my favorite methods is using a white board. Regardless of your process, record your goals. This will allow you to have a visual reminder that you can keep track of. It also allows you to recalibrate your goals if you find that they were too lofty or unrealistic.

Set Boundaries

I have a friend who consistently works almost 80 hours a week. Between sleeping, eating, and life’s other necessities, by his own admission, it doesn’t leave him with much time for anything else. When I asked him, “Why?” he admitted that he didn’t really know how to say ‘no’ to his employer. This leads to an important discussion about boundaries. Whether it is professional, familial, or friendly relationships, boundaries are critical to self-care.

What your boundaries look like is often determined by the nature of your relationships — just don’t forget that managing your energy is just as important as managing your time. Make sure that you are taking the time to do things that you enjoy, including meditation, reading, exercising, and traveling. To make time for you will require you to set and maintain healthy boundaries. Remember, people who respect and/or love you will understand.

Why You Need to Rest

There is a strong likelihood that when things are amiss, we are not producing our best work and we are making unnecessary mistakes. No matter how much you may want/need to do something, if you don’t take the time to evaluate and re-energize, you will eventually experience some form of burnout.

The most effective way to balance work/life is to be aware of how you feel and why. If you feel as if you are in a perpetual tug-of-war with yourself then it is time to step back and reprioritize. Just as social media has immortalized the phrase, “Let’s work;” it is equally important that we celebrate, “Let’s rest.”

Tyra Seldon Tyra Seldon is a former English Professor turned writer, editor and small business owner. Her writing addresses the intersections of race, gender, culture and education.