How to Avoid Burn Out: Tips for Work-Life Balance

Step 1: Hire a Virtual Assistant

By Kristin Hanes

Photo by Mia Baker on Unsplash

It’s easy to feel flustered when you just get started as a Soloist. You have to find and maintain clients, create and send invoices, write emails and make phone calls, all while getting work done as well. So when on earth do you find time to relax and unwind when a new client could be buzzing your phone that very second? While it takes work and planning to launch your new career, it also takes work to schedule in downtime so you don’t suffer a bad case of burn-out.

There are some ways to better manage your work-life balance and plan out your day.

Set a routine for your day

One of the most important things Soloists can do is to get themselves into a daily routine, from when they go to bed at night, to when they wake up in the morning, to how they block out their time throughout the day.

“The first thing is that you need to factor in ‘me time’ and social time because those lines blur between working and your own time,” said lifestyle and business coach Robin DeMarco. “It’s also helpful to figure out your peak productivity times and do your hardest tasks during then. A lot of entrepreneurs and freelancers will wait until the end of the day to do the hard tasks, then work through the night.”

Laura Vanderkam, who writes about time management, life, careers and family, says it’s important to have work/life integration; that you don’t have to completely separate the two.

That said, you can’t focus on two things at once. During the hours you plan to work, focus on that work. Get childcare, ignore the mess around the house. Then create a quitting time that allows you to shut things down for a few hours. — Laura Vanderkam

She recommends putting your phone away and telling yourself you can check email again at 9pm.

Try to single-task rather than multi-task

It’s easy as a Soloist to feel like you’re trying to do 10,000 things at once, and while it might feel good to bounce between projects constantly, it will actually take you longer in the end.

“Multi-tasking drains energy and cognitive reserves of your brain, and single-tasking is really the best mode to produce high-quality work for a limited period of time,” said Robin. “The Pomodoro technique is the idea of focusing for a set period of time and then taking mini-breaks which are important for recharging. That way, you complete projects more quickly because you don’t have mental fatigue.”

Along these same lines, Laura said it’s important to turn off alerts when you’re trying to focus and get stuff done.

There is very little upside to alerts and a lot of downsides to constantly being distracted. Be proactive. If you know your most important business goals, tackle those before lunch, then spend a little time in the afternoon on Facebook if you want. — Laura Vanderkam

Robin recommends doing something called “email chunking” to keep yourself on track, which is setting periods of time when you’ll do your email.

“If you’re in the middle of a project and an email throws you off, you have all these start times which then just adds more time,” she said. “There are a lot of apps that help eliminate distractions. You can go off wifi for a period of time or use an app that blocks your access to the internet, like Freedom or Anti-Social.”

Photo by Blubel on Unsplash

Keep yourself healthy

Staying healthy can mean a lot of different things, from making time to exercise, to eating well, to hanging out with friends. When you work for yourself, it can be hard to fit those things into your daily routine.

“Freelancers are under the gun and sometimes can eat crappy food,” Robin said. “Also, you’ll be more productive and efficient if you take breaks to eat and work out. There’s a lot of research that the most inspired ideas come when you’re not actually working, like you’re in the shower or disconnecting from work. It lets your mind relax and bring up other ideas and solutions.”

Also, make sure you stay social. Schedule time in with friends during the week and join groups of other Soloists where you can both vent and share goals.

Social interactions are proven to benefit your health and help with cardiovascular disease. I think if you go from corporate to working for yourself it can be isolating. That’s why it’s good to have a group where you understand the same challenges. — Robin DeMarco
Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

Ask for help

When you’re a Soloist, you’re not just doing the one thing you love, whether it’s walking dogs, giving massages, or working as a personal trainer at a gym. You are also marketing yourself, building a website, invoicing, taking care of taxes. It can be overwhelming to be a one-person shop, so it’s okay to dole some work out.

“If accounting isn’t something you’re good at, or you hate Photoshop, you can hire a VA (virtual assistant) to manage invoices or create images for your site,” said Robin. “You can use sites like Fiverr or Upwork to find people, and some will do a gig for just $5.”

Laura said if you’re feeling overwhelmed, it helps to have the right mindset. You’re not just freelancing, you’re running a business, which is going to be complicated and have inherent stress.

It’s also very rewarding. If you know you’re doing something challenging, then you can often rise to that challenge. Whereas if you think it’s going to be easy, you might get overwhelmed. — Laura Vanderkam

As you see, there are lots of ways for Soloists to manage their days and cut back on the feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed.

And above all, don’t forget to schedule in that “me time”, which can be one of the hardest parts of working for oneself. It is important to step away, relax, and unwind, because you never know what genius idea will hit you next.

Work Independently, Not Alone.

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