One of the first lessons I learned when I became a full time freelance writer was just how easy it is to work around the clock and never look beyond the four walls of my office. Now, all these years later, I still catch myself occasionally working more and living less. In fact, one day this past week, I missed lunch and didn’t even realize it until 4:00 p.m. Not good.
Running your own business consumes time and energy, but it doesn’t have to consume the whole quesadilla of your existence. Try these ideas to mix a little real-life into your days and weeks.
1. Join a gym. Sure, you can exercise at home, but the goal here is to get OUT OF THE HOUSE. A gym membership gets you away from your desk and allows you to see (and sometimes speak!) to other living, breathing humans.
2. Break for lunch. Do not eat at your desk. It’s tempting to try and accomplish just one more task during your lunch break. But then it’s not much of a break, is it? If you have to, set an alarm and when it goes off, step away from the desk, leave the room and have lunch elsewhere.
3. Keep regular work hours. How many times have you said something like, “I’d love to go to that movie, restaurant, gathering… but, I’ve got a deadline, assignment, etc.”? If this is your standard line, you need to reevaluate your work routine. I remember when I had a “real world” job (meaning somebody paid me to show up and sit at a desk) about 20 minutes before it was time to go home each night, I began clearing my desk and watching the clock. It was quitting time and I knew it. When you work for yourself, you need to have quitting time too. Pick the time to knock off for the day and stick to it. Walk away and join the real world.
4. Schedule face to face time with your friends. Repeat after me: “I do not want to be a hermit.” You don’t right? The best way to stay connected is, get this, TO CONNECT. I have standing coffee and lunch dates sprinkled throughout each month where I meet with friends, shoot the breeze and blow off steam.
5. Make family time sacred. If you have game night on Saturdays, show up and play. Call your mother. Go to your daughter’s soccer game. The work will still be there when you get home.
6. Keep (or start) a hobby you love. This falls into the category of carving out “me time.” Salsa dancing, photography, model trains– whatever it is that helps you find your happy place, make time to do it.
7. Take a day off between projects. I once described freelance writing as a career where you’re always looking for a job. Job hunting can become obsessive behavior if you let it, and jumping from one project to the next is a quick path to burnout.
8. Along the same lines — Allow yourself to have sick days and vacation time. Time off is not a cardinal sin. Ignore the phone and the email. Let the computer sit idle. Rest. Recharge. It will all still be there when you get back.