Dear WordCount: Freelancers juggle so many different things. I wonder, how do you keep from burning out? — Tired
I’m kidding (well, only sort of).
All jokes aside, avoiding burnout is a real issue for self-employed writers. If we don’t work, we don’t get paid. Most freelancers I know don’t keep regular hours. When they’re on deadline, the work week can include late nights and weekends. We don’t get paid time off , unlike staff writers, so we work holidays or when we’re sick and should really be in bed. We don’t get paid vacations either, which means we might bring work with us, or at least check email. That doesn’t make it a true vacation.
Avoiding Freelance Burnout
Despite all the hours, there are ways to avoid freelance burnout. Here are some of my favorites:
Get enough sleep.
Interviews, writing, rewrites – anything is easier to tackle after 7 or 8 hours of sleep.
Avoid working weekends.
This is the toughest one for me because I get behind and then use weekends to catch up. Don’t do what I do. Weekends are made for recharging the writing batteries.
Turn off cellphones or at night, and ban yourself from going online for some portion of the weekend.
Last year I hired a virtual assistant to help with some administrative work and story research to buy myself time. Best decision I’ve made in a long time. I also pay house cleaners and a yard service, which frees up even more time – it’s worth every penny.
Smell the flowers – or dirt.
Take a hike, work in the garden, take the dog to the park. Do something that gets you away from work and into nature.
Unburden yourself of work for an hour or two by working up a sweat. Run, hike, play basketball, yoga or something else you enjoy. Whatever you do, leave work at the door and be in the moment.
One of my personal goals for 2013 is to read more books. I’m usually good at that during the summer, then I slip and end up spending weeknights at the computer or watching TV. I’ve already finished one book since New Year’s – hooray for me – and am starting on No. 2. Added bonus: reading good writing will help your writing.
I treat myself to regular pedicures and a haircut and color every few months. It’s one way I reward myself for working so hard.
Last year, I decompressed by taking more vacation days than usual, close to four weeks, including one heavenly week on Maui (that’s it in the picture). My other personal goal for 2013 is to do a better job of planning vacations, so I don’t wait until the last minute and then stress myself out over trip planning details.
Hang out with yur friends and family.
I’m lucky. I’ve got a husband, kids and a dog who yank me out of work mode whether I want them to or not. If you don’t live with a family, it’s important to spend time with people you care about on a regular basis. Because as much as we love what we do, life’s not just about work.
What do you do to avoid burning out? Please share by leaving a comment.