Learning to work for yourself is kind of like learning to work on a different planet. The meaning of time changes completely. The weeks that used to crawl by start speeding by like freight trains. Weekends don’t matter anymore, 5 PM holds no significance, and you start to feel like Sandra Bullock floating around in that movie where George Clooney committed suicide by letting himself disappear into the vast expanse of space. Lord above. What a pity.
When you’re folding laundry with one hand and typing emails with the other, or walking the dog while pushing a stroller and listening in on a conference call, you may eventually reach a point where you feel like you’re going insane. You get super weird, you can’t hold real-life conversations, and your hair always looks slightly dirty. The notion of life and work seamlessly blending together is a romantic one, and it can be fantastic, but the danger is that you become so overloaded you can’t see your way out; nor can you find time to take a shower. When work and life become one, it really means you’re working all the time. So how do you help keep yourself sane in all this? Here are a few tricks that have kept me afloat.
Set boundaries: The rules I set when I started working for myself have shaped my day-to-day. These are the only reason I’m still alive. I promised myself I’d work straight through during Maddy’s naps and any time when Jimi was home or the babysitter is here, but I’d never work after Maddy went to bed. That’s my time to watch terrible TV, drink a glass of wine, and ignore everything I “should” be doing.
Make lists: Your brain is a black hole, and as time goes on and more information goes in, this problem doesn’t get better. It gets way worse. Making lists can save you from forgetting even the tiniest of things. Split your daily list into “work” and “personal” making a mental note of when you’ll tackle items from each column.
Use a paper planner: Just like tasks you need to complete, there are appointments you need to remember to keep too. Sure, Google Calendar is great, but I like to physically write out my appointments. This creates a marker in my mind; not only did I agree to the appointment, I wrote it down! It must be official!
Make the most of your time: When you get a few minutes to work, it’s so tempting to check the news first. Or Facebook. Or I have to shop for a hot second. By all means, give yourself some time to do this stuff, but put a cap on it. Set a timer for 5 minutes and poke around on the Internet before you start working. After all, you’d never start running without warming up first, right?
In conversations, try to separate your “real life” and your “work life”: This seems contrary to everything you’re trying to achieve, huh? But in reality, working all the time, then talking about work the rest of the time means your brain never, ever gets a break. Then you lay down and try to go to sleep and you cannot stop your brain from thinking about work because it’s all you’ve allowed it to focus on. Remember, you are more than your work. Be intentional about giving yourself the freedom to enjoy moments when you aren’t thinking about how you make money.
Take some time for yourself: With everything you have going on, taking some time for yourself doesn’t seem like a priority. After a while, though, it’ll start to wear on you and you could become tired and resentful, which could result in your crying in your car at the mall. Not that that’s happened to me. Guided meditations work wonders if you’ve only got a small amount of time to yourself, but still want to sink into some relaxation. Try Calm.com, an app with free meditations of varying lengths to help you shut off and breathe, even if it’s just for 5 minutes.