When you freelance, work can take over everything. Especially if you work from home. There comes the point when you can no longer relax, as you're either thinking about work, talking about work or doing work – every minute of every day.
But you'd be surprised how easy it is to gain back control. There are things you can do almost immediately to switch off and regain balance. The following tips should help you get back to sanity.
Create a work schedule
I know many freelancers who don't stick to a routine. Their excuse is that freelancing brings more freedom so they can work "any hours they want". Unfortunately, this commonly leads to over-working and can mean people forget to take time off.
Avoid this happening by being strict with yourself. Create a work schedule and stick to it. Make clients aware of these new hours, so they know you're not always available.
Work more efficiently and cut out distractions
We all do it – procrastinate. And if you work from home, it's easy to become distracted. In which case, make a promise to yourself that you'll be as productive and efficient as possible during your scheduled work hours.
Get rid of distractions, break large jobs into smaller, more manageable tasks and say no to anything that takes your focus away. Read my top 20 ways to stay productive at work.
Unplug from everything digital
Got Facebook and Twitter on your iPhone and iPad? Delete them! Yes, you heard me. Get rid! Because you probably have social media accounts for your business, but you might also look after the odd client's, too.
While it's ok to have these running during office hours via your desktop – it's not ok to be notified of something when you're supposed to be getting ready for bed. Switch off by only having access when you're at your desk.
Get two mobile phones
It might sound a bit extreme, but having two separate mobile phones will significantly split work and home life. Use one on a 'pay-and-go' for business to receive calls and ensure you only call clients from your landline office number... Use the other one for personal, with a number you do not give out to anyone but friends and family.
It means you won't get any unnecessary calls from clients when you're trying to watch the cricket. Of course, some of you might need to be always available for 'emergencies'. Just make it clear what an 'emergency' actually entails and that you charge a higher rate for 'out of hours' support.
Get separate email addresses
With the above in mind, do the same for your email. Get a personal account and send out a generic email to all friends and family saying: "This is my main email from now on – so only contact me on this address!". It means you can happily login to your email account on a Saturday afternoon, safe in the knowledge that you won't see any 'work' emails which will stress you out until you can deal with them on Monday morning.
Socialise only with 'non-work' friends
When you freelance, it's easy to make friends through work. While this is good, I'd strongly advise trying to develop relationships outside of the work environment as well. Spend time with people who have nothing to do with your business. But if you do want to hang out with co-workers or business pals, then establish a rule to never 'talk shop' outside of work.
The first rule of the non-work club is...
You never talk about work outside of work. That is, you shouldn't think or talk about your business at home when speaking to family or friends. Leave your worries at your desk. If you really must get things off your chest, designate a time to chat about things and put a time limit on the discussion. But speaking from experience, it could just stress you out even more. So say to yourself that whatever is the issue, it can almost always wait until Monday morning.
Enjoy your time off
To help you stick to your guns and enjoy the evenings and weekends, indulge in some new hobbies and plan exciting days/nights out with friends. Have things to look forward to and add to your calendar. Sign up to your local library and borrow some books. Get back into exercise and get out on your bike. Go for a nice swim on your Saturday mornings at your local leisure centre. Get it into your head that life isn't just about work, so make the most of your time off!