Self-care is one of those things that small business owners and freelancers know about. They know they should do it, but they still overlook its benefits. As business owners ourselves, we understand entirely. Self-care is one of those things we feel we don't have time for. We think we don't necessarily need it, but we really do. And without it, we are in danger of burnout and becoming overworked.
Burnout can take a few forms. It can come in the form of anxiety, fatigue, or even physical illness. And when it strikes, you might not be able to work for a time, which could affect your business and damage your reputation as a freelancer. Let's face it: you don't want to lose customers and clients because you didn't care for yourself. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s no shame in needing to take some time out, and if you have great clients, they should be understanding of that - you’re only human! But the point is that by incorporating self-care into your day to day life, you can minimize the chances of that ever happening. You’ll also set yourself up with the tools to recover faster if it does.
Let's show you some tips we use to ensure we give ourselves the self-care we need to stay efficient and on top of our game so you can do the same.
Schedule self-care into your working day
You'll probably have your working week or work day planned in advance, but have you penciled in any time for self-care? This refers to anything that makes you feel happy, healthy, and energized. Small little activities that can make you feel better throughout your day and work week can go a long way to improving your stamina while working. Sadly, self-care is often overlooked by business owners and freelancers. The reason for this is simply because most feel like they don't have time for self-care when the truth is, if you don't implement self-care, you will find you spend more time working harder and achieving less.
Here are a few simple and self-care activities you could add to your working day, which will only take a small amount of time and do wonders for your longevity.
- Take a few 10-minute breaks. This is an effortless way of getting some self-care into your day. Many freelancers and business owners think that taking breaks is a waste of time. That's time that could be spent working, right? But without taking breaks every now and again, your productivity is bound to plummet. This means tasks that might have taken you a short amount of time will take longer as the brain fog starts to kick in, and you become overworked and inefficient.
- Spend a bit of time on your hobby. If you're a musician, play your instrument for a bit. If you like working out, do a workout. Draw a sketch, tend to your garden, read an article, blog, or a few pages of a book. Do whatever is right for you.
- Squeeze a bit of yoga into your workday. I know I mentioned working out above, but I’m giving yoga a separate shout out. It’s not just a workout. It will also help calm your mind so you can focus. And stretching is super important if you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk.
- Go for a short walk in your local area to get some light exercise and fresh air.
- Listen to a few of your favorite songs that always put a smile on your face.
Make a daily routine
After you've added some self-care activities into your day, it's also vital that you are in control of your everyday life outside of work. A daily routine will give you a sense of control even if your work day has been hectic. As you know, at the end of the day, you can always slip back into the comfort of your routine. We must remember that although we have work to do, we also have regular, everyday needs. These everyday needs include eating, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, etc., etc. All these things are essential to living a healthy life, so to make sure you actually get these things done, it's a safe bet to write them into a daily routine and stick to them.
You could start with a morning routine. Take what your regular everyday morning looks like and perhaps make some necessary adjustments and enhancements that you think will improve your mood in the morning and give you the best start to the day. In no particular order, you could start your day with something simple such as brushing your teeth and having a morning coffee. Perhaps you could even add in some journaling. Maybe try waking up at the same time every day, getting some exercise, and eating a healthy breakfast. Try out a few different variations and see how you feel. Write down which routine made you feel the best out of all the routines you tried out. You can then do the same with an afternoon, evening, and nighttime routine and remember. If you really want to get the most out of your routines for self-care, make your routines suit you rather than anyone else.
As a freelancer or small business owner, you will find that you have certain freedoms that others working the regular 9 till 5 jobs just simply don't have. If you don't set boundaries, you could end up with a chaotic type of freedom. The freedom that feels like you've been dropped in the middle of the ocean, and you're free to swim in any direction you like. If you let your work life encroach on your downtime, you will start to feel overwhelmed and live only to work. This is a poor long-term strategy for being a successful business owner or freelancer. You will find you'll only be able to work without boundaries between your work life and normal life for a short period before it becomes too much.
Try to block your time into work time and your own personal time, and try to keep the two completely separate. Have a cut-off time, perhaps for work, so after that time, you know that you can put your work down and pick up your normal life. I understand that there will be times when you might have to work over or pick something up in your own personal time that's urgent. But still, try to keep your work separate from your personal life. Otherwise, you might lose one or the other.
You'll find that there might be a few other boundaries you need to put in place in order to keep your working hours productive. Boundaries with your phone, for example. Smartphones, for many of us, are essential for work and communication with colleagues, but they can also be the source of major distractions that could end up costing you in the long run. Try to only use your phone when you really need to. If you can communicate by using different software on your laptop or computer, do that instead. Alternatively, you could have a work phone which only has the most basic of features, so you know in your mind that when you pick up this phone, it's strictly for business and not pleasure.
Another side note would be to make sure you have a separate work email rather than using your own personal email. You know what email addresses are like. Purchase something from a website once, and that's a lifetime of emails with new offers and sales literature coming your way. You don't want valuable work emails getting lost in the deluge of junk mail you get on a daily basis 😄.
Make time for relationships in your life
You will find that time is a valuable commodity as a freelancer or a small business owner. We often find that our time can be mostly spent working overtime to get ahead or something urgent has come up that needs fixing. This can leave us too tired to attend to those closest to us, leaving our partners feeling estranged and neglected.
As these people are the closest people to us in our life, it's probably best if we make time for these relationships. Aside from the love that we all require to keep us going through life. These are also the people who support us when work is going bad, celebrate when work is going good, and give us advice when things get a little bit tricky. Caring for others is an investment, just like caring for yourself. If you make time for the relationships in your life, you will always have people that stand by you when you need them.
So pencil in some time for date night, schedule meet-ups and check in with friends, and make time for family visits and holidays. If you and your partner are both sharing a workspace, working together, or working remotely at home, take a look at these tips for working alongside your significant other.
Remember to take time off
It's the easiest thing in the world for many freelancers and small business owners to forget to take time off. After all, time is money, right? Why take time off when you can keep working and earn more money. Not to mention you have your customers, clients, and obligations to attend to. and we often make excuses like, "taking time off is more trouble than it's worth, I'll lose money, and I've got too much work to do." When the truth is you can work nonstop forever.
If you don't take time off, you might find that time will catch up to you. I'm sure most of us have experienced the anxiety of "if I'm not here, who will do the work." But if you burn out from being overworked, the simple answer is no one will do the work. At least if you book some time off for a well-needed and deserved break. You can put preparations in place, get ahead of your work and inform your clients that you won't be available to work in advance. And look on the plus side, time off or a holiday is an excellent way to get some well-needed you-time and some self-care into your life. This is an excellent way to take a step towards creating a healthy work-life balance. And after a well-needed break, you can return to your working life refreshed and rejuvenated.
"No" can be a very useful word
No! One of the very first words we learn, but we often find by the time we reach adulthood, we've forgotten how to say it! We even say things like, "no isn't in my vocabulary," - but it should be!
The word "no" is great for setting boundaries between what you will and won't do. "No" might sound like a bad word to use when you're a freelancer or small business owner. Still, it might be the very word preventing you from overstretching yourself with strenuous workloads you might not be able to complete. So remember, it can be tempting to say yes when people ask for favors, but some of these favors could just be the extra piece of work that puts you into overload. Especially if you've already got a lot of work on!
I know it can be a very uncomfortable word to say to people, and I know we don't want to turn work down. But sometimes, it's the right thing to do for yourself, for your mental and physical well-being. And without your physical and mental health in working order, you'll likely struggle to keep on top of your normal workload without adding in any extra work.
Remember to be kind to yourself
We've championed a lot of talented freelancers and small business owners through our courses. We've seen so much fantastic talent but noticed a few of them work hard to the point where it seems they're punishing themselves. The truth is, if you want your work to last and go the distance, you want to enjoy what you're doing as much as possible. Which means knowing when to stop, knowing how much you can handle, and knowing when and how to forgive yourself after making a mistake. Learning to be kind to yourself is a valuable skill for self-care, so don't be so hard on yourself. Even though you're probably very familiar with hard work! Remember, when you get flustered, give yourself a little time out! Treat every mistake as a learning opportunity, and don't be afraid to ask for help when needed. So be kind to yourself, you've already come a long way, and with a little self-care, you could go even further.
Wishing you all the best,