Time - The Most Important Resource
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Taking Time for Yourself
Several of the subtopics above deal with the problem of self-discipline and ensuring that you have enough time and motivation to get your work done. But the opposite issue is also important: making enough time for yourself. Just as freelancing has the problem where it’s easy to take off too much time, it’s also possible to take off too little, falling into a trap of workaholism that can damage your life in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.
There are two main reasons why online freelancing is particularly insidious when it comes to the temptation for overindulgence. First, since you only get paid for the hours you work, freelancers start to view every spare hour that they aren’t working as a lost opportunity to make money. And second, because new projects are constantly listed on freelancing sites, it’s easy to get “hooked” on hitting that refresh button every few minutes because “the next great opportunity could have arrived”.
When you’re just starting out, it can make sense to spend a lot of hours on both working and looking for work. But I know from personal experience that going to excess in this regard can lead to burnout that may impinge on your long-term success—not to mention your health, sanity and family life. Smart freelancers know that just as they must be their own bosses in terms of “cracking the whip”, they also must give themselves what any reasonable boss would: time off.
Every full-time job gives at least two weeks of vacation time; you should aim for at least that much when you’re freelancing as well. Be aware of the ever-present lure of the Internet when you do take time off: you don’t have to strand yourself on an island where no communication is possible, but if you’re checking for new projects every ten minutes and responding to client emails, you’re not on vacation.
Sick time and personal time can be another problem for freelancers, just as it is for full-time workers. Some people always feel like they should be able to “muddle through” and still work even when they are ill. If you just have the sniffles, that may be fine, but even a cold will cause your productivity will suffer—in the long run, you might be better off taking a day or two off and completely resting your body and your mind. Similarly, if you have a sick kid at home and in your hair, maybe that’s a day you just need to decide you won’t spend doing a full load of client work.
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Last Site Update: February 1, 2012
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