The life of a freelancer, contrary to popular belief, can be an extremely stressful one. Despite our best efforts to pursue that mythical ‘healthy work life balance’, long and unsociable working hours are not uncommon. Add to that the occasionally crushing weight of total responsibility for your own productivity, lack of financial security, the stress of keeping existing clients happy whilst continually seeking new ones, and you’ve got the recipe for one frazzled freelancer!
A stressed mind is not a productive one. Running a business is never going to come stress-free, but there are ways of keeping this in check so that it doesn’t have a detrimental effect on your business or, more importantly, your health. Whilst there are various methods and activities you can use, they all involve disconnecting.
It seems simple enough, everybody knows they need to switch off once in a while, but we’re talking about more than iPhones and laptops here. Physically switching off is one thing, mentally switching off is another; by properly disconnecting from all things work-related for 30 minutes every day, you can refresh and recharge, ready to get back to business with a healthy mind and renewed enthusiasm. This is a kind of meditation, a mindfulness that re-connects us to ourselves, and grounds us in the midst of a million distractions.
In the modern world we can feel at a bit of a loss without some sort of screen to interact with, even passively, but to properly empty your mind you need to remove any digital distraction. Sometimes silence can be a bit too much after the buzz of daily life, so I find a bit of non-obtrusive, calming music or background noise is a great help, be that classical music, new age or whale song, whatever will relax, but not distract you. You don’t want to be disturbed in your ‘me’ time, so make sure you go somewhere peaceful, somewhere you won’t be interrupted – this definitely means unplugging your phone for 30 minutes too!
Meditation involves emptying the mind, which often feels impossible. The moment we slow down and close our eyes up pops a mental list of forgotten emails, invoices, shopping lists and appointments. If you find a cluttered mind is obstructing your meditation, take a minute before you start to write down anything that is bothering you or distracting you, and leave it to one side, to be dealt with once your 30 minutes is up.
Now, sit for 30 minutes, and just relax. Try not to think about anything. This can be really difficult, so perhaps focus on the rhythm of your breath, or the sound of ocean waves drawing in, and out, in, and out. Picture a calm scene, a beach, a field, a forest, whatever makes you feel calm, knowing you can return to this, your safe space, for 30 minutes every day. If you find it hard to empty your mind or concentrate on a calming scene, you could try assisted meditation; you can find CDs, apps or websites that can talk you through a guided meditation for a duration of your choosing.
Doesn’t that feel better? Whilst it might not seem like much to your conscious mind, your subconscious will thank you for it, and you’ll go into the rest of your day rejuvenated and ready for whatever lands on your desk. In this sense, slowing down for a short while can help speed you up!