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Freelance

8 Ways to Take Care of Yourself as a Full-Time Freelancer

I spent 12 years there. Working 50-60 hours a week was “normal.” The job before that was the same. And the one before that. Yes, these were mostly desk jobs, but I stayed at each of them far too long because of promises never fulfilled, flexibility in my hours (so to speak), and finally an easy childcare solution.

That ended a few months ago. The time to move on was there and it pulled me out of my rut. It wasn’t how I’d planned. I was going to wait until the busy holiday season was done so I didn’t leave them hanging. It was the right way to quit. Except it didn’t work out that way.

I had put down boundaries around my family and protected them fiercely. My ex-boss didn’t see them as important, I did. I left last September. I made a promise to myself not to end up in another job like that that afternoon. My next move would be different. I’d make things work on my own.

Over the last several months I’ve learned a lot about myself. How I work when I don’t have a boss. How I deal with things like taking care of the home while wife works a day job. Being the primary caregiver to two small children 24/7 is an adjustment that took some getting used to for sure. I’ve learned, what many people already knew…

You have to take care of yourself first. No one else will.

Just like the safety instructions on an airplane flight tell you to get your own oxygen mask on before the oxygen masks of those around you. You, the freelancer or solopreneur, have to take care of yourself first. Because if you die, or get a migraine, or get the flu, or end up too hungover to work for a bit… no one else will take over for you. It’s just you. That’s lost time, lost profits, and lost clients.

Here’s how I avoid that… mostly

1.) Sleep

According to the CDC, 1 in 3 Americans don’t get enough sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. A poor night of sleep can damage your judgment, work performance, mood, and safety. Deadlines happen. Short nights are sometimes required, however, if they become the norm something is wrong. Sleep must be prioritized in order to take care of yourself, your family, and your business.

2.) Moderate Caffeine Intake

We’ve all read about how caffeine can help with our health. Drinking too much, however, can lead to issues such as: Migraine headaches, Insomnia, Nervousness, Irritability, Stomach upset, and more. Think you may be drinking too much? Cut back slowly. Going “cold turkey” can be rough. I made that unfortunate choice right before my wife and I had our second child. It is not recommended.

3.) Drink Plenty of Water

I’m guilty of not drinking enough water. It can be easy to not think about. Especially if you are drinking other things all day and night. Soda, beer, wine, coffee, etc. It can add up, but it isn’t the same as getting enough water for your health. Some people like tracking the water that they drink with an app like My Water Balance. Others get a water bottle and know how many times it needs to be drank. Bottom line: you likely need to drink more water. It can preventing constipation, help normalize blood pressure, stabile a heartbeat, cushion joints, and regulating body temperature. There is no one-size-fits-all amount of water to drink daily, although many have suggested at least four-to-six cups. If you have any questions about how much you should drink based on your personal health factors… ask your doctor.

4.) Take a Shower

I never had a problem making sure to take a shower daily until I had children. It especially became a problem once I was a full-time freelancer and primary caregiver for two young children. I began skipping the morning shower in exchange for a few more minutes sleep or extra time to drink my coffee over breakfast. It wasn’t until I made taking a daily shower (even if it was in the afternoon or evening) that I realized what was missing in my life. Not only is taking a shower part of good hygiene, but it allows me time to decompress from the busy schedule of the day and recenter myself.

5.) Disconnect (Just for a bit)

Everyone can benefit from disconnecting from the web for a time. That amount of time can very greatly depending on personality, lifestyle, and job. The general rule I go by is to take at least an hour a day and completely ignore my phone/computer/tablet. Sleeping doesn’t count. Disconnecting for me if often a way to focus on some other task that needs to be accomplished. This can be cleaning, working out in the yard, taking a walk to pickup items from the store, or any number of other tasks that do not require me to reference my devices.

6.) Control Your Inbox

Unsubscribe from all the junk you don’t actually read. Tools like Unroll.me (free), CleanBox (Mac) and Clean.Email (paid) can take a lot of the work of unsubscribing from email lists one at a time and do it automatically. Don’t worry about Inbox Zero. The average worker’s inbox has 199 unread emails. Pay attention to the important ones and let the others go into folders or the trash.

7.) Meet with Friends IRL

Freelancing can be a lonely business. Yes, you are likely talking with people all day pitching your services or keeping clients happy. That isn’t the same as spending time with people you like. Find at least one or two times a month (twice a week is best according to Oxford University.) There is just something about connecting with others in person that can’t be beat by time online.

Don’t have any friends? Find a way to make some:

Like beer? Find a local brewery and get to know the regulars. Like reading, news, photography? Find a club on Meetup.com.

8.) Develop a Nightly Routine

No single nightly routine works for everyone. Each person will have their own set of things that helps them to get ready for the next day, decompress from the day they just had, and be ready for a restful night of sleep. I’ve found that I need to take some time to prep for the morning rush of getting my wife to work, my oldest son to school, and my day with the youngest at home. This involves prepping for meals, picking out clothes, packing bags (with homework, to do lists, snacks, etc.), and more. I also like to have a drink (sometimes alcoholic, sometimes just some hot tea) and write a bit. I like to empty by brain of thoughts, ideas, and worries before calling it a night.

Need some ideas? Check out these 10 Evening Routines.

What do you do to take care of yourself in order to be able to take care of others?

By Joel Gratcyk

Joel Gratcyk builds websites, creates blogs, manages social media accounts, and more.

You can find him on TwitterFacebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.