All writers suffer from burnout. You sit in front of your computer and stare at the screen. Instead of writing, you’re googling the latest fashion trends and recipes you’d like to try out, ignoring the task that demands action. When your energy and motivation have been at an all-time low for a prolonged period and writing doesn’t make you happy anymore (or so you think), then you most likely have a bad case of writer’s burnout. [Read more…]
The topic of work-life balance is a real problem, for both regular employees and freelancers. It is such a huge issue that countless studies have been done about it.
It’s easy enough to say that a freelancer can achieve a good work-life balance better than those who have day jobs, but that may not be the case. Due to the flexibility that freelancers have, the line between work and personal life becomes blurred. Some people may have problems working too much, while others become too lax when it comes to work.
Usually, however, the problem is that the imbalance is due to spending more time on work and neglecting personal life. As you may have experienced, this can have disastrous results.
What are some adverse effect of work-life imbalance?
- Health issues. You get more stressed as the workload piles up, and stress has been known to have negative effects on your body, your mind, and behavior. This will only lead to more problems.
- Absence. This can be physical and/or emotional. You may become the “flake” in your social and family circles, always being absent during get-togethers. Being disconnected may also result in relationship breakdowns. Many a psychologist or divorce attorney will tell you that absence is one of the most common reasons for serious relationship rifts.
- Financial problems. You may think that working longer and harder benefits your business, but if you get physically sick, then your finances will suffer. If you lose friends, you may go down the path of depression.
These three points are umbrella effects that can be broken down into so many other problems that point to one thing: there is nothing positive about having work-life imbalance.
How do you know if your work-life balance is askew?
Asking yourself a few questions can help you determine your situation.
- Do you have trouble sleeping at night because you keep thinking of the work that needs to be done?
- Do you wake up in the morning dreading the day because of your workload?
- Are you more irritable than usual, with little things ticking you off?
- Do you feel like you little or no control over your life?
- Do you see your life as “wash, rinse, repeat”?
If your answer to these questions is yes, then your work-life balance needs some fixing.
You can also ask the people closest to you what they think. They have an outsider’s point of view, which can discern behaviors that you may not realize.
What can you do?
Short answer: work less.
But it’s never that easy, is it? You need to come up with a plan with a specific goal and concrete actions to reach that goal.
Here are some ideas.
- Set boundaries. You can do this by:
- Tracking your time. Set how much time you spend on tasks and how much time you spend on personal activities.
- Take note of social activities. By this, I mean writing them down in you calendar and make sure you go. Clear your schedule ahead of time so you have no excuses not to go.
- Say no. It’s tempting to keep taking on work from your clients. It will make them happy. You’ll get more money. But that’s bound to lead to imbalance, so learn to say no.
- Love yourself. This means taking care of yourself by:
- Paying yourself. Set aside some money to do what you love, whether it’s going to a spa, getting your hair done, or buying something nice.
- Get enough sleep. Different people have different needs, but here’s a good resource from the National Sleep Foundation that will help you determine the best number of hours for you.
- Make more effort to connect. Whether it’s spending more time with your partner and children or going out once in a while with friends, engaging in face-to-face human interaction will do wonders for you.
- Seek help if necessary. Sometimes, we can reach a point where everything seems to be totally out of your control. If you think you cannot cope anymore, don’t hesitate to seek help – from a friend, a family member, or even a professional.
So, have you assessed your work-life balance lately? How is it?
You may also find this useful: Have you Hit the Wall of Freelance Writer Burnout? How to Deal with It
Not everything about freelance writing is bunny slippers and bon bons. Sure, we have the best life. We have flexibility and the abililty to work anywhere we please, pick and choose our own clients and set our own rates. With all the perks, freelance writing also has a dark side. We already explored what happens when clients don’t pay in a previous “Dark Side” post. Today we’re going to discuss another topic we don’t touch on enough here at FWJ, burnout.
What is Freelance Writing Burnout?
I think every freelancer has experience burnout at one time or another. For me, burnout happened mostly at the beginning of my career. I took on many different clients and spent more time working than doing anything else. I was waking at 4:00 each morning and working until my family got up and went about our day. I’d also work late into the night, functioning on only a few hours of sleep. That’s not a normal scenario for all writers, though.
Basically when writers spend a lot of time churning out articles, especially for projects they’re not enjoying it can lead them to, well, not want to work anymore. It affects everything. You don’t want to work but you can’t keep your mind on anything else because you know the projects are looming. You even consider giving up writing for good.
When you don’t like what you do anymore because you’re spending all day writing topics you don’t want to write in order to meet unrealistic deadlines, you’re going to suffer from writing burnout.
How to Avoid Burnout
Honestly, the best way to avoid burnout is to be more selective with your gigs. My own personal philosophy is to avoid freelance writing jobs involving unrealistic quotas. I remember writing for a couple of web masters and clients who expected a certain amount of articles each month, not all of them were topics I enjoyed. I always ended up putting off those projects until the last minute.
If you’re putting off all your writing until the end of the month, and rushing to do 50 articles in the last week of the month, you’re not enjoying what you do. Chances are by the end of that week, you’re not loving your job. I don’t write for clients with quotas anymore. I mean, a couple of posts a week is one thing, but I’ll no longer commit to 20 or 30 articles a month.
It’s hard to tell writers to only take jobs they love when they have no choice. I know what it’s like to have to take jobs I didn’t like in order to build up a client base and make ends meet. However, when you have too many projects or, especially, you have too many projects you don’t like, you’re going to burnout. There are a few things you can do to avoid this:
- Don’t take projects you’re not feeling
- Take periodic breaks
- Do more non-writing related projects
- Give up the work you don’t enjoy
To truly avoid burnout is to not allow writing to consume every waking moment. We’re freelancers because we want to enjoy our lives, how can we do that if we’re stressed out over our writing?
When to Step Away from the Desk
If the stress of freelance writing burnout is too much and you find it’s affecting your health, it’s time to step away from the desk. If you can’t sleep, you have headaches or you can’t focus on your work, it’s time to take a break. If you find yourself unable to meet deadlines because they’re not realistic, you need to rethink your gig.
The bottom line is this: we should all enjoy our work. If it’s going to cause stress, we may as well go back to our office jobs. If we don’t enjoy what we do, what’s the purpose of doing it? Every writer pull the occasional all-nighter, but this shouldn’t be the norm. If you find every day is a chore, you either need to find another gig or give up freelance writing altogether.
Do you ever have burnout periods? If so, how did you get through them?