The life of a freelancer seems idyllic to many. While your salaried friends and family members sit in nose-to-nose traffic on their stressful morning commute they may well imagine you sipping a coffee and starting your day in a far more leisurely manner. Or perhaps taking your laptop to bed and enjoying a morning of cozy productivity as they brave the elements. And yet, while freelancers get to enjoy the occasional perk like this, it’s not the life of smiles and sunshine that your peers may imagine.
The life of a freelancers brings with it its own stressors from which salaried workers are isolated, especially around this time of year. There’s no paid holiday leave for freelancers. What’s more, their productivity is intrinsic to their financial wellbeing, whereas salaried workers tend to get paid the same amount regardless of their productivity within reason.
The winter of freelancer discontent
Many freelancers find that their productivity can drop off rather steeply in the winter months. Many are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder and find themselves depressed (or at the very least lacking energy and motivation) over the winter months. They can find themselves working more, but accomplishing less. They can find themselves far more susceptible to stress and anxiety. What’s more, that elusive work / life balance that most freelancers grapple with can seem even more untenable.
With this in mind, here are some tips for staying happy, healthy and productive yet rested over the festive season...
Hydration is the key to good health. Not only does it keep our internal processes working at peak efficiency, it also plays a major part in aiding brain health, facilitating good memory and improving our cognitive faculties. To put it simply, the more water you drink, the more frequent those bursts of productivity and flashes of inspiration can become.
As tempting as it may be to chug coffee after coffee while you beaver away, remember that coffee has a diuretic quality which can actually impede your hydration. If you want a caffeine kick try mixing it up with some caffeinated water to give you a surge of energy along with the natural benefits of good hydration. Staying hydrated will also keep your immune system working at peak efficiency to ward off any seasonal illnesses which could derail your productivity.
Eat a brain healthy diet
The thing with this time of year is that it awakens some sort of deep-down hibernation instinct within all of us. It makes us want to curl into a ball, shut out the world and just eat and sleep all day. And not eat healthy stuff either. Over the winter we universally feel the allure of high fat, high salt, high sugar and high carb foods all-too strongly.
However, eating right is more important over winter than ever. Not only must we get the vitamin-rich veggies and fruits which will keep our bodies operating efficiently and keep our immune system working efficiently, we need to eat foods that will help our brains to operate at peak efficiency.
As tempting as it may be to order in pizza or dive into a big box of cookies, a healthy diet is essential to keep yourself productive and financially secure over the winter.
Learn to say “no” when it gets too much
One of the finest lines freelancers walk is in getting enough work to keep the bills paid and their savings secure, and ensuring that they get the work / life balance that we all need in order to keep ourselves mentally and physically healthy. Over the holidays, while we may not enjoy the same paid leave as our salaried friends and family, we still need to take some time off to spend with friends, family and loved ones to make life worthwhile.
As such, don’t be afraid to say “no” if you feel like your workload is becoming untenable. Overworking yourself is counterproductive anyway. Pushing yourself too hard inevitably leads to a drop-off in the quality of your work. This could potentially alienate clients and compromise the value of your brand.
Try light box therapy
Finally, if you feel as though your productivity slumps sharply in the absence of natural light, it may be worth investing in a light box and keeping it close to your desk. These handy portable devices flood your office space with a synthetic equivalent of natural light. This can help to keep SAD at bay and unlock your productivity, as well as helping to ensure regular sleeping patterns.
Staying productive and finding that crucial work / life balance are easier than you may have thought over winter… When you know how!