Career-minded people, especially entrepreneurs and freelancers, are always talking about how hard theyre hustling. And, there are countless memes about the importance of the hustle. We tend to treat working hard and earning money as if theyre the only things that matter. But, they arent. I recently read about Miwa Sado, a 31-year-old Japanese journalist, who was found dead in her bed, holding her phone. She worked more than 159 hours of overtime in the month before she died. Her official cause of death was karoshi, a Japanese word that means death from overwork. She worked so hard, it killed her. Sado died in 2013, but her story wasnt made public until this year, and I cant get it out of our heads. It has forced me to realize that my work-life balance is practically nonexistent. There are so many things that I would love to do, so many things that I just feel like I don’t have the time for. Like going on a vacation… what even is a vacation? A friend of mine recently came back from staying in the InterContinental New Orleans hotel and it sounds like they had a wonderful time. I would love to do something like that, I don’t even need to take a vacation though, I just want to be able to do something on an evening after work.
In the past few months, Ive noticed that whenever my work assignments start to pile up, I experience physical symptoms of stress and anxiety. Sometimes theres a tightness in the center of my chest. Or, my shoulders get so tense, I feel like there are rocks under my skin. I know feeling this way is unhealthy, and Ive found a few ways to lower my stress level. I take a walk or a jog, spend time outside, or take a break to meditate. The whole point of work-life balance is to find balance between what you do for work, and what you do the rest of the time. I know I need to get away from work altogether for a few days every week (such as Saturday and Sunday). But, as a freelancer, I dont have the typical Monday through Friday, nine to five schedule. I often spend weekends catching up on work instead of relaxing. But, after reading about Miwa Sados death, I feel more inspired than ever to change this habit and strive for actual work-life balance.
Right now, I also have a personal reason to practice taking breaks from work. I am planning a trip to France next month, and Ive decided not to bring my laptop. I havent taken a real vacation in many years, because as a freelancer, I dont get vacation days. Typically, when I travel, I bring my laptop and try to get work done on the roadbut this time I want a real break. Ill probably check email on my phone while I am away, but I wont have any of the programs I need to do my work. My weekends are a chance to test this taking-time-off thing on a trial basis, before Im in another country and another time zone.
HERES HOW I PLAN TO GET MY WEEKENDS BACK:
HAVE A DETAILED SCHEDULE.
As a freelancer, its always hard for me to say no to things. But, if I want to have a work schedule that doesnt overflow into the weekends, I know this is the first step. Im going to be especially cautious about what I commit to this month.
MAKE THE MOST OF WORK DAYS.
On weekdays, I have to be organized, prioritize my projects, and manage my time well. I want to stay focused and take care of everything urgent. So, that way the less urgent stuff can wait for the following week.
PLAN AHEADFOR WORK AND FUN.
When I have a really busy week, the idea of work-life balance never crosses my mind, because Im too busy working to think about anything else. That only makes the problem worse. Because, when the weekend rolls around, it means I have nothing fun planned. If I wait until the last minute (like, Friday night) to look for something fun to do, many of my friends already have plans. When that happens, I often end up at home, on my laptop, catching up on email and feeling depressed and overwhelmed. This is no way to spend an evening, as before I know it, these feelings have the ability to make me worse, and I don’t want that. It’s even got to the point where I’ve thought about using something like Nutra CBD olie, (Nutra CBD oil) just so I can fully relax and switch off from the stressors surrounding my life. I haven’t tried it yet because I’m going to see if finding things to look forward to can work instead. I just hate feeling that way, so I’m trying really hard to make sure that I plan fun stuff ahead of time. (Having fun stuff on my calendar also makes it easier to get through a brutal workweek. I know better days are coming!)
The main reason Im a freelance writer is because I love writing. Some of my happiest moments are when Im thinking up ideas for weird short stories, or working on my YA novel. So, I dont necessarily think of those things as work. Id love to find time to focus on those things during the week, too, but Im fine with spending weekend hours working on my personal writing projects. Even for work, I often write about things that interest me, but I think of work as projects Im doing for other people. Work projects have real deadlinesdeadlines I cant ignore.
DONT OVERSCHEDULE THE WEEKEND.
Work-life balance isnt just about balancing work stuff and fun stuff. Its about having downtime. Relaxing is good for you, and it can also help you be more creative. I only set an alarm clock Monday through Friday, because I want to spend my weekend mornings relaxing. This past Saturday and Sunday, I slept in both days and felt great. Actually, when I looked at my phone, I realized that Id woken up even earlier than I do on weekdays. Even though I woke up early, I still felt good about getting out of bed. After all, I was doing it on my time, not for someone else.
ASK FOR SUPPORT.
If youre a freelancer, you probably regularly answers emails from clients over the weekend. (Or, you often agree to work on Saturday or Sunday). Moving forward, let people know that youre making work-life balance a priority. Chances are, theyll understand and respect your decision. Most likely, the people who email you on the weekends are probably working too much, too. Be polite, but firm, and let them know that theyll get an answer from you on Monday when youre back at work.
Tell your friends and family about it, too, and ask them to help you stay on track. If I answer work email on my phone while Im out with friends, theyre good about helping me refocus. Theyre not mean about it, but they might ask in a silly voice, Are you working again? I love that, because it forces me to immediately reassess my priorities. Maintaining friendships is important, and my friends deserve my full attention when were together.
IF YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST WORK ON THE WEEKEND, GET IT DONE.
I know its challenging to transition from being someone who catches up on work over the weekends to someone who takes weekends off, because Im still struggling with it. The hardest part for me is getting the work out of the way. If I have something urgent on my to-do list as I head into the weekend, its easy to put it off until Sunday evening. But if I do that, I can feel it weighing on my Friday night, and all day Saturday, and the weight feels even heavier on Sunday morning. I am always MUCH happier if I finish the project as early in the weekend as possible, because then I dont have it hanging over me all weekend.
I will admit I did a bit of work this past weekend, but it was less than Ive done in the past few weekends. So, I feel like Im heading in a good direction. I already have plans with friends next Saturday. Thatll inspire me to do an even better job this week, right? Forget the hustle memes. Id rather focus on a saying with built-in balance:
WORK HARD AND PLAY HARD.
Feature photo: David Yanutama / Unsplash