Time is Money. The Negative Psychological Effects of Freelancing
Get back from the bar at 2 AM. Pass out. Wake up at noon. Get some greasy food to nurse your hangover. Start your workday around 3 PM. This could be a totally normal schedule for a freelancer. Working whatever hours work for you (as long as your clients are happy) is a central part of being a freelancer. That being said, the average freelancer’s schedule on an average day probably doesn’t look like that. In fact, it probably looks like the opposite. Get up at 7 AM and work until 7 or 8 or 9 PM, eating meals between emails. With freedom of schedule comes the idea that any hour of the day could be a working hour. When this is the case, we start to think of every hour as an hour we could be making money. When we aren’t making money, an hour can become less valuable or a waste of time. This is a dangerous mindset to have, yet one many freelancers face. Try and counteract this mentality.
Creating boundaries may be the most common (or most commonly preached) way to not overwork yourself. Determine the times of the day you work and the times you don’t, the days you work and the days you don’t. The trouble with this practice is it can be hard for freelancers to stick to this kind of schedule. They got into freelancing to work when they wanted, not to recreate their old schedule. Plus, at an office you’re adhering to the patterns of others. Freelancers have no one else around to signal when to close their laptops. A possible solution here may be to create boundaries based on things other than just a time of day. Are there certain symptoms you experience when it’s time to wrap it up? Boredom, lack of concentration, hunger, heavy eyelids, checking your phone, texting, etc. Perhaps when these symptoms become too difficult to ignore you let yourself stop. We can’t only work when feel like it though so maybe we create boundaries based on the quality of work we’re producing. Come up with a way to judge the work, measure against what you think it should be, and stop working when it’s no longer up to snuff. If you’re an all-nighter kind of guy maybe you pick a few days a week where you get everything done and don’t allow yourself to work outside of that. No matter how weird your preferences, boundaries can be set to help you avoid burnout, and enjoy leisure.
A LITTLE HELP
One of the best ways to save time is to simply have someone else do something you normally would. In other words, outsource. You don’t have to outsource your work, you can outsource cooking by getting delivery, laundry by going to a laundromat, or cleaning by hiring a cleaner. Taking advantage of outsourcing shouldn’t necessarily be an excuse to spend more time working, but rather clearing your schedule of certain tasks to make it more balanced. The more pressure we feel to squeeze all our work into our calendars the more likely we are to spend an unhealthy amount of time trying to get it done. The more space we have to do that work the more likely we are to work in sensible consistent periods of time. Outsourcing of course, even basic things like food, cost money, more than you’d probably spend by grocery shopping. But that’s the big question here. What’s worth more to you? Money or time. If a relatively small amount of money buys you a whole lot of time then that may be worth it. It’s up to you to determine what time saving practices make sense in which situation.
TIME IS PRECIOUS
This brings us to the core of this issue. People who get paid by the hour think time is money and often think about the money they’re losing in their free time. Many of these people may be considered workaholics, but for freelancers, that mindset just comes with the territory. When your income is inconsistent it forces you to focus more intently on finances. Researchers found that when workers are more attuned to their income they tend to think more of time as money. Salaried workers think about their income less because it’s consistent and never-changing. One of the key advantages of being a freelancer, becoming more fiscally responsible, can also be a disadvantage if you end becoming too responsible.
People who value time over money are generally more satisfied people no matter how much they make. People who valued time more were more likely to engage in activities that promoted happiness and saved time, like a direct flight as opposed to an indirect flight. Valuing time over money also affects major life decisions like choosing jobs. Most importantly though, those who valued time more found that their behaviors matched their values more closely.
If you find it difficult to start prioritizing time more highly you can frame leisure time as good for productivity. Taking time for yourself can help decrease stress and boost energy and creativity. If that doesn’t work, just remember this worn out but accurate truth: Time is the one thing you can’t get back.
As important as work is, your life is just as, if not more, important. Sometimes you should be able to relax without thinking about work at all.