Working as a freelancer often means you have to spend a lot of time working from home on your own. And while that offers a lot of flexibility, it can also be all too easy to slip into some bad habits.
Whether you’re struggling to switch off from work or you’re just feeling a bit sluggish and unmotivated, we’ve put together five key tips for looking after yourself while you’re working from home.
Establish a boundary between work and home life
It can be super difficult to keep that clear distinction between work and home life when you’re working from home. Leaving your house in the morning to commute to work and returning at the end of the day creates a clear boundary, and that can be hard to recreate when your office is the spare room or the kitchen table.
Sticking to a routine is essential, even if your working hours are flexible. Start around the same time each day, step away from your desk to take a proper lunch break, and set yourself a finish time that you stick to.
It’s easy to feel that you need to prove how productive you’re being when other people can’t see what you’re doing — especially when a client is paying you for your time. But working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being more productive. You’re likely to be less focused and more tired the longer you’re working, which means you’ll get far less done.
Try to stay focused throughout your normal hours instead of work dragging on into the evening. This means setting yourself a cut-off point for when you have to finish up each day, and shutting down your computer at that point.
If possible, it’s a good idea to set your home office up in another room — away from where you would usually relax and unwind. But if you don’t have a spare room, try to set it up in a way that you can put your work down and move away from it at the end of the day. For example, use a room divider to create a separate space around a desk, or keep it at one end of the room and out of view in the evenings.
Stick with a healthy diet
It’s really easy to neglect your diet and fall into bad habits when you’re working from home.
You can end up snacking at your desk all day long because no one else is there to see it. And even though in theory you should have more time to cook, if you’re stressed out or working late, you’re likely to opt for takeaways and quick, unhealthy treats.
It’s important to remember that what you’re eating makes a huge difference to how you feel though.
Plan out your meals for the week ahead and ensure that they include a range of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, as well as plenty of fruit and vegetables. Getting enough of the right vitamins and minerals from your diet will help you to stay fit and healthy.
Make time to exercise
Working from home also means you have less reason to get out of the house, and your activity levels can significantly drop off — especially if you’ve got into freelancing recently and you haven’t established a clear routine yet.
Unless you make time to exercise, it’s all too easy to spend all day sitting at a desk and then spend your evening sitting down on the sofa, without any real movement.
Exercise is important for your physical health, but it also helps manage your mental health as well. It can be helpful to focus on something else and working out has been shown to decrease stress levels and make you feel more positive.
Make sure you’re getting outside each day, even just for a short walk before work or during your lunch break. If you can, try to do some regular cardio exercise at least two or three times a week. This can help to lower your blood pressure and also help your immune system.
If you struggle to stick with exercising regularly, there are plenty of workout programs and fitness apps that you can sign up for. These will help to keep you motivated and on track with exercising while you’re completing that big project for your latest client.
Get enough sleep
When you don’t have an early morning commute each day it can be tempting to stay up late. But even when you’re working at home you still need between seven and eight hours of uninterrupted sleep to feel rested. If you’re not getting that, you’re more likely to be stressed, distracted, and irritable. And long term, sleep deprivation can have a serious impact on your health.
Try to get to bed at the same time each night, and set an alarm to wake up at the same time every morning. Over time this will help your body to switch off at night, and you’ll be more alert and awake in the mornings.
If you do struggle to fall asleep then get into the habit of turning off the tv and avoid looking at any screens for an hour or so before bedtime. Instead of late-night social media scrolling, read a book. And if you need help clearing your mind so that you can drift off, it could be worth trying meditation.
Take time off
You might feel like you can’t take any time off as a freelancer (if you’re anything like us, you tend to worry about when your next invoice will be paid or if you’ll land that big client you’ve been chasing for a while), but it’s essential to take a break every now and then.
Even if it’s only a day or two, time away from your work when you can completely switch off and relax is going to be really good for your health. Plus, you’ll come back feeling refreshed and more focused, which means you’ll be able to work better.
Working from home offers a lot of benefits, but when you’re mostly working on your own as a freelancer it’s really important to look after yourself. Get into a good routine, follow these tips, and you’ll find that you feel more positive and you’re far more productive.