By Kevin Muldoon

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

Striking a balance between work and play is important to your happiness.

If you work too little, you may find yourself bored and without direction (not to mention short of cash).

If you work too much, you may find yourself tired, stressed, and unhappy.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

I have no doubt that you have heard friends who are on holiday say that they are bored and actually looking forward to returning to work so that they can get back into their normal routine. I am also sure you have heard the old idiom “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.

Being on either side of this fence is not good for your well being, which is why it is important to find the right balance between work and life.

The Freelancer’s Dilemma

Those of you who are in full-time employment may not ponder this issue too much if you are contracted to 35 hours, 37.5 hours, or 40 hours per week. Your working hours are fixed and you know when you are working and when you are not. You may, however, still be concerned about your work-life balance if you are doing a lot of overtime or if you need to reduce your working hours due to family commitments.

Freelancers, and those who are self-employed, think about this issue more frequently as we can choose how much or how little we work. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get the balance of work correct, despite the fact we can work whatever hours we please.

Freelancing

A photograph of Flickr user wetwebwork freelancing using three monitors.

In theory, we can work whatever hours we please, but it is not always as black and white as that.

You see, a lot of a freelancer’s clients come from referrals.

Therefore, if you are not taking on a lot of work, you are not showcasing what you can do.

On the flip side, taking on many clients can mean a rush of people contacting you for work.

What this essentially means is that when you are not working, you get little offers of work, but when you are working, you get many offers of work. Both of these extremes can affect your balance between work and life.

Additionally, saying “No” to a client might mean you are turning down all future work with them as they will inevitably hire someone else for the job you turned down.

Whereas saying “Yes” to a job you have no time to complete can overwhelm you and result in you submitting sub-par work.

This can sometimes place you in a difficult position as you will frequently get offers of work from big clients during the period you want to take time off.

Working too Little Vs Working Too Much

Since I started freelance writing a few years ago, I have experienced the peaks and troughs that all freelancers face.

Anyone who has found themselves out of work knows how difficult life can be. You start feeling useless, bored, and stressed about the future. Not to mention how frustrating the act of finding work can be.

It feels like you have no direction in life. It feels like you have no purpose.

Stress by Giuseppe Savo

Image Copyright: Giuseppe Savo

Working too much can cause many problems too.

When you have too much work on your plate, you feel constantly stressed. Even when you are not working, your mind is busy thinking about the work you will need to complete the following day. Your mind is never at ease because of this.

Experiencing this kind of stress can put a lot of pressure on you mentally. It can lead to depression, anxiety, and irritability. All of these things can generate problems in your personal life, be it with your friends, family, or partner; because, inevitably, you unload a lot of your stress onto the people close to you.

Having experienced both extremes, I would say that for me, working too much is worse; though I appreciate everyone’s situation is different. From a financial point of view, not working enough can create a lot of stress if you have many responsibilities, be it children to feed, or bills to pay.

My Story

I have been lucky enough to be self-employed through the internet since 2004 and have experienced the many highs and lows that it offers.

There was a point a year or so ago that I was overwhelmed with the amount of work on my plate. I was working all day long seven days a week trying to complete work for clients and trying to maintain my own websites too.

I was making good money, but I was unhappy.

I went holiday in Colombia during this time and continued to work. I visited many amazing places during the day and caught up with work at night.

To the outside world, I was someone who was lucky enough to be able to work and travel. However, the truth is that I was never really able to relax as when I was sightseeing during the daytime, I was thinking about the work I had to complete that night. Poor internet connections along the way made my situation even more stressful.

The whole journey reminded me that a holiday is about having a mental break. It is about forgetting what you do every day to make money and finding your equilibrium again.

I made a conscious decision to reduce my workload after this holiday and have since struck a better balance between work and life.

Working on Holiday

Checking emails on the road is ok, but working while on holiday was a bad idea.

A couple of months ago, I started doing martial arts again after a five year hiatus due to injury. I have really been enjoying my time learning Brazilian jiu-jitsu at Scottish Hit Squad. In fact, I have been training six or seven days most weeks (and on most of those days I was doing two sessions).

I started to work less because of the time I was putting into training, and, as a result of this, I started to make less money. I am not someone who is motivated by money so it did not concern me too much, though I did recognise that the balance between work and leisure had swung too far the other way.

Over the last week or two I have started to train a little less and put more time and energy into my internet projects. This has turned out to be the best decision I could have made as, in hindsight, I was overtraining and not giving myself enough time to rest.

How to Find the Right Balance Between Work and Life

Striking the right balance between work and play is vital to your happiness. That much is clear.

Although I sometimes get the balance between work and life wrong, I have learned a lot over the years and learned to recognise the signs when my life is becoming imbalanced.

  • Just Say “No” – It is always tempting to take on additional work for clients, however if your schedule is already full you should learn to say no.
  • Leave Work at Work – Do not take your work with you. Be sure to switch off email notifications when you are away from your computer as if you are constantly checking emails, you will never relax.
  • Work Smarter – It is important to work smarter, not harder. Recognise your strengths and weaknesses and outsource work for tasks that you find difficult.
  • Do Not Sacrifice Downtime – It is tempting to sacrifice your leisure time when you get offers of additional work or when something important has to be completed. However, you need to be aware of how vital time away from work is to your overall happiness and well being.
  • Exercise is Important – You should aim to exercise at least three to five times per week. Exercise will make you feel healthier and stronger. It will also help you sleep better.
  • Eat Right – You are what you eat. Stay away from fast food and keep snacking on processed snacks to a minimum.

Ultimately, everyone has to find their own balance between work and life. What works for me may not work for you, and vice-versa.

If you are a freelancer seeking more work, I recommend actively checking job boards and freelancing marketplaces. You should also touch base with old clients and ask friends within the business to keep you in mind if any jobs arise.

If you are finding yourself stressed because of your current workload, take a step back and look at what you can do to address this imbalance in your life. Are you not sleeping enough? Are you not exercising enough? Are you taking on more work than you can handle? Look at what is wrong and fix it.

I find this topic of balancing work and life to be interesting so I would love to hear your opinion on all of this. Please leave a comment below and explain how you balance your work commitments and maintain a happy life.

Thanks for reading.

Kevin

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