How to master weekends as a freelancer (without burning out)

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How do you spend your weekend mornings?

In a previous life, I’d have spent these coveted hours sleeping off a hangover, loading up Call of Duty, or settling in for a lengthy Netflix binge-session.

The ‘Freelancer’ Weekend

In the last couple years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a substantial uptick in freelance work—not quite enough to steal me away from my full-time job—but enough to keep me fairly busy!

And for many of us, that can present issues when it comes to work-life balance.

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Now, we all want to be productive and successful, but not any of us want to be buried in work. Striking the right balance can be a painful process, and certainly varies depending on who you’re talking to.

I definitely prefer to be busy, but not too busy. And that certainly allows for occasional hectic schedule when new business inevitably piles on (as they say, when it rains it pours).

(Sidenote: For those of you thinking to yourself,  “Busy, but not too busy? Business piling on? Gee, that sounds nice…” I encourage you to read this, this, and this.)

Organize

When time is a limited commodity, it becomes increasingly important to take control of your weekend schedule and stay organized. You’ve only got evenings and weekends to work with, so you better make every hour count.

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What better way to organize then by using note-taking apps. Thankfully, there are a lot of options out there for freelancers. Most of them are totally free to use too! I would suggest a few including Google Keep, SimpleNote and Evernote.

For me, I find I’m able to be more productive and stay on top of freelance work when I set aside fixed blocks of time, as opposed to peppering in time here and there. Knowing that I’ve only got so many hours to work with keeps me focused and allows me to get much more done.

On weekdays, this consists of an hour or two a few days out of the week. On the weekends, I typically set aside several hours spanning the middle of the day. That way, I’ve got time to ease into the day as well as time left to enjoy my weekends after I’m done working.

Refresh

Now, I don’t know about you—but I’m not always eager to try and fill up my evenings and weekends with as much work as possible. I’m usually burnt out and much more interested in the idea of taking a long nap over getting behind the computer again.

That’s why I find it’s critical to set aside time to “refresh” between working sessions.

Ironically, the best way to refresh for me doesn’t involve resting at all. Since I spend most of my time each week sitting behind a MacBook, I’ve found that the best way to clear my head and tap into a fresh energy source is to get out and be active.

And since the weather’s been so uncharacteristically nice in the my area lately, that usually means a few miles on the bike or a long walk/jog.

Even when you’re not out there in the open, try to minimize the time you sit, maybe stretch out every now and then. Also, try giving your eyes a break every 15-20 minutes.

Question: What are some of your favorite ways to stay fresh? Let’s hear it in the comments section!

Crush It

Have you ever felt yourself dreading diving into a freelance project? Have you ever been caught in the pull of the couch’s tractor beam when you should be chipping away at that website?

Of course you have.

But so much of your success in life depends on discipline and attitude. This is especially true for mastering your weekend freelance workload.

Before I sit down at my desk I always take a moment to rev up. I visualize, crank up the tunes, brew a fresh cup of coffee, and prepare to (as Schmidt would say), crush it.

Weekend Warriors, Report In!

I’d love to learn more about how you stay on top of your workload and maintain your work-life balance. If you have a question or some advice of your own to share, leave a comment!

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About Brian Glassman

Brian Glassman is a freelance designer, front-end web developer, and marketing professional in the Greater Chicago area. When he’s not going the extra mile for clients, you can find him listening to (loud) rock music, enjoying a craft beer, or nerding out on his gaming PC. Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram

 

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Comments

  1. Awesome article I recently hit burnout and had to re-evaluate and this article is spot on! I have seen consistency is better then a 12 hour Saturday 🙂

    I refresh by going out with my family or exercising.
    My daughter and I just started taking half and hour to play soccer in the back yard when I need a break.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Josh.

      Yeah, it’s tough striking the right balance. Definitely good to get up and do something else from time to time; us humans didn’t evolve to sit behind computer screens all day.

      At least not in our lifetime… Maybe one day we’ll become part robot.

  2. Great article, Brian! For me, the one weekend activity that truly accelerated my freelance career was taking my work to my Public library. Although I have a decent home office, sometimes the legitimate need to futz around after a long week of working full time would push my other responsibilities to the wayside.

    At the library, there’s a beautiful unison of silent focus that emanates from all who are present. It’s been the perfect environment for dealing with the first (and often the most difficult) step towards really digging my teeth into a new project.

    Just knowing that I have a study room reserved at the library would remove much of the stress that occurs during the preceding week, when both large and small tasks were building up and remained unreachable due to my full time job. Then, once I’ve had the chance to spend 8-10 weekend hours at the library, things would be set in motion for the next week, relieving me of even more potential stress.

    One last thing I’d like to mention (sorry, I’m clearly a huge library advocate), is that the library simply wants to make our society more knowledgeable. The very idea that such a place could exist — in Sarah Palin’s America — is enough to take as much advantage of it as possible.

    Anyhow, I’m currently at the library and I need to get back to work.

  3. Thanks, I appreciate this post and love the stuff you guys churn out, always a good and helpful read 🙂

  4. Great article! And every helpful 🙂 I”ve recently been a little burnt out as well and what worked great for me was just to disconnect for a bit (after finishing up work that’s due of course lol) and enjoy the simple life (no electronics, quality time with friends, enjoying the outdoors, etc). Stepping back allowed me to see what things were causing the burn out. So after my “mini-vacation” I was ready to get back into the grind and avoid the things that caused so much stress.

  5. Thanks Brian, such a timely article for me, I am a full time freelancer and often just hang out at my home desk in evenings and weekends because its how I relax. I’ve had a great wake up call in the last few weeks and realised that although I love it, I’ll get more inspired and be a better creative by taking breaks by playing with my kids. Your article inspired me to get out of the house and get outside and away from my desk, thanks!

  6. I recently took the dive from working both a day-job and freelancing, to only freelancing. This was due in part to avoid the burn out I was starting to feel after doing this for 3-4 years straight.

    I could go into detail about how the experience of going freelance has been going, but this article is more about what we do to recharge. For me, I’ve been going to a Kung Fu school for about a year and half now. This is a great physical outlet, especially as designers are seated behind a desk for hours on end, probably in bad postures. This also has been important for me because I realize it’s the only place I can go where no one can ask anything of me, so it is essentially my “me time.”

    I don’t have to worry about my partner wanting to cuddle me while I’m at my computer. I don’t have to worry about what’s for dinner and prepare or go out to eat. I don’t have to worry about “Can you have this done for me yesterday?” by clients who failed to tell me about an event they need a poster for suddenly. I don’t have to worry about performing well when practicing on a new song with my bandmates. It’s a place where all I have to worry about is landing and dodging punches, practicing low stances, and pushing my pain threshold. (haha it’s not as terrible as it sounds!)

    In any case, I’ve found that doing something physical and outside of your work setting is best. It seems everyone else’s comments reflect that as well. 🙂

    • Nice, kung fu sounds like a lot of fun.

      I like your point about “me time.” However we decide to do it, it’s key to disconnect.

      It’s so tempting to just try and push through a stack of work, hoping that if we just keep attacking, it’ll eventually get done. When in truth, that approach is often counterproductive.

      You’ve inspired me to exercise some more today, by the way.

  7. As a general rule, I’m in the same boat – work until late after the kids are in bed and then on the weekends when we’re not running here or there. It’s a tough racket.

    Being on the bike is probably my best “refuge” from the grind. Unfortunately, time and energy never seem to be in sync at the same time, so there’s been more go-go-go and less rest and recharge.

    In a perfect, or not so perfect world, that’s how I do it.

  8. Part of my routine to ‘crush’ a job involves getting into character. Got me, that has meant various things over the years as I try out different things to see what works best. For example, one enduring step for me is to put a hat in the morning before I walk from my bedroom to the office next door! This ritual I have come to associate with ‘business time’!

  9. Weekends are sacred! Rather than feeling burnt out, I tend to feel uninspired and lack the motivation to tackle projects and work on my own business. Music is a life saver for motivation, and I’m finding that outlining and actually writing down my initial tasks to get tomorrow started before going to bed helps a ton!