My friends are often surprised when they see me out on weekends, or even find me cozying up with a mystery novel in a nook of a café on a Tuesday afternoon. “Where do you find all the time?” they complain as they switch between client calls and struggle to meet deadlines.
Work is important: it brings food to the table and makes life comfortable. But it is much more important to spend time with yourself and do things you love to live a quality life. Meet your friend over a coffee and have a heartfelt conversation, catch up on your reading, and cherish little moments with your loved ones. The rest can wait.
There was a time in my career when I worked 18 hours a day, spending hours on research, writing, proofreading, revising, rushing through assignments, and barely getting any rest. It was fine at the beginning because I took this as a fair trade-off for growing my client list, acquiring new skills, and making a little extra money.
But after a while, I began to notice a drop in my creativity. I was slow in my submissions; I felt lethargic and just couldn’t focus. I slept very little. I took on too much that I couldn’t keep up with. I struggled to write engaging slogans and copy for brands that I personally loved, and that’s when I knew I had overworked myself.
I convinced my clients that I needed to take a break and refresh my mind; I finally took a badly needed vacation. I went to Wayanad in Kerala, India to attend a friend’s wedding. I don’t know if it was the cool air that came from the serene hills or coming into close contact with nature or just simply taking time off to laugh with friends and not think about work—whatever it was, it worked! I felt rejuvenated.
After returning from one good week spent in the lush landscapes of Wayanad, I resumed my work and to my surprise, I wrote some of the best copies in my career. My clients were pleased with what I wrote, and I met all my deadlines, every single one of them. That’s when I had realized how important it was to just take a break, relax, and laugh, and live a little. A well-oiled machine runs well, not one that is overworked and neglected.
Please note that staring blankly into space or chewing on a pen cap like you haven’t eaten a meal in days do not count as “taking a break”. Although it works for some, I believe a break should actually refresh you and re-energize you.
I now try not to overwhelm myself with too many projects and aim to take up work that interests me. I make to-do lists, avoid multitasking, and do my best to get more done in less time.
If you are anything like I was, I would suggest you follow these simple rules I have since adopted.
- Choose work that you most enjoy – There’ll always be projects that do not interest us in any way. When you stumble upon them, just say “no”. You will feel more fulfilled and productive when you actually do work that you love.
- Prioritize your assignments – Yes, every assignment has a tight deadline and we hurry to meet. But do not overwhelm yourself with a bulky to-do list. Pick 2-3 most important tasks for the day and focus solely on completing them.
- Communicate with your client regularly – Make sure you ask your clients the right questions from the outset, clarifying any doubts to avoid having to make multiple revisions. When writing, always take your clients’ specifications on board because, in the end, their satisfaction will determine your future contracts and paycheck.
- Do not multitask – Never, ever multitask. Working on two or more assignments simultaneously is not advisable if you want your writing to be high-quality. You would think you’re being productive, but when your client points out all the errors and asks you to rework, you will be in a lot of pain. Trust me. I once multitasked three assignments and the results were pretty bad.
- Relieve stress – Do whatever you can to relax and bust your stress and anxiety. I, for example, ask my husband to tell me a joke, knowing that he’s terrible at it. As expected, he tells such bad jokes that I actually end up laughing hard. It instantly clears my mind! But hey, do whatever works for you.
As freelance writers, we get so wrapped up in making every second count. But doing so only decreases creativity, lowers quality, and is not sustainable in the long run. Take good breaks in between projects, so you are refreshed to work on the next task. And when you do not have enough tasks on hand, I would suggest you read articles, brush your grammar, see what’s trending, pick up a skill, or simply read your favorite book.