Leaving a full-time job and venturing off on your own is one of the most freeing experiences in the world. No longer shackled by bureaucracy, rigid schedules, and uncomfortable business wear (at least for me), freelancing is a dream.
If you’re anything like me, you probably decided to venture on your own because you wanted to finally take control of your life.
You probably spent your first few weeks of freedom getting your new life set up — organizing your portfolio, building a website, and whatever else needed to be done.
And things were great. Because you were free.
You could wake up when you want, take a break when you want, and work when you want.
Hell, there were days when I’d wake up at 11 AM and finish work at 10 PM. Why? Because I could.
But sooner or later the high wears off. All the trivial tasks are out of the way, and you’re left with your business and your thoughts.
And then the wheels start turning.
You realize you’ve gone days without really getting anything done. You complete daily work for the few clients you have, and then what? There’s nothing left to do. Your life no longer has any structure, and it’s stressing you out. What was once an incredible high is now a huge stress.
So what can you do?
Turns out there are some easy ways to regain structure in your life, without sacrificing any of your newfound freedom.
If you’re currently in this position or planning on leaving your 9–5 to regain control of your life, here are four tips I used to get my life and career back on track.
Last year around this time, I made it a goal to create new content every single day for a year. It was a difficult decision for me to make at the time — I had other ‘stuff’ to do. Creating that much content seemed like a waste of time.
Boy was I wrong.
While my newly created content brought in more clients than any of my previous methods, the far greater impact came in how it affected the structure of my day.
Before the challenge, I was lost. I would work for hours only to look around and see nothing to show for it.
Through blogging, creating videos, and recording podcast episodes, I was able to train my brain to focus on a specific goal for a set period of time. When I finished, I knew I had something tangible that reflected my work that day.
The sense of accomplishment I felt from creating every day was enough to bring structure and meaning back to my daily life. Quite honestly, had I not made that challenge with myself, I’d probably be back working a 9–5 right now.
Whatever your area of expertise, there’s always room for YOU.
Set a content creation goal for yourself and use it to keep yourself accountable. By the end, I’m all but sure you won’t want to stop.
Give Yourself A Set Schedule
How many times have you come across an article outlining [insert rich person here]’s daily schedule?
The topic is wildly oversaturated. And while I think the world would be better off without another recap of Elon Musk or Warren Buffet’s daily schedule, there is a reason why so many successful people have a daily schedule.
Because they work. Well if you stick to them, at least.
One of the many perks of working for yourself is having fluidity in your day. Working when you want, for however long you want.
For most people, however, too much fluidity can be a bad thing.
Too little structure can have detrimental effects on productivity.
I’m not telling you to schedule every second of your day. If that works for you great, but for most people, it’s a recipe for disaster.
What I do recommend is dedicating blocks of time in your day to specific tasks. Say 8:00 AM — 10:00 AM for writing, 10:00 AM — 1:PM for client work, and so on.
There are several great apps that allow you to “block schedule” your time, many of which are free on the App Store.
The old school approach works just as well. Pull out a piece of paper, draw a timeline of your workday, and schedule out what you need to get done.
Have Someone Keep You Accountable
My girlfriend is a big reason why I get so much done every day.
In the morning while we’re getting the day started, I tell her all the things I need to get done that day and she holds me to it. At the end of the day, if I don’t do what I say I’m going to do, I have to deal with her scowling face for the rest of the night.
The added accountability she brings to the table forces me to stay focused on my work, allowing me to lead more structured days.
If you have a girlfriend or spouse, tell them what you’re working on and ask them to stay on your ass until you’ve accomplished everything you need to.
If not, no worries. Find a friend, a family member or a peer to keep you centered on your goals.
It doesn’t even necessarily need to be an everyday conversation. Perhaps finding a time every week to go over your upcoming tasks and review the previous week is the right fit for you. Maybe even monthly. Whatever works best for YOU.
Having someone else hold you accountable is a great way to stay focused, and on schedule.
Don’t Be Afraid To Take A Break
But… how does taking a break add more structure to my life?
In my experience, one of the main causes of a lack of structure is the feeling that you must always be working.
We get so caught up with everything we “have” to do that we end up overwhelmed, lost in our thoughts, and ultimately completing very little.
If this is you, you’re not alone. Don’t be afraid to take some time for yourself, away from work, to clear your mind and regain focus.
I often get up from my desk and take my dogs on a long walk in the middle of the day to clear my head.
Find what works best for you and don’t be afraid to do it, even it means sitting down for an episode or two on Netflix.
Adding that personal time to your day clears your head, making you that much better through the rest of the day.
I guarantee if you make time for yourself, your days will feel more complete and your life will become more structured.