Ever since I left my old job and became a freelancer (which happened a little under four months ago) I embarked in a crazy, scary work journey. I’ll explain: it didn’t take more than a week for the first job offer to come up. After that, a few other offers came my way, and I have spent the last few months spinning imaginary plates of work and study (I’m currently on graduate school). It hasn’t been easy, and I daydream of the day when I’ll dedicate less hours to working and more hours to studying/relaxing/sleeping/being just plain lazy.
I’m still working my magic to accomplish everything I need to, but all of this has taught me a few things about limits and the importance of finding my own rhythm and respecting it:
Knowing when to relax: I deem myself a perfectionist when it comes to work, and I tend to demand a lot more than I should from myself under certain circumstances. I always make an effort to do my best, and I frequently go the extra mile, because that is the only way I can get satisfaction from the work I do. However, sometimes it is important to accept that there is a limit, and being able to respect that is important in order to avoid unnecessary wear and tear (as well as being dead tired by the end of the day). I still give my best in everything I do, but I can now identify the moments when I’m going beyond my limits, and I accept that.
Knowing when (and how) to say ‘no’: this is the hardest lesson to learn, I believe. Who likes to say ‘no’ to someone? I certainly don’t, even more so when it involves a chance to expand my professional horizons. But, what is the best scenario? Saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity and not being able to handle it in the end, or saying a few ‘nos’ here and there and delivering the absolute best to all clients?
Knowing how to plan ahead: the essential here is learning how to work with the short-term and the medium-term in mind, and knowing where you want to be, and what you want to be doing in the foreseeable future. A paper planner comes in handy, because you can visualise time in the form of days and months, and you can plan how to allocate your time considering the tasks you need to accomplish. Planning is everything when you are a freelancer; a whiteboard with every deadline you must meet, in their due order, can also help you not to lose focus.
Knowing how to manage your time: another hard lesson to learn. Nobody does just one thing for 24 hours. Between sleeping, eating, working and studying, a whole day can go by and you might be left with the feeling of not having accomplished much. For those who are still striving to keep a social life, or for those who have a partner/spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend, you must also factor in the time spent with the people you love. I realised it is crucial to respect the time dedicated to each one of those things, because nothing is more or less important – all of those things deserve the same amount of my dedication.
Finally, the biggest lesson I learned in these (almost) four months is that I have to accept that I can’t throw my arms around the world. I can’t say ‘yes’ to all job offers, I can’t go to all the parties, I can’t read all the books in the shortest time possible, and I can’t sleep for just a few hours every night. Acknowledging my limits and doing my best within them has made me humbler, and a little wiser too.