Five Ways to Achieve Balance in Your Freelance Living
by Chris King

In today's crazy, fast-paced world, it is a challenge for everyone, no matter his or her profession, to establish balanced living. It is an even bigger challenge for the free agent, independent professional, and freelancer, for we are completely in charge of how we structure our days, weeks, months, and years.

Even though this topic could easily fill a book, I am going to share five of the major ways I have used to help me achieve a feeling of balance in my life.


Realize that we will never have a perfectly balanced life, but it is worth working toward.
Yes, even though trying to achieve balance can be a daunting goal, the closer we come to succeeding, the more enjoyable our existence will become as a free agent, independent professional, freelancer, and even as a full-time employee. First of all, I should tell you my definition for a balanced life. It should include a good balance between the life roles we have in work, in the family, in the community, and in all other areas of our life. At this point I want to recommend Stephen Covey's incredible book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. By using Covey's delineation of these roles, I gained perspective and balance in my freelance living by defining my own specific roles. Balance produces all kinds of benefits: peace of mind, emotional and physical health, true enjoyment of others - especially friends and family, work that we love to do, and life-long learning along with other benefits that are unique and important to your life.

Find a time management plan that works for you and your personality. For years I worked diligently on trying to implement the standard time management plan that proposes making a to-do-list, prioritizing those tasks, working on them in the order of importance, and checking them off upon completion. This is a great plan that works well for the majority of left-brained people. If, however, you are a right-brained creative as I am - and so many freelancers are - it just doesn’t work the same way we do. Besides Covey's First Things First approach that I am going to describe in a moment, I also want to recommend another time management book that combined with Covey's has changed my life and attitude toward time. Both have worked for me to create close to perfect balance of my minutes, hours, and days. In her book Time Management for Unmanageable People, Ann McGee Cooper shows creative people how to break the old time management rules that don't work for them and create their own "fun" non-system that works.

Get into Quadrant II as often as possible! What do I mean by Quadrant II? Covey's theory of time management includes quadrants for your activities. Quadrant I includes activities that are urgent and important - for example, crises, pressing problems, deadline-driven projects; Quadrant III includes activities that are urgent and not important - for example, interruptions, some calls, mail, some meetings, many pressing matters, many popular activities; Quadrant IV includes activities that are not urgent and not important - examples include trivia, busy work, some mail, some phone calls, time wasters, many pleasant activities (TV); and Quadrant II includes activities that are important, yet not urgent - examples include preparation, crisis prevention, values clarification, planning (goal setting), relationship building, and true re-creation (lifelong learning, exercise, etc.). The more time we spend in Quadrant II, the more balanced and less stressful our lives become. We avoid the crises and pressing problems of Quadrant I. I am not saying that we will ever be able to erase all our time in the other Quadrants, but if I always ask myself, "Is this a Quadrant II activity?" before I do something, I find that I say No more often to what I shouldn't be doing and that my life is richer and much more rewarding.

Create a Balanced Life Plan, Chart, or Wheel. To make any program take hold, I find that creating a plan, some sort of chart or visual helps with making the outcome a reality. For example, the diets that work and create lasting success are those where the dieter keeps a journal or chart of daily calories, points, and amounts of exercise. I suggest that you choose a method that works for you. Putting something on paper is a good start. It can be a list of your life roles with the goals you want to achieve in those areas. It can be a chart or a journal keeping track of how you are doing with your balancing of those roles, and/or it can be a circle with wheel spokes separating your roles equally into pie shapes to remind you to keep working on balancing. Post it near the phone or work area, so that you remember daily your direction when others or other distractions start to interrupt.

Worry less about what others think and say you "should" or "shouldn't" be doing. Most of us pay much too much attention to what others are telling us we "should do" or "should be" - These people who are often friends and/or relatives are well meaning and feel that they are giving us good advice. We must remember that it is our life, and if we let others control us with their advice and their demands, we will lead a far from balanced life - we may even resent it. We must have the gumption to say "no" (in a nice and polite way) when the request interferes with our plan or direction. And there will always be the nay-sayers, or the WBs (Wet Blankets) who, when you say, "I'm going to quit my job and become a free agent," will counter with, "Are you crazy? Do you want to starve?" We have enough WB statements rumbling around in what many writers call our own "monkey mind" already. This may be the hardest step of all to take, because from childhood on everyone is affected by peer pressure and worrying about what others are thinking.

Let me know how you are doing. Share what is working for you. I want this site to help all of us free agents! Send me your FEEDBACK! I love hearing from you.




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