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When I tell people I’m self-employed, they’re response is usually, “I wish I had a flexible schedule like you.” In reality, I find the opposite to be true. Because I do a lot of client work, I’m often required to work normal business hours so I can answer questions and send updates. Being self-employed can also make it hard to “shut down” work after hours because I’m responsible for everything. When not busy doing the actual work, I’m spending time looking for new leads, pursuing side projects, and a slew of general business operations.

Moreover, I’m the sole provider for my growing family and the fear of being in a tight financial spot is enough to make any relaxing moment feel guilty. The problem is that constantly working long hours and never taking a break will absolutely lead to burnout, the bane of the self-employed. If you’ve ever felt exhausted after a week of hard work and still felt like nothing got done then you know the mental stress I’m talking about.

As with most things in life, the secret is balance. Here are 3 essential steps toward guilt-free downtime:

  1. This one should be fairly obvious but get the ugly chores done first. You know those items you’re not looking forward to and keep pushing off? Crank through those tasks before anything else and you’ll be rewarded with an accomplished feeling throughout the day.
  2. Schedule true breaks into your day. Consistent rest is essential to stave off burnout and is often when our best ideas spawn. Planning specific downtime into your day is just as crucial as getting work done.
  3. During your free time, consider activities that may yield beneficial results. For example, over the last couple years, I have discovered a new passion for photography. It started as a fun interest with no intentions of generating income but has led to new work opportunities and side projects. Going for a hike is another great example because it’s a healthy exercise. In contrast, when I relax with something like a video game, I’m left with nothing in the end and that time spent feels completely wasted.