We are creatures of habits. It’s just how we are designed. Our brains are wired in a manner that, no matter how much we dislike routine we subtly crave it too. Think about it. When you took a break from your 9-5, either because you’d been fired or simply because you decided to quit for personal reasons. At first, your mind and body relish this newfound freedom. You’d enjoy waking up to the sound of the birds every morning in comparison to the sound of the alarm on your iPhone.
You’d enjoy being able to make a fresh brew in the comfort of your PJs as you do your gratitude journal at 8 am in the morning. Whilst the people around you stuff themselves into that 8:05 am train in the morning, in hopes that they will make it in before their manager arrives to work. You’d enjoy being able to have an afternoon nap after all those carbs that were recklessly consumed during your lunch hour. You’d enjoy being able to sit down with a nice cuppa and a good read at 3 pm while the rest of the world is staring at their watches and counting the hours till the clock strikes 5.
When I purposely took a long break in between jobs, a lot of the times I was always asked one question. “What are you going to do with all that free time?”
I got asked this so often that I decided I’d write about it.
Once you get past the honeymoon phase where you’ve spent the mornings rolling around in bed and eat cereal for lunch, reality starts to sink in. The reality that you’ve got to find meaningful milestones to hit gets served to you, like last night’s leftovers. When I was working in a corporate job one of the things that I really enjoyed were the challenges that presented themselves every day. I admit being rushed to meet deadlines gave me an adrenalin rush and stressed me out, all at once but it kept me focused.
So to ensure I didn’t lose all sense of sanity with my newfound freedom. I decided to incorporate certain elements of my corporate lifestyle into my freelancing projects.
1. Show up even when you don’t want to
We’ve all been there before. Those mornings when you wake up and try to figure out if you can chuck a sickie instead of dealing with your client deadlines. But because you have a manager to answer to and bills to pay, you show up to work. Even if that means downing two shots of coffee like they were tequila shots. You show up because when you were assigned that project at work you were held accountable for it.
Similarly, when I was pursuing my passion projects and freelancing work. I made it my purgative to show up even if I wanted to hit the snooze button. I knew that my creativity was at its all-time peak in the mornings, so any content that I needed to create for my website or a client, was best completed in the mornings. In my Aladdin shorts.
2. Hold onto old routines and add them to new ones
Let’s be honest. As much as you disliked squeezing into your workout gear at the crack of dawn with your eyes half closed. You loved the morphine hits that you got as soon as your body warmed up on that treadmill at 6:30 am in the morning.
I’ll be the first to admit I love sleeping in but I’ll also be the first to admit that I love waking up (before the world around me) and hitting the gym. Something about pushing myself just that little bit further by lifting weights that are slightly heavier than the ones that I lifted yesterday, or doing a one hour Zumba class puts me in a great mood.
However when I was working that 9-5 the two steps (journaling and meditation) that I wanted to incorporate into my morning routine never happened because of the simple fact that, I had horrible time management skills.
However taking the time to combine those two steps with my gym sesh in the mornings, helped put me in a better creative and mental state.
3. Give yourself deadlines and hold yourself accountable
You can whine all you want about your tight-ass managers at work. But the best thing they ever did for you was to make sure that you learned how to hold yourself accountable to project deadlines. When I first started off as an intern, I wasn’t able to comprehend the importance of typing up meeting minutes by a designated timeframe. It turned out all those draft and final report deadlines taught me a valuable skill that I didn’t even know I’d needed.
During my time-off in between jobs, I figured it would be the perfect time to start pursuing those passion projects. I knew growth wasn’t going to happen overnight, but with all the free time on my hands, I spent a lot of it researching and learning new things. Everything from SEO to the stock market was up for grabs and I soaked it up like a sponge.
With all of these passion projects came deliverables. With the writing came deadlines and with my part-time job as an English teacher, came more time constraints. So I got creative. I’m talking about creating a list of role models and studying their work ethic, kinda creative. I studied everyone’s hustle approach from Tony Robbins to Kevin Hart because every time I felt like throwing the towel in, I reminded myself that Kevin Hart wouldn’t have managed sell-out Madison Square Garden if he didn’t abide by his own deadlines first.
4. Teamwork makes the dream work
God, I miss those catchy yet corny slogans that were tossed around at team bonding events. Somewhere amidst that alcohol haze of a Friday afternoon team-bonding sessions, you look around and realize how lucky you are to have a group of like-minded slightly unstable team-members with a quirky sense of humor. You feel especially lucky when you’ve got a project with tight deadlines and a team member to share the burden with. You know, someone you can curl up into a ball with and cry when you’ve had to stay back past 10 pm for the fourth time that week?
When you start freelancing and pursuing your personal passion projects, however, you will quickly realize that there is such as thing as a ‘one-man army,’ because you will be the walking definition of one. You’ll realize that you’ll have to play the role of a creative content writer, a website editor and a consultant all at once. And to make sure that you survive with minimal anxiety attacks you have to learn to say no, in order to conserve your energy.
As soon as I started riding solo I realized the importance of conserving my energy. There have been many instances where I had to turn down dinners and drink-ups simply because I knew I’d have to wake up 6 am the next morning and get 1500 words in before work. I couldn’t afford to pass it on to a team member if I ran out of time. But the best part was realizing that I wouldn’t have it any other way.