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When you first start out as a freelancer, you find complete joy in cutting out a commute and wearing whatever you want during the day (even PJs). However, after a couple months of wearing lounge-y clothes during the day and answering work emails at night, you may find yourself losing track of the day and time, and your personal needs.

The 100% flexibility and autonomy of freelancing are what attracts many people to work for themselves, but they also present their own set of challenges. One of the biggest challenges for all freelancers, newbies and veterans alike, is achieving work-life balance.

Here are our top four tips for maintaining productivity and enjoying some free time:

Set Aside Specific Time for Work and Play

It can be tempting to check your email any hour of the day, wherever you are. Establish boundaries for yourself so you have clear expectations about when it’s time to work and when you can have the freedom to have fun (without feeling guilty for not responding to emails). For example, you may avoid checking emails after 6pm on weekdays. Or, you may want to begin your mornings at 10am after you’ve had time to exercise or do your personal tasks. You could also set up a separate email account that is solely for your freelancing work, so you don’t have to get absorbed into work emails when you are checking your personal inbox.

Create a Dedicated Space to Work

Working at home can save you hundreds of hours each year by avoiding a commute, but it can also be dangerous to your work-life balance. Spending your whole day working at home and then your whole evening hanging out at home makes it feel like you never leave the office. Eliminate this mindset by creating a dedicated space in your home to do your work. It doesn’t have to be an entire home office; even a simple desk could work. Hold yourself accountable for only doing work within that space, so the rest of your home can feel like an actual home at the end of the day.

Explore Coworking Offices

If you miss the camaraderie that comes with working in an office, then coworking may be the perfect solution for you. Coworking offices bring different people together to work in a shared space. Many coworking offices have specific themes, like entrepreneurship, technology, art, marketing, etc., so you can be surrounded by people with shared interests. Pricing depends on how often you want to use the space, so you could “rent” a desk for one or two days a mix to spice up your routine and meet new people.

Volunteer to Expand Your Network

Add some variety to your schedule by volunteering with an organization that you are passionate about. Some sites, like Catchafire, match your professional skills with volunteering opportunities so you can build your resume and hone your skills. But, don’t be afraid to do something completely outside of your comfort zone, like working with children or working in a garden.

How to Start

When I was a full-time freelancer working at home, I found it incredibly helpful to use a calendar to schedule my day. I work very well with routines and schedules, and wanted to make sure I didn’t get lost in my work and end up sitting in front of my computer for eight hours straight. So, every Sunday, I would plan out my week. I would create blocks of time to do my most important work, then schedule personal activities. I would make time to take an afternoon walk, meet a client for coffee, or go run an errand.

This week, I challenge you to do the same thing. Create a schedule for yourself and stick to it. Adjust as you see fit, but make time for yourself. You don’t need to work every minute of every day. In fact, I bet that you’ll be more productive if you make time for an afternoon stroll.

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