One of the most common motivations for people deciding to go freelance is a wish to improve their health. For many, a 9 to 5 office job just doesn’t give them the time or freedom they feel they need to live a healthy, balanced, fulfilling life.
In theory, being in control of how much you work and, importantly, when and where that work happens, should help you improve your health. However, in reality – particularly for inexperienced freelancers – the pressure of providing for yourself can mean working longer hours, getting more stressed and living more unhealthily.
Obviously, there’s loads of long term things you can do to stop this happening – first and foremost, building a business that allows you to actually work the amount you want to! But while you do that, here are five easy, short term tips that will keep you healthy, happy and productive.
1 – Get off your backside
Sitting for long stretches of time is really, really bad for you. And, in the developed world at least, we’re suffering from a pandemic of sitting-related problems. From poor circulation and back pain, to raised cholesterol, cardiovascular problems and heart disease, sitting for more than a few hours a day can lead to a huge range of health problems. And what’s more, an hour of exercise every day won’t make those risks go away.
So what’s the solution? As a freelancer, you’re much more in control of your work space so why not treat yourself to a standing desk, or even make your own? You don’t have to work in a fancy office or shell out hundreds of pounds to do this. There are loads of helpful resources that’ll help you build your own desk in no time at all, and at very little cost – take a look at this article on Time.com.
2 – Move around more
This is similar to the above, but rather than just standing instead of sitting, why not use being a freelancer as an opportunity to build more exercise into your day? Here are a couple of simple ways you can do just that.
1 – Make some of your work activities standing or walking activities. For example, if you’re on the phone a lot, leave your mobile on the other side of the room away from your desk, and try to remember to stand up while taking the call. Alternatively, if you’re a writer, could you dictate notes while walking around your garden or the park?
2 – Put exercise equipment near, or even in, your workspace. If exercise equipment is in your line of sight, or, for example, strategically placed between the bathroom or kitchen and your workspace, chances are you’ll use it more. For example, a pull up bar in the doorway of your office is much harder to ignore than one in the garage, where you hardly ever go. If you’re lucky enough to be able to design your own work and living space, make sure you design it to your advantage!
3 – Look after your eyes
It’s easy to forget about eye-health, but they’re one of the main things to suffer with a screen-heavy lifestyle. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much effort to avoid eye strain – just a few simple fixes and habits:
check your monitor is in the right place – about an arm length’s away and between four and eight inches below your eye-line.
check your lighting is as good as possible, reduce glare wherever possible, and play around with your screen’s brightness and contrast settings to find what’s comfortable
blink a lot and, every few minutes, look away from your screen and focus on a handful of objects in the middle or far distance.
4 – Find your rhythm
Being a freelancer means that, most of the time, you get to set your own schedule. So why not create a routine that plays to your strengths and helps keep you healthy?
For example, everyone knows that our brains work better in short sprints – ideally around 45 minutes in length. Set yourself a timer and sit for no longer than three quarters of an hour before you reward yourself with a standing up break – such as making a cup of tea, or doing some stretches.
Many people work better first thing in the morning or last thing at night – can you plan your day so that your most productive hours are spent working, rather than just falling into the same 9 to 5 routine as everyone else? And can you use the hours leftover – perhaps in the middle of the day – to undertake healthy activities – such as cooking a proper meal, exercising or relaxing?
5 – Mental health
Finally, it’s just as important to take care of your mental health as it is your physical health. If you’re working by yourself, you might suffer from a lack of contact with others – face-to-face networking events, shared working spaces and, of course, a healthy social life will counteract this.