January 18, 2022

How to Switch Off

When I first started out as a freelance journalist I was excited about going down a career path that allowed me the freedom to navigate my own timings and gave me more room to explore. I soon realised that getting that freedom was easier said than done. Living in Pakistan means I work in a timezone that is roughly 5 hours ahead of the UK, and anywhere between 9-12 hours ahead of the US, both of which are where the majority of my clients are often based. It also means that I end up scheduling zoom interviews for 10 or 11pm my time because that’s the earliest my interviewees can do on their end and often get responses from editors till late into the night. There was a time last year when I felt like I just could not switch off from work. Every email notification would make me start thinking about responses and assignments and bring me back into work mode all over again. It was only after experiencing burnout multiple times that I realised I needed to change the way I understood my work. 

Workplace flexibility is often praised for allowing workers to develop a healthier work-life balance, and those benefits can be further increased by setting down established boundaries. These boundaries can often be different for every individual and understanding them can be key to healthy mental health and keeping work away from your personal time. While many of us assume that a 9-5 schedule is the norm, Karolina Cala, Head of Digital at Levitex Sleep, shares that she’s not a morning person at all, and the earliest she starts her day is around noon, but sometimes it can be 3pm as well – depending on her work schedule and other things planned around it. Understanding what hours you can be most productive at can go a long way in helping make the most of your work time, and not end up with you sitting in front of your laptop staring at the screen in a brain fog. 

Of course that’s not the only step in creating work boundaries and regardless of start times switching off at the end can also take a toll if you don’t have set ways in which to end the work day. Freelance journalist Lola Méndez shares that although she works flexibly and tries to manage working between 10-15 hours a week, there’s times when she finds it hard to switch off as well. 

“When I’m in the middle of a story I find it very hard to switch off. I can’t walk away until it’s done. It makes it harder when I have loose ends—if I didn’t finish prepping interview questions, sorting through research, etc. I approach each article as a puzzle and try to get one section done at a time so it feels manageable,” Mendez says. But despite that, she says that managing flexible working hours means she rarely has days where she’s stuck behind the screen the whole day. 

To make the most of flexible hours, it’s often important to remind yourself that you are the boss of your own time, because not having a set time off can make you feel this constant pressure to be available. Rebecca Lockwood, a Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Positive Psychology & Breakthrough Coach Trainer, finds that her work-life balance is constantly changing as she balances work with parenting two young kids. “Although technology is so brilliant, I was left at the end of a constant pinging of notifications that pushed me into action. This did leave me feeling that I was ‘on demand’ and lead to burn out or very little work life balance because it is all work and no balance,” Lockwood shares, adding,  “It can be so easy to lose yourself in work and not realise the time, or notice an email on your phone and get dragged back into work when doing things with family. Instead I set myself a cut off point. Times when I would stop working and focus purely on the family, or even on housework etc.”

For Cala, working in a room that is designated specially for her work, and shutting her laptop off at the end of the day create symbolic gestures that allow her to signal to her mind that work time is over. “I do this big theatrical thing where I shut off my laptop and once I’ve done that it’s not very often I’ll open that again. Once it’s shut off, it’s shut off and it stays in another room,” she says. 

Lockwood also recommends that removing yourself from technology is extremely important in switching off from work mode. 

“If you use your phone to read a book, or to communicate with family on an evening then silence your notification apps – such as emails, social media, work related apps etc. Even better, you can delete the apps altogether and while you are still tempted to pick up your phone you won’t have work notifications or apps to look through. If possible separate work and personal phones so that when you are working you use your work phone and when you are not working or away on holiday you can leave it in the office and use your personal phone,” she advises on ways to limit the constant access to work communication and fighting the pressure of staying ‘on.’

She also adds that it’s important to ask yourself what the purpose behind work tasks or goals is, sharing that it can allow for more mindfulness with the tasks and actions we take on. For Mendez, this means taking on assignments that she feels are worth her time and effort.  “Only accepting work that pays within my pay scale allows me to have a work-life balance. I have a long morning routine that includes many wellness practices such as tongue scraping, oil pulling, meditating, and yoga. When I’m working, I am not on my phone or on social media. This helps me work better and work less,” she says. 

In a world where people pride themselves on hustling, finding ways to prioritise yourself is rare and it’s far too easy to get caught up in this race of productivity and working harder. But it’s important to remember to slow down, really try to understand who you’re doing this for and put yourself first. 

Learn how you can turn your freelance gig into a money making business. It’s FREE!

Free 15 min freelancing consultation call
Advice and practical steps to level up your business
Learn how to consistently find work
Get tips for finding your niche

Recommended Reading

It isn’t you. Really!

Let’s face it. Freelancing is still a pioneering career choice. As a career path we’rebeyond Ferrari-speed, and closer to Apollo 11. Twenty years ago, freelancing hardlyregistered, and the closest thing to Upwork.com or Freelancer.com was...

How to survive freelancer interviews and chats

You may have gone into freelancing to avoid ever having to do interviews. Well, sadly, in same cases you may have to. So here's a guide to interviewing as a freelancer.

How to detach your self-worth from your work

When you wear every hat needed for your business to succeed, it's difficult to let your head get a rest. This is only made worse if you are defined by your KPI's. So how do...

How to tackle portfolio procrastination

How to tackle portfolio procrastination

Making good portfolios is crucial for your freelance business, but it can be tempting to procrastinate. Check out UnderPinned’s Virtual Office for portfolio templates to fill and send to clients!

The difference between Portfolios and Proposals

The difference between Portfolios and Proposals

So you’re hunting for freelance work? Well, what do you say when a potential client asks for a proposal rather than a portfolio? Have a read to see.

Freelancing with ADHD

Freelancing with ADHD

Freelancing is for everyone. But a job that requires skills you struggle with can make freelancing with ADHD difficult. Hear from an expert and a freelancer with ADHD about how she makes it work.

Freelancing with ADHD

Freelancing with ADHD

Freelancing is for everyone. But a job that requires skills you struggle with can make freelancing with ADHD difficult. Hear from an expert and a freelancer with ADHD about how she makes it work.

How to go freelance straight after uni

How to go freelance straight after uni

How do you go freelance straight after uni? You honestly ask yourself if you’re ready, and then you just lean into it 100%. And you read this article to find out more.

How to go freelance straight after uni

How to go freelance straight after uni

How do you go freelance straight after uni? You honestly ask yourself if you’re ready, and then you just lean into it 100%. And you read this article to find out more.

Signs of a weak freelance portfolio that clients spot at once

Signs of a weak freelance portfolio that clients spot at once

What signs in your portfolio are you hoping that clients see? And what are you hoping will be good filler? Make sure you’re only putting things in there that you can defend

Signs of a weak freelance portfolio that clients spot at once

Signs of a weak freelance portfolio that clients spot at once

What signs in your portfolio are you hoping that clients see? And what are you hoping will be good filler? Make sure you’re only putting things in there that you can defend

Ten actionable tips for freelancers to relieve their WFH fatigue

Ten actionable tips for freelancers to relieve their WFH fatigue

WFH has been tough. But, a year into the change for many people, there are still learnings to be had. Zoom past fatigue with our tips

Ten things you should never say to a freelancer

Ten things you should never say to a freelancer

Vent your client frustrations through us! A must read for anyone that hires/knows/ever talks to a freelancer, here’s ten things never to say to a freelancer

Kill The Boss In Your Head: Freelancing and Creativity

Kill The Boss In Your Head: Freelancing and Creativity

Through the tension and anxiety at the heart of all paid freelance work, what are the conditions that best support the free-flowing of creativity?

One year ago I turned to freelancing to save my mental health: Here’s what happened

One year ago I turned to freelancing to save my mental health: Here’s what happened

Fiona Thomas writes on her switch to freelancing pushed by her mental health, and how someone in a similar scenario can benefit from the change

A guide to being a creative freelancer without social media

A guide to being a creative freelancer without social media

We could all do with a break from social media. But how do you continue to run your creative freelance business without your Instagram? Here’s a guide.

An extension of your arm: Must-have tools for freelance content creators

An extension of your arm: Must-have tools for freelance content creators

Want an aresenal of tools in your pocket that can make your freelance life expontentially easier? Look no further

The role of the creative brief and why it’s so vital to get right

The role of the creative brief and why it’s so vital to get right

Here’s how to be clear with clients about what you need from their brief, and what they should expect from you too in the beginnings of the conversation

Building it alone; Freelancing when you’re single

Building it alone; Freelancing when you’re single

Being freelance is tough enough. But doing it all alone can make it a lot more complicated. Here’s how to take some steps to make it easier on you.

A guide to juggling multiple freelance clients

A guide to juggling multiple freelance clients

You want freelance success? You probably will need more than one client. Finding them is one thing, but keeping them organised? Oh boy. Luckily we have a guide just for you.

Freelance journalists, here’s how to make ALCS work for you

Freelance journalists, here’s how to make ALCS work for you

If you’re a freelance journalist, you might have a chance at passive income from the ALCS that you didn’t know about.

How writers and journalists can make money with Substack

How writers and journalists can make money with Substack

Want to escape from the editorial loop? Substack is on everyone’s lips right now. But how can you use it as a writer?

How to Position Yourself as an Expert in your Field

How to Position Yourself as an Expert in your Field

Want to learn how to position yourself as an expert in your field as a freelancer? Rachel White of House of DIF walks you through all the steps you need to take.

The Rise of NFTs and ‘Crypto-art’

The Rise of NFTs and ‘Crypto-art’

Want to learn what all the fuss is about? NFTs have been around for awhile, but how can freelancers use them in their business? Well, there’s a couple of ways.

HELP! I’M A RECENT ARTS GRADUATE

HELP! I’M A RECENT ARTS GRADUATE

Jody Mulvey of SADGRADS writes on how recent art graduates can surpass the problems posed by moving into the world of work during this difficult year

A step-by-step guide to handling difficult clients

A step-by-step guide to handling difficult clients

We all have that annoying client that we’re unsure how to work with. So here’s a step by step guide to handling difficult freelance clients.

A step-by-step guide to handling difficult clients

A step-by-step guide to handling difficult clients

We all have that annoying client that we’re unsure how to work with. So here’s a step by step guide to handling difficult freelance clients.

Nine ways to maternity proof your freelance business

Nine ways to maternity proof your freelance business

Pregnant and a freelancer? We can’t wait to hear more. But make sure you know how to maternity proof your freelance business before you start parenthood.