The freedom to design my day was a little bit of a shock.
Sure, I knew I wanted to reclaim my time and create a flexible schedule when I started freelancing, but when I actually got it? The realization of what I’d actually done was a little disorienting.
I’d broken the deal…the deal of letting an employer dictate how I got things done in exchange for a predictable paycheck and steady flow of work. All of a sudden I had a blank canvas—the ability to make my days look like whatever I wanted.
Since the pandemic, I’ve become even more aware of what that really means.
I think deliberate lifestyle design…especially of basic elements like our days—is only going to become more important as the world continues to change and demand more from us.
I just finished listening to the Blinks on The Perfect Day Formula and it got me reflecting on what I’ve done over the last few years to rebuild my days from the ground up. That’s why I wanted to talk about what I’ve been doing lately and some questions I ask myself as I continue to refine my schedule.
What’s my anchor?
When you think about it, there are a ton of different things you can center your day on. It might be the times you have to take your aunt to the senior center or the time you have to pick the kids up from after school activities.
When I was employed this wasn’t even a question since my days (everything really) got crammed into wherever I could fit them around work. Now? I use something else.
I was very intentional about building a freelance business that supports my life and health, so now, that’s what I use as my anchor.
I schedule my work around an optional sleep and natural performance (which I’m still tweaking). I have breaks multiple times in the day for mobility work, exercise, and gardening. I make sure that my schedule supports a healthier relationship with food.
Your anchor might be completely different, but whatever it is, make sure that it lines up with your reason for freelancing (see Phase #1), so that your business becomes a natural outgrowth of your lifestyle design, and not the other way around.
Where can I find sustainability?
I woke up this morning thinking about how my physical habits have changed as I’ve gotten older. I used to do cardio first thing in the morning, but in the last couple years (just before turning 40 tbh) it wasn’t feeling as good…so I changed it.
Now I do cardio mid-morning and start my day with light joint mobility exercises. It’s not as jarring and gives me a smoother start to my day…and that matters.
Could I get up and fight to do jump rope HIIT at 6AM? Sure, but why? And more importantly, how long would I keep it up? Now I just do it as a break after a couple of hours of work and I actually look forward to it…that’s what makes it sustainable.
Where does freelancing fit?
Once you have the framework of your day down, it’s a lot easier to find places to comfortably fit work in.
I work about 4 hours a day—so 2 hours between gardening and cardio, and another 2 between errands and afternoon mobility works fine.
Let me just say that this is MUCH easier after you’ve got a handle on optimizing your income. (Start here if you want to work on that.) I still have a benchmark of averaging $800-$1200/day from my freelance work, but none of that is connected to how many hours I put in…which means I can push those numbers up without changing the structure of my day. (Hint: It’s all in who you work with and how you price your services.)
What do I need to revisit?
This is an ongoing process and there’s more personal discovery in it than I expected…I didn’t realize how deeply employer-centered thinking had seeped into my life. Take the concept of a weekend for example.
I’d learned to see weekends as a time to recover—which of course encouraged me to do things that needed to be recovered from in the first place. For example…food choices. Weekends were a time to loosen restrictions since the weekdays were the times I kept stricter eating practices…practices that were more confining than what’s natural and sustainable for me, since I was using the emotional distraction of work to push through dietary choices that I found less than pleasant.
Now I’m in a process of moving to sleep and dietary habits that are more sustainable and organic to my lifestyle design…things like:
- Getting up and going to bed the same time every day, “weekends” included
- Having a diet that balances enjoyment and nourishment consistently across the week (no “cheat” days or meals)
- Using my observance of the sabbath to cycle off and refresh more than recover
I’ve been free from employer influence on my schedule for years and it’s honestly a little unsettling all the habits and mindsets that I’m still trying to shake off…but I’ve made serious progress and know that I can do a lot more.
So what does your ideal day look like…and how can your freelance career support that?