I’ve only hit about half the goals I set for myself this year.
In some areas, I’ve completely smashed it. Others…well, let’s not talk about those.
But, I’ve had a bit of a second wind over the last few weeks. Maybe it’s pre-New Year optimism, maybe it’s something else (it’s not Maybelline, by the way).
Whatever it is, it seems to be a freelance writer self care thing.
(Which is no bad thing).
So, here are 13 last-minute things I’m glad I squeezed into December (and I’d recommend you do too)…
1. Switched off
Through September, October and November, I found my stress levels rising.
I was angry, irritable, restless and unproductive, and it was getting worse.
Phone, email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Instagram and real life…every two minutes, there’d be a beep, a buzz, someone knocking at the door, a ping, my toddler shouting for me…
Life’s not good when you start to feel less like a freelance writer and more like a chew toy.
I wasn’t getting anything done.
And what I was doing wasn’t the important stuff, it was the most intrusive stuff.
A conversation with other freelance writers was the turning point. I’d had enough of feeling frazzled, but I hadn’t quite joined the dots and worked out why.
Karen Marston, a freelance writer from Edinburgh, nailed the issue. She’s annoyingly good at that.
So, at the start of December:
- I turned off the sound notifications on the social media I access from my laptop.
- I unsubscribed from every notification I could think of.
- I muted people who annoyed me on WhatsApp (#sorrynotsorry).
- I deleted Messenger from my phone, and removed Facebook from my pinned tabs.
The problem isn’t solved.
But life is much, much better.
2. Got My Fitness Pal
One of my goals for 2017 was to GET FIT.
I’ve never been fit, and I’ve toyed with the same goal every year.
But, for whatever reason, 2017 was the year it actually worked.
On a bit of a reckless whim, I booked some personal training sessions with Becca Broadbent from This Mum Can Fitness.
We’re still going, and I’ve gone from being able to run 30 seconds to running 30+ minutes.
But, while I’ve been getting SUPER BUFF AND TOTALLY RIPPED, my weight has been creeping up.
Portion control has never been my strong point, and chocolate is my ultimate weakness.
So, about two weeks ago, I downloaded MyFitnessPal to my phone and opted into the free trial of the premium version.
It. Is. GREAT.
My intake of junk food has dropped, and I’m being more accountable for what I put into my body.
Also, I get to scan stuff with my phone, which makes me feel a tiny bit like a superhero.
3. Stopped putting it on my tab
The record number of tabs I’ve had open at one time?
No idea, but it was more than 30. And that’s just in one window.
As my stress levels were rising (see point 1), so were my panic levels.
So much to do. So much to read. So little time. SO little energy.
I was opening a new tab for every article I wanted to read, every idea I wanted to pursue, every little everything.
An overworked laptop and a seriously overworked mind. And nothing in the way of results.
So, I’ve started limiting myself.
When I want to open a new tab, I try and use one of the ones already open. And once I get to 10, it’s time to shut some down.
If I need to remember what’s on there, I’ll save the link.
But I’m getting pickier.
Decluttering the browser is definitely helping my state of mind
4. Learned what CMD + Shift + T does
OK, so moving on from point 3, sometimes I’m a little click-happy with my new-found enthusiasm for closing tabs.
Finding out that CMD + Shift + T opens the last tab you closed was a GAME CHANGER.
Don’t judge me!
5. Finally started using Trello
After a few false starts earlier in the year, I’ve started actually using Trello.
What finally motivated me to give it a proper go was the folder full of Pages and Numbers documents, each one containing a different list.
- Things to do.
- Things to read.
- Things I’m TRYING to do but am waiting on someone else before I can get started with.
- Meals this week.
- Shopping for next week.
- SMART goals.
I love a good list, but things were getting a little out of control.
Got to hand it to Trello – it’s taking a while to get used to having that little site as one of my pinned tabs, but it does what it says it will.
6. Bought myself a fancy diffuser (or two)
I work from home.
I live at home.
I spend A LOT of time at home.
After years of bulk buying scented candles from IKEA (keep your judgement!), I finally treated myself to a couple of scented diffusers from Urban Apothecary London.
I spotted the brand at a local garden centre (I have a three-year-old who loves water features and sniffing things, go figure) and fell in love with the Oudh Geranium scent.
At £35 each (*wheezes*), they’re not cheap but I’m telling myself they’ll pay for themselves within the year.
Which, if the three-year-old doesn’t knock them over, they will.
7. Sent Christmas cards to randomers
As well as sniffing things, my toddler is big into Christmas lights.
So, we’ve been going for walks in the evenings and finding particularly beautiful displays.
We give the house a name: “House with the flashy tree” or “House with the twinkly reindeer”.
Then, when we get home, we write them a card. Next time we’re out, we pop the card through the door.
We’re getting exercise, the toddler is learning kindness and thoughtfulness, and – hopefully – the people who’ve decorated their homes will know their efforts are appreciated.
God bless us everyone.
8. Sent Christmas cards to clients
Sticking with the theme, what better way to say thanks for the work and YO, YOU SHOULD TOTALLY HIRE THIS FREELANCE WRITER NEXT YEAR than sending cards to your clients?
When you’re a freelance writer, a lot of your interactions with clients will be solely via email or phone.
It’s nice to put a little something into the hand of your customers.
Some of mine have even had chocolates.
Some of the chocolates may have stayed home with me.
9. Cut my coffee with decaf
Stuck one pot of caffeinated coffee in with one pot of decaf, and gave the whole thing a damn good shake.
Painless way to reduce my caffeine intake!
10. Picked up the phone
I’m a freelance writer so it kind of goes without saying that I do a lot of writing.
Even with my efforts to cut down unwanted and mindless social media interactions, I still spend a large portion of my day typing.
It’s tiring and it can get seriously boring.
So, to kill two birds with one stone, I’ve started picking up the phone.
It’s often quicker to call someone than it is to email (and wait for a reply), plus, it keeps those phone skills polished.
You wouldn’t believe how easy it is to fall out of the habit of actually speaking to people when you’re a freelance writer.
So do it. Call someone.
11. Put my phone to bed
Even the best, most productive day can be sabotaged at the last minute.
Leaving my phone next to my bed at night was one of the biggest self-sabotages in my routine.
I’d have a great day, get ready for a nice early night, then BOOM.
Mindless Mumsnet browsing.
Before you know it, it’s midnight, you’re scrolling 12 links deep in Wikipedia (the unsolved mysteries page is SO GOOD, though), and you can’t see out of one eye.
Good day, ruined.
Now, I leave my phone over the other side of the room.
It wakes me up when the alarm sounds, but there’s no temptation to check it last thing at night, or when I wake up to go to the loo, or when I’ve just woken.
Bed is now phone-free.
12. Read Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin strikes me as a nice woman.
Fully in touch with what most of us would consider reality?
Not so much.
But, that’s part of her charm. Rubin is 50% curious, privileged white lady and 50% practical, self-help advice.
Her latest book, Better Than Before, takes a look at how we form habits, and how we can unform the ones we don’t want, replacing them with the ones we do want.
Rubin’s big on things like quitting sugar and carbs, and introducing daily meditation to her routine.
Me, I’m sticking to humble goals like “Don’t use the floor as storage” and “Used cups should probably not live on your desk”.
But, y’know, each to their own.
I’m not a fan of self-help books but I’ve implemented a number of long-desired habits as a direct result of reading this one, so I can’t not recommend it.
The weird white lady (Rubin, not me) has some good ideas.
13. Got ahead on my Self-Assessment (and paid someone else to do it)
Every year without fail, January sees me stressing over my self-assessment tax return.
There is literally nothing I hate more in this world than HMRC’s website.
So, this year, I’m ahead of the game.
Much as I loathe logging into my online banking (and let’s be honest, Amazon), I’ve done it, and my information is now with an accountant.
A lovely, angelic accountant who will do my return for me.
I love her.
It costs me £100 to have it done for me, and it’s the best money I’ve spent all year.
Cheers, VSM Payroll!
Self care for the freelance writer
I guess that’s the TL;DR version of all this.
What do the 13 things listed here have in common? Not much.
They were all just things I did for me.
- Things to make me feel good.
- Things to stop me feeling bad.
- Things to help me lose negative habits.
When you’re a freelance writer, you are your business.
Self care is so, so important.
So whatever self-care looks like for you, try and fit some in before the year’s out.
That way, when 2018 rolls round, you’re already ahead of the game.
Tell me about your self care tips for freelance writers – comments down here!👇🏻