When you ask most people why they go into business for themselves, they usually cite flexibility as one of the main reasons. People like having control over their work and time and a flexible work like allows them to do that.
However, a flexible work life still needs some structure in order for things to actually work. Otherwise, business owners may find themselves incredibly stressed and not getting all that much done. In fact, it’s easy to get really wrapped up in work and disarray when you don’t have a boss telling you what to do. And unfortunately, sometimes freelancers end up being their own worst bosses.
Here’s how to add some structure to your flexible work life so that you stay productive and make time for the things that matter most to you.
Schedule Time Off
While most people worry about not actually working, the reality is we work too much. I’ve previously mentioned how Americans are notorious for not taking any vacation time. I’ve also mentioned how self-care seems totally counterintuitive to running a business. However, if we’re going to run successful businesses that support our lives, we need to take time off.
If you’re not so good about taking time off, schedule it on the calendar. Create a daily cut off time where you stop working. Schedule weekly time off and set a vacation responder for your email. You may also want to go as far as scheduling annual time off.
You can also take it a step further by scheduling in your own self-care. For example, unless I have a doctor’s appointment or I’m traveling, I’m at a yoga studio on Monday mornings. My assistant knows to guard that time on the calendar and handle the inbox while I’m getting my asana on.
If you need a little help, Michael Hyatt has this great tool where you can map out your ideal work day and week.
Batch Similar Tasks
A really great productivity hack, and one that makes it easy to add some structure to your schedule is batching. Batching is the art of doing similar tasks at the same time. The idea is that you get in the groove while performing one particular task, so it makes more sense to keep the groove going by doing similar tasks.
For example, if you are a freelance writer you may want to dedicate a day just to writing. Then perhaps you dedicate another day just to marketing efforts. In this way, your mind isn’t trying to switch back and forth between multiple tasks and you add some structure to your calendar.
Determine Weekly and Monthly Deliverables
One thing that can help you maintain a flexible work life with structure is to determine your deliverables on a weekly and monthly basis. What projects have priority this week and this month? What is your revenue goal this week and month? What do you need to do to make that happen?
By answering these simple questions, we become aware of the important stuff to focus on so we can schedule them in and ignore any other minutiae that may pop up throughout the month.
Adding some structure to your flexible work life will help you stay organized and avoid stress. While it sounds counter to flexibility, adding structure actually helps you maintain it. Without structure, you run the risk of letting your work control you. Instead, you want to strive for having control over your time so that you can pay attention to things that matter.