The biggest myth about freelance work is that it’s not actually work — my sister thinks I spend my days trolling the internet and playing on Twitter.
Perhaps because of this myth, freelancers often don’t learn about healthy workplace habits. While there’s lots of talk about staying healthy in the office, what about those who work from home?
When I started freelancing, I wanted to improve my quality of life, work less and feel more connected to my goals. Instead, I found myself glued to my computer screen, barely stopping to eat, let alone get fresh air.
The reality is that freelance writing is hard work. It’s easy to become so focused on work that we overlook our reasons for going freelance in the first place.
Ready to add some healthier habits to your freelance lifestyle? Here are a few strategies to help keep you in top shape.
1. Minimize the time you spend sitting
As a writer, you probably sit and type furiously on your keyboard for hours at a time. At this point, you’ve probably heard that this habit isn’t exactly good for you. Here’s a great infographic that explains why sitting all day is hazardous to your health.
Consider investing in an ergonomic chair or a standing desk. Sound like too much of an investment? Make your own standing desk by following one of these ideas — some are as simple as piling books or boxes to the perfect height.
2. Sit properly
When you are sitting, be conscious about how you’re holding your body. Sit up straight in your chair, letting your head sit naturally on your shoulders without plunging forward toward the computer. Bend your knees at right angles and avoid crossing them. Rest your feet flat on the floor or on a footrest, recommends the Cleveland Clinic.
3. Give your eyes a break
Staring at a screen for hours can lead to eyestrain and fatigue, according to the Mayo Clinic. To prevent these problems, follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break to look at an object at least 20 feet away.
4. Stretch after sitting
At the end of a long day, it’s always a good idea to stretch your body in the opposite way it was sitting all day. Open your chest by clasping your arms behind you and letting your head fall back. Lie on the floor and rest your legs against a wall, feet pointing up, to change your circulation.
Looking for even more tips to help undo the damage of sitting all day? The Art of Manliness offers seven simple exercises (that work just fine for women, too!).
5. Go outside
An easy way to take a big break from both sitting and staring at your screen is to head outside. Changing your environment is incredibly helpful when you need to work through a tough problem or come up with new ideas.
Set a time during your day where you will head outdoors, whether to walk, run, garden or meditate. By prioritizing and scheduling time outside each day, I help hold myself accountable to my healthy lifestyle goals.
Whatever flavor you choose, from walking to running to Crossfit to yoga on your living-room floor, move your body. Exercise helps clear your head, boost creativity and relieve stress.
Schedule your workouts and hold yourself accountable to completing them. If you struggle to make them happen on your own, why not plan to meet a friend at a Pilates class or weight-lifting session? You could also consider joining an exercise club or Meetup group.
Drinking coffee is non-negotiable for many freelancers — myself included. But for all it’s great affects, drinking too much coffee can keep you up late, and make you jittery.
In addition to your cup of joe, drink as much water as you can. Dehydration can lead to headaches, fatigue or an inability to focus — none of which are good for freelancers.
If you find water boring, spice it up with some mint, ginger, cucumber or lemon. You could also consider drinking tea, which offers the comforting warmth of coffee and contains delightful antioxidants that pack more punch than water alone.
8. Set your hours
No longer being forced to work 9 to 5 is great! But do you find you’re actually working more since switching to freelancing?
I did, which undermined the reasons I wanted to freelance in the first place. The plan was to have more time to make art, travel and spend time with the people I love. The reality? I work a lot.
Decide how many hours you want to spend working each day, and stop yourself when you’ve reached your limit. Close the “office” and unplug. If you’re worried about having enough time to get it all done, consider testing a few new time-management strategies.
9. Separate your spaces
This tip can be hard implement, especially if, like me, you live in a tiny home. Even though I can’t have a separate office, I do make rules about where I work and keep that space organized and uncluttered.
Leave work documents on your desk or workspace — they don’t get to come in bed with you or migrate to the couch. If they do end up strewn about, make sure to put them back where they belong at the end of the day. You don’t want to be able to see your work at every waking moment — or you’ll be tempted to work outside your carefully set hours.
What’s your best tip for staying healthy and fit as a freelancer?