Contracting as a way of life is becoming increasingly popular, with its promise of greater flexibility for contractors and clients alike. For many contractors however, the transition from stable permanent employment, with prescribed working time and holidays, to the relatively entrepreneurial world of contracting where the contractor decides how best to fulfil a client contract, including when and where to work, can be uncharted territory.
If some basic work-life balance principles are not adhered to the lines between work and your personal time can quickly become blurred. This is especially true if you are working from home, as iContract’s Paul de Francisci explains.
Many contractors cite determining how best to ensure separation between your work and personal life as one of the biggest challenges to being a successful contractor. If you do your contracting work to the detriment of personal time, your relationships and even your health could suffer; if, of course, you focus too much on your personal life you risk losing focus on your project and losing your competitive edge.
Here are a few tips to help you achieve some mental and physical equilibrium:
1. Swap the ‘balancing act’ for an acceptance of fluidity
As the demands of contracting work can vary considerably alongside one’s personal life, trying to find a ‘balance’ may not be the best starting point. Rather see the need to fulfil your contracting responsibilities as an extension of who you are (your ‘personal life’); since you may never see the same combination of work and personal realities it is better to see your life as a fluid and ever-changing blend of work and personal time.
You will lose the feeling that you are somehow sacrificing your personal life when your contract demands irregular working patterns.
2. Make clever use of technology
As we know, technology has the potential to simplify all aspects of your contracting role, from scheduling and collaborating to project managing. Digital Kanban boards such as Trello, Podio (project management tools) and JIRA (specifically geared towards software development) can help with real-time prioritisation of decisions. Similarly, real-time screen-share and communication tools such as SkypeShare, GoToMeeting and Zoom are helpful as are collaborative spreadsheets, documents and presentations.
Time-tracking software such as Toggl monitors how much time and therefore energy you are spending on each task you perform. A retrospective view of such tracked data can be very revealing and make you rethink how to approach and deal with work tasks.
3. Use your personal time well
Plan and prioritise your personal time for things such as exercise, hobbies, meeting with friends and family and taking vacations. All of these in different doses lead to physical and mental recharging. Fitness is especially important; just 20 minutes of cardio every day and some regular weightlifting can make a huge difference to your resilience.
Research has consistently shown that taking time out from an active work schedule leads to an increased ability to perform and fulfil your potential. Switch your computer and work phone off when you are on personal time so you can better focus on the things you love to do outside of work.
Find a personal goal outside of work and set yourself a schedule to achieve it. All of this will help you re-energise and come back fighting.
Not all tasks, be they professional or personal, are of equal importance. Ruthlessly prioritise and focus only on important tasks, at the expense of the ‘urgent’ tasks that are not important. Ask yourself whether that business trip or meeting is actually important and necessary…