Many friends and casual acquaintances alike sometimes remark on how “lucky” I am to work from home. Surely, there’s a glint of envy in there somewhere, because they might assume that I have all the flexibility and “free time” in the world. Of course, the reality of the situation is far more nuanced and complicated than that. I’ll oftentimes say, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, that I escaped the 9-to-5 so that I could embrace the 24/7. Though, there is some truth in that too.
A common theme that keeps popping up on this blog is that when you work for yourself, from home, there really is no one else there to hold you accountable. No one is there to keep you on task, no one is there to make sure you’re reaching your quarterly goals, because it’s just you. You are solely responsible for everything. If your blog is a basically solo operation, as is usually the case (outsourced tasks notwithstanding), this also means that you are solely responsible for your own self-care, because no one else is going to do it.
If you aren’t making these things a priority in your life, no one else will. So, where should you start?
1. Quality Sleep
You cannot serve from an empty vessel. It’s absolutely true that, broadly speaking, bloggers can set your their own schedules. And what you’ll find is that many bloggers happen to be night owls, happily (and sometimes not so happily) working well into the wee hours of the night. That may be productive, but it may not be sustainable or healthy, especially if you still have to wake up at a more reasonable hour the next morning.
According to the CDC, one in three adults don’t get enough sleep. Insufficient sleep, both in terms of quantity and quality, can lead to all sorts of mental and physical health problems. When you’re in the driver’s seat, don’t steer yourself off the cliff because you’re not getting enough quality sleep. It needs to be a priority.
2. Non-Work Activities
This might sound completely counter-intuitive on some level. As a professional blogger, you literally depend on the Internet for your livelihood. I know I do. But this goes back to trying to serve from an empty vessel. Again, you shouldn’t be escaping the 9-to-5 to live the 24/7 instead, because you still need to time to unplug and unwind.
And for those of us who practically live on the web, this means making the conscious and intentional decision to disconnect every now and then. How far you choose to take this is up to you. Award-winning communications professor and sometime dad blogger Dr. Josh Misner chooses to have one tech-free day a week with his family. Even if you don’t quite take it that far, you do need time away from your phone and computer.
Indeed, you’ll actually come up with some of your best ideas while unplugged from the matrix.
3. Social Interaction
I’ve written before about how the “dot com lifestyle” of the blogger can lead to severe isolation. After all, for so much of the time, you’re going to be alone in front of a computer. Online interactions through social media and messaging apps doesn’t count for real social interaction. You need that engagement IRL too, not just URL.
Whether you decide to attend networking events, spend some time at a coworking space, travel for industry-specific trade shows, or simply meet up with some friends once a week for some Vietnamese noodles, get out there and see some faces. Humans are a social species; we’re not meant to interact solely through glowing displays.
4. Room to Breathe
YouTuber burnout largely entered the public discourse after Elle Mills posted a video discussing her experience with the platform. She enjoyed astronomical success and yet she was miserable, because YouTube took over her life and the pressure was too much. Totally, I get that we want to be successful at what we do. But, we also have to cut ourselves some slack and give ourselves some time to breathe.
Achieving inbox zero can feel like a pipe dream for many people, for instance. Instead, work toward establishing expectations. When someone emails you, they shouldn’t expect an immediate response at any hour of the day. Similarly, set a consistent and reliable posting schedule for your blog that you can actually keep up with doing over the long term. And if you feel like you need to take a break, then do that; you just have to plan ahead for when you intend on being away.
5. A Morning Routine
And finally, we end this list of self-care priorities with the beginning of the day. I suppose it’s a little reversed, as we started with the end of your day with regards to sleep. In any case, it’s fruitful to have a consistent morning routine. For my part, I try my best to stay away from screens or anything work-related for at least the first 30 minutes of my day. I’ll brush my teeth, make my coffee, and listen to the news.
The reason why it’s a good idea not to check your email first thing in the morning is that, when you do, you’re establishing a precedent in your mind that work always comes first. It’s far too easy to fall into the pit of email and dive further into tangential work tasks, all before taking the time to enjoy a nutritious breakfast, all before giving your body and your mind some time to get up to speed for the day.
Perhaps flying in the face of the flexibility of the dot com lifestyle, a solid routine could be your best self-care friend.