Time Management is Key to Balancing Vacation and Work as a Freelancer

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There are only a few short weeks left to squeeze in a last-minute getaway to enjoy the warm weather & sunshine of summer. As a freelancer, summertime can be a blessing and a curse. Freelancing may provide you with more flexibility to go on vacations and weekend getaways compared to a traditional 9 to 5 job, which is especially tempting when the weather is great for being outside. However, since freelancing doesn’t have built-in vacation days, it’s a lifestyle that probably requires you to maintain your productivity level in order to get a paycheck.

The key to vacationing as a freelancer is all about good time management — which is easier said than done. How do you juggle multiple projects while actually enjoying your vacation time? This can be especially challenging when you factor in obstacles such different time zones, vacation activities, and socializing with your travel companions.

The best of both worlds is possible! Here are our tips for managing your time as a freelancer while on vacation.

Vacation Preparation

If you’re just starting out as a freelancer, your newfound flexibility with your schedule may leave you tempted to make travel plans. After all, if you can do your work from anywhere, why not do it from a beachfront cabana?

We’re certainly not here to discourage your free-spirited style, but before you book your vacation, think about how your freelancing job could potentially impact your trip. If you book a trip with friends who have traditional full-time employment, then they’ll probably be using vacation days to take time off. Unless their job is pretty hardcore, your travel companions will get to use their vacation days for actual vacation — meaning time off, unplugged, projects on hold, etc. That could leave you in a difficult position.

Naturally, being a freelancer is great because you can travel without asking an employer for time off. However, on the flip side, it is difficult for most freelancers to fully check out of work while on vacation. As a freelancer, you don’t have coworkers to pick up the slack during your absence, or a salary that guarantees you a steady paycheck after a week or two away. The freelancer life means that any time you’re not working, you’re probably not getting paid.

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Your vacations will involve a little more preparation to make sure that you’re staying on top of your work. Keep in mind that going out of town or heading to the beach for a few days with the intention of “working on-the-go” may be harder than you think. Set realistic expectations for yourself, assess your workload, and plan ahead.

. Ask yourself the following questions (and be honest):

  • Do you have a lot of deadlines coming up in the next month or two? If so, it might not be the best time for a vacation.
  • Are you okay with staying behind to use the hotel Wi-Fi to do work while your family or friends go out to enjoy the place you’re visiting?
  • How much work do you actually get done on the airplane? Especially with productivity barriers like notoriously unreliable in-flight WiFi and new laptop restrictions for international travel, you may not be able to get very much work done on your flight. Be honest with yourself about your in-flight habits. If you tend to sleep or watch TV or movies on airplanes, then you’re probably going to do just that.

Strategize With Your Schedule

If you want to plan ahead for a vacation, be diligent with your weekly work schedule ahead of the trip. Whether you use a digital calendar or a handwritten planner, take a moment each night to assess your work checklist for the next day. This will help you avoid over-scheduling, and it will allow you to see where you can fit in extra work time to get ahead on important projects prior to your trip.

If you have an upcoming deadline for a client, dedicate a few extra hours per week to get a head start on a big project — or complete it, if you can — before you go on vacation. These little time management tactics can save you from a stressful last-minute scramble so you can really enjoy that last month of summer bliss.

Be Conscious of Your Time

This may seem obvious, but it’s extremely important to remember that even though being a freelancer may not involve reporting five days a week to a traditional office, freelance work is often still a full-time gig. A major perk of freelancing is that you often get to create your own schedule. With good time management practices in place, this flexibility can be beneficial, but if you’re not careful, the lack of structure can quickly (and accidentally) turn into a mess. This can be especially challenging in the summertime, when you probably have more long-weekend getaways and social activities than ever.

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When you make your own work schedule, it can be easy to have your days whisked away by other activities. If any of your friends are still in school, they may have the summers off entirely with plenty of time to devote to vacation and other social activities. Other people may be able to take Fridays off of work. With all those variables, you may find yourself indulging your social life whenever the opportunity arises. This is an easy time-consuming trap to fall into when you have work that needs to be done.

In general, schedule flexibility is great selling point for the freelance lifestyle. A freelancer can run errands, make daytime doctors appointments, etc. However, if you have friends who aren’t working or only work part-time, they may see your freelancing lifestyle and assume that you’re always available during the day for leisure activities. It can be tempting, but don’t let daytime social invitations derail your entire schedule.

Remember, freelancing is a full-time job, so it should be just as much of a priority as any other job. If you learn to respect your time, your friends and family will follow suit.

Embrace the Possibilities

If you’re finding success as a freelancer, then you may have more work opportunities than you have time to accommodate. If you tend to be a bit of a workaholic, be wary of letting your freelancing career take over your life. Managing your time wisely also means making time for yourself to enjoy your flexible work-life balance. Planning a vacation or getaway will give you something to look forward to. It will also give you a much-needed change of pace, which can be great for stimulating creativity and will leave you feeling refreshed and refocused when you return. Master the art of time management and you can build a thriving career as a freelancer without having to sacrifice your travel plans!

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