A freelance workload is overwhelming at times. We need to work across multiple clients, our own projects, and of course our own lead generation activities and marketing. At times, this can create stress and feelings that no matter how much we do, it is not enough to stem the tide of obligation.

If you find yourself overwhelmed with the amount of work you need to do, step back. Take a moment to plan out your next move.

Planning your way out of a freelance workload that is overwhelming 

The first step to taming your workload is taking time out to get it out of your head and into an organised format that gives you back your brainspace while also giving the workload a shape. The most effective way is to run it like an emergency room triage exercise.

Breakdown an overwhelming freelance workload according to- 

1) Time sensitivity
2) Importance
3) Revenue – short term (gots to get paid, yo!)
4) Revenue – long term (e.g. your own stuff with marketing)
5) Resourcing (What dependencies do you have? Funds? Waiting on someone else? Access to a tool? Client feedback etc – whatever will prohibit progress in real terms)

Not necessarily in that order, but you get the picture. It’s about identifying the need.

Give it a priority under MoSCoW (Must, Should, Could, Would but probably Won’t)

Stick an action word in front of what you need to do – Create, Apply, Fix, Tweak etc.

scrabble tilers that read pause, breather, ponder, choose, do in relation to freelance workload overwhelmFor larger, more involved tasks, remember to break it down. Don’t forget you can dip a toe in the water rather than jump to action stations, too.

For example, using starter words like Review, Start, Collate, Figure out, Research.

Everyone talks about eating frogs (enormous tasks) early in the morning. This can be helpful.

What also can be helpful is catching tadpoles (small tasks) because the short wins and the reduction can make you feel better about progress.

Don’t be afraid to make use of Timeboxing (e.g. scheduling things with hard limits such as meetings with no flow over, checking emails at points during the day as opposed to having them open all the time etc). 

Or put yourself in a cone of silence (only taking scheduled meetings, calls, using social media blockers, working in spaces and places where no one can find you).

Put non-essential clients on a timeout. Boundaries are super important and healthy for their autonomy, after all.

Is burn out and stress stalking you?

It’s easy to get caught up in productivity and forget to cut ourselves slack. A lot of people with early stage burn load more tasks onto their TO DO list to compensate for other times of inactivity or lower than expected productivity. This only perpetuates the feeling that you are falling further and further behind as you set yourself up to fail.

Instead, make short wins the priority:

  • Limit what you need to do to (ideally) three items per day
  • Pick core focus items
  • Push back on deadlines
  • Back away from admin and messy, niggly stuff until you clear some of the critical work
  • Add some creative works that engage your curiosity to help promote a sense of freedom and control.

Don’t write massive TO DO lists for each day. Instead, dump all your tasks out of your head and choose a limited number of tasks to break them down across a week.

If you’re feeling under pressure, breakdown processes. Regroup and plot a course like a triage nurse. And look for a sense of accomplishment rather than overthinking the process by putting importance or pressure ahead of connecting with the work.

Remember to focus on the work product quality. Let it guide you past the stuff that doesn’t matter to what does.

Be unavailable for the constant busyness so you can create your best work.

Say goodbye to busyness by:  

·        Learning to delegate

·        Building milestones within extensive projects

·        Creating a waiting list

·        Putting expiry times and dates on how long you service a client and project into play in your terms and conditions

·        Keeping a bank of the extra hours and pay yourself back at the end of the project

·        Use your time to study, read and create when there are gaps between drafts and communication instead of mindless busy work

·        Figure out the psychological motivation for overworking yourself and return to your roots related to why you got into freelance work.

And more than anything else, choose a compassionate working style. Don’t invite pressure by making it the core focus of your internal dialogue. Instead, encourage yourself to move forward.

You can introduce a compassionate working style by:

·       Reflecting on what you have DONE as much as what you have TO DO

·       Creating a file of projects, blogs and other works that remind you of your best work to look through when the doubts take hold

·       Challenging the negative self-talk that highlights deficiency over encouragement and positivity

·       Allowing yourself time where you are free from client obligation to explore, play and experiment with your skills and marketing

·       Shifting away from people, places, and influences that encourage you to compare your output and value to others.

For more tips on how to make your working life work for you, check out the self-care section of this blog.


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