The start of another year is the perfect time for contractors to take stock of their lives and prioritise their physical and mental health. While it’s easy to put your head down and work on growing your business, you don’t want to miss out on enjoying life.
After all, you became a contractor to be in control; being your own boss means you can make your own work schedule and don’t have to answer to anyone. Going your own way, however, requires a lot of hard work so, in order to prevent burning out, you should put your wellbeing at the top of your to-do list.
We’ve been contractor accountants for a long time and have seen many contractors forget how important this is; so, why should you strive to put your health first?
Causes of Stress
A 2017 nation-wide stress survey commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation found that 74% of adults have, at some point in the year, felt so stressed that they were overwhelmed or unable to cope. Contractors and freelancers are not immune to these statistics; working alone, not having consistent cash flow and having to chase work opportunities, for example, can make many stressed – and doubt their career choice.
Every contractor is different, meaning not everyone will have the same stress triggers. However, they typically include high workloads, having to cope with constant change, lack of networking opportunities and inconsistent work. It’s crucial to deal with how these issues make you feel before you find yourself stressed to the point of being unable to handle day-to-day activities.
Benefits of Prioritising Your Wellbeing
There are several advantages to making sure your wellbeing features front and centre in your work life. While this list is, by no means, comprehensive, it should give you an idea of what you could gain by focusing on your health.
You Will Become More Productive
It goes without saying that, by taking care of your wellbeing, you become more productive. When you’re weighed down by worries or you’ve just pulled an all-nighter, your performance can suffer. When juggling a business or company by yourself, as well as searching for customers, promoting yourself and dealing with personal responsibilities, something will have to give.
On the other hand, when you’re taking care of your wellbeing by prioritising your mental and physical health, you feel more focused and more capable of handling everything contracting life can throw at you.
You’ll Improve Your Resilience
Running a business isn’t a smooth process. There are going to be days where things don’t seem to go your way or days in which you wonder why you became a contractor in the first place. These feelings are completely normal but, if you’re overworking and feeling exhausted or stressed, it’s easy to lose steam instead of carrying on. Resilience and determination are key when you’re trying to grow your company; by staying healthy, you’ll have the drive to surpass obstacles when they come your way.
Your Physical Health Will Improve
In the current digital era, most of our work is done through screens. Be it your mobile, tablet or laptop, you probably spend a lot of time staring at the same object day in and day out, which can lead to eye strain; sitting down for hours on end can also lead to back or posture problems. By ensuring you take enough breaks (just getting up from your desk every hour for 10 minutes can make a huge difference), you can prevent these and other physical problems from developing.
Additionally, if you’re incredibly stressed, you may find yourself getting sick a lot. Physical symptoms of stress typically go away once you start lowering your stress levels, but they can still cause havoc if not dealt with. For example, stress can cause increased heart rate, shortness of breath, muscle tension, headaches, nausea, stomach pain, and increased blood pressure – all of which are detrimental to your health.
You’ll Be Happier (and More Confident)
When you nail the right balance between work and personal life and really focus on your wellbeing, you’ll derive more job satisfaction; this, in turn, will lead to better mental health, higher self-esteem, lower anxiety levels and, of course, higher happiness levels. Being able to love what you do is important and probably part of the reason why you became a contractor. If you dread the work day ahead of you, you’ll start to hate working for yourself.
In addition, when you’re not taking care of your wellbeing and productivity falters because of it, you’re more likely to make mistakes – and your self-esteem and confidence will be knocked. When you feel good, you also feel ready to face the day with confidence.
What Can You Do to Prioritise Your Wellbeing?
Stopping yourself from burning out due to your work and to the responsibilities that come with being self-employed is important. However, many contractors are unsure of how to go about preventing this. Building and expanding a company or business can take its toll, but it’s still crucial that you know when to take a breather.
So, how can you make sure that you’re taking care of your physical and mental health? We’ve put together a few examples of what contractors can do to focus on their wellbeing in 2019 and beyond:
Plan a Holiday
It happens to all contractors; you allow yourself to work without a break for a long period of time and, before you know it, you’re getting stressed, tired and ill. So, if you’ve allowed yourself to be swamped with work and are now becoming stressed out, you’re not alone.
Getting away from it all will help; it will allow you to see the big picture and look at your work with fresh eyes and mind. More importantly, it will stop you from burning out. To prevent it from happening again, why not book some holidays every year? Doing it in advance will give you something to look forward to; and, when you return, you’ll feel energised and reinvigorated, ready to restart work. Make sure you’re not working for months at a time without a single break – even though you are busy and working hard to grow your business, you still need to take time off to recharge your batteries.
Increase Your Rates
A huge source of stress for contractors is money. If you didn’t earn enough this past year, now is the time to evaluate your rates and consider if need to raise them. With the cost of living growing, contractor wages should reflect this instead of staying the same. Many contractors are hesitant to do this because they fear higher prices will lose them their clients. While this sometimes happens, it’s not often the case; and clients who wish to continue paying you low wages aren’t the right type of client for you.
It’s normal for businesses to raise prices, so don’t be wary of doing the same. You are good at your job so you should be paid accordingly. By improving your finances, you can prevent more stress and improve your wellbeing. You can use our contractor tax calculator to figure out your take-home pay.
It can be easy to get lost in work and lose sight of everything else. However, because contractors and self-employed individuals often work alone, it’s important that you remember to socialise as well. Interacting with your family and friends frequently, such as having a weekly meal together, can do wonders for the mind, especially if you’ve been working hard without a break.
You should make time for hobbies as well, like joining a book club or attending exercise classes; this way, you won’t feel so alone. In regard to your work, consider searching for opportunities that will allow you to meet clients in person or to collaborate with other professionals.
Another way to improve your wellbeing this year is to create clear boundaries between work and personal time. When you’re running your own business, it’s not difficult to be at it 24/7 instead of setting some time aside to just relax (and watch your favourite TV show or go for a walk with your dog).
A good balance between the two is needed to ensure your wellbeing and the same goes for social media and work emails; why not stop checking it after 9pm, for instance, to allow you time to unwind before the day ends? Once you switch off for the day, stop thinking about work, as well as tasks you need to finish the next day.
Don’t Try to Multitask
Many contractors try to multitask to get things out of the way as quickly as they can; however, being able to multitask is a misconception. In reality, humans can only focus on one thing at a time, not on several. We can switch that focus to other tasks quickly if need be, which gives the impression that we’re multitasking. If you constantly switch your attention from one thing to another, you’ll end up tired and not very productive.
Re-Think Your Work Day and Week
While the 9-to-5 schedule is a common practice in many workplaces, you don’t have to follow it as a contractor. Structure your day and week according to what makes the most sense to you – if you’re more productive in the morning, why not get up earlier and finish earlier? If you’re someone who benefits from a mid-afternoon break for a couple of hours, what is stopping you? As a contractor, you can change the way you think about work to set the hours that will suit you the best and fit around your activities.
This way, you’ll have time for the other important things in your life, be it a morning coffee with a friend, a long lunch with your partner, reading a few chapters of a book before starting work or attending your child’s school play.
Be Realistic with Your Goals
Whether it’s your business plan or a simple workday, being realistic with what you can achieve is important to remain motivated. You may have a huge list of things that need to get done and get through half of them in a burst of energy; however, this energy is unlikely to continue hour after hour or day after day. You may become distracted or unforeseen circumstances may happen, for example, so you’ll want to set a realistic schedule that you will be able to accomplish.
Note down your work habits to figure out when you’re more productive and be aware of how long it takes you to complete a task or a job. This way, you can tackle your work better and feel less overwhelmed. After all, if you set out to complete ten different tasks in one day but, truthfully, you will only be able to achieve three, your enthusiasm may wane.
Do you feel like you’re all over the place? You have to keep track of so many things and not only ensure that your work is done well and on time but also that your tax returns are done correctly. Staying organised is crucial to prevent stress. Whether you have a wall planner or a digital calendar, just make sure you have a constant and instant reminder of important dates right in front of you.
You can also avoid stress by making sure your accounts are always up-to-date. We can help you with that by offering you great accounting services, as well as the FreeAgent bookkeeping software, which will automate your finances – and let you keep track of everything in real time.
At Gorilla Accounting, we know what makes contractors tick; we understand that it can be difficult to switch off, take a break or plan a holiday when you’re trying to expand your business. We also know that doing so will improve your wellbeing and your productivity, which will help you to achieve the goals you set out to achieve in your business plan.
Talk to us to learn more about how we can help.