Life Lessons | Tips I've Learned This Year

My life lessons post for today is a little more work heavy than I usually like to be, but there’s a reason for that! Over the past year or so, I’ve made a lot of changes to my daily routine that have bettered my work + life balance. I still have a long way to go when it comes to dealing with stress, but these five things have certainly helped leaps and bounds. So with that said, here they are :

GET SLEEP For awhile, I thought it was wrong of me to sleep in until 7:30. I knew that most working adults had to get up earlier than that in order to get ready + be on time to work. So in order to feel like I was “doing things right” ( whatever that means ), I would set my alarm clock, like most do, and wake up a zombie. That all fell apart one day when I said “screw it” and just woke up naturally. I’ve been doing it ever since and have found that my productivity ( and mood ) are much better when I get a good night’s sleep. May as well take advantage of it while I’m still young and can, right??

TURN OFF EMAIL SOUNDS This one may sound funny, but I’m certain that before I did this, my heart rate would dangerously spike every time I heard that email BEEP on my phone. It got to the point where it actually made me mad as I watched those red numbers crawl up. Not very healthy. So one day, when I must have reached my breaking point, I turned off all alerts … it was like this instant wave of relief fell over me. ( Seriously, do this. ) Now, I can run errands and eat lunch in peace. I may even dare to say that this was the best thing I did for my working self this year.

BREAKS ARE GOOD I used to think that I couldn’t take long breaks until I finished all important work. It was this nagging “bad cop” in my head that told me breaks would feel better if I had everything completed. The truth, though, is that breaks are GREAT for creatives! It allows us to step away from our work and come back refreshed. Now, I don’t feel so bad stepping away for an hour to get some cleaning done, cook up a tasty lunch, or watch the Ellen show. Working naturally is just fine – – as long as you always keep up in the end.

TAKE WEEKENDS OFF When I first started freelancing, I would work 15 hour days and often hunker down in my room on the weekends, too. It was a constant stream of pushing my business forward in order to succeed and prove to others I could do it. It was a tough time, but once my work was more steady and comfortable, I implemented a simple rule : no working on the weekends. The most I will ever do is answer a few emails from my phone, but that’s it. Typically, I don’t even step foot in my office – and I can’t even begin to tell you HOW GOOD that feels. Please, try it. Weekends are for you.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE EVERYONE ELSE A lot of people have brought this up lately, but it’s something I ( and I think a lot of people ) struggle with each and every day. Because we live within such a visually active world, it’s very easy to compare ourselves to others. From new business ventures to beautiful studios and homes, it’s hard not to want it all. I have to remind myself often that what I’m seeing is mostly a highlight reel. As long as I feel good about what I’m putting out in the world and am kind to others, that’s what it’s all about. We all have our own path … enjoy it. :)

  1. Danielle says:

    I especially love that last one. I have so much trouble enjoying my alternative path sometimes, especially when I come home to view others which all look similar and seem more secure. I have to remember that “as long as I feelgood about what I’m putting out in the world and am kind to others, that’s what it’s all about.” Thanks for the reminder :)

    • breanna says:

      I feel ya. I truly think a lot of us go through this – so there IS comfort in knowing you’re not alone. :) Another thing I try to remind myself of …

  2. I love to hear all of your thoughts and advices about freelancing, keeping everything in a corner of my head for when I take the leap. I’m just trying to organize and put up a good speech and a solid project so everything is clear for me and for my family. And then, all of the things that I read here on a daily basis will be put to use ! Thank you in advance !

  3. Jenny Bailey says:

    I totally agree – especially about turning off email alerts. For me it became a problem when I was waiting for a specific email. Every time I heard the ping I thought it was THE ONE and I was disappointed when it turned out to be even something nice like a thoughtful message from my husband. I feel much more in control when I go fetch the email at a scheduled time each day rather than waiting for it to be delivered to me.

    • breanna says:

      Ha! I used to do that, too. I would get so bummed over simple “hello” emails, even though they were a nice surprise.

  4. Omg! I soo relate to the email sounds. My stress level from that noise makes me unable to relax. Turning it off when I’m on vacation or with friends is a great relaxer :)

    • breanna says:

      YES – – turning off on vacations is a must, at least. Otherwise, you never truly separate yourself from work!!

  5. amber says:

    these are such great points and tips. i can really relate to the getting sleep one (for sure! it’s a must for me starting now!) and the one about being everyone else. it’s really true that we live in such a visual world, and also that we live in a world where we see so many people doing so many different things. Also, a lot of inspiring stories that are like success stories, and we (at least, me!) want to have that so we try to mimic others instead of just being true to ourselves. it’s best to just be yourself, always. <3

  6. alicia says:

    Ditto. Couldn’t agree more. I have yet to turn off the e-mail notification on my phone….some days I do purposely leave it in the other room though :)

  7. Monika says:

    This post is great. I am beginner blogger and web designer and your blog is such an inspiration. You tell as your work philosophy and how to menage things and work on your own. You like an arrow to me, you point the right direction, which way should I go as freelancer.

    I also have troubles with sleeping because pressure is big, to start working on my own, and show others that I can do what I love and make money for it. I have very big problem, because I have to learn, that when I get up I have to do all things as usual and then go to laptop and start working. I don’t have self-discipline and I am wasting time in the morning, for stupid facebook or TV. Then when I should make dinner and stop working, I am in the middle of designing. But I have to stop and do home / wifey stuff. Than at night I can’t’t sleep, I have racing thoughts, because I know that I haven’t done enough today. Next day I am so sleepy, I can’t focus, so I wasting next day doing nothing cos I’m too tired and this circle goes all over again. Do you have any advice?

    I’m turning off my email notification right now! :)

    Thanks for life lessons!

    • breanna says:

      My suggestion would be to create a routine that you’re comfortable with and follow it! Maybe you have certain hours of the day that are delegated to design, some hours for email / business stuff, and the rest is up to you! I find that if I follow the same routine every morning, it’s much easier for me to begin working. I keep it simple and always wake up, get ready, make breakfast, and skim the news as I eat it. Once that’s all done, I know to start work!

  8. Kat Curling says:

    I always love reading your blog …. I can relate to everything you write and I always love the visuals of your blog. This past year things have gotten crazy busy for me as well and I’ve had clients calling me at all hours of the day and weekend and I finally had to to just STOP because it was over taking my life AND my piece of mind. Weekends really should be your own.

    It’s very hard to be true to yourself while feeling obligated to stick to trends or whatever else may be going on out there in the world… even though pinterest and other places are great, its almost overwhelming seeing and trying to compete.. you just can’t live that way.

    thanks again for another lovely post.

    • breanna says:

      Aww thank you so much. :) Glad it could be of some help / inspiration! And glad you stopped working at all hours of the day. Random client calls would make my blood boil, ha. I schedule everyyything. You gotta let them know who is in charge / calls the shots, otherwise they’ll walk all over you. For example, I used to be a really quick emailer. I mean, I still am, but I would respond right away, no matter WHEN it was received. Clients quickly learned that they could get anything right away by just sending me a note, which tired me out completely! Lessons learned, for sure.

      xx.

  9. Anna-Rosa says:

    I’m in the middle of figuring out which are the boundaries I need to set in order to work without stress and more efficiently. I currently struggle with all the issues you mentioned above-and maybe ten more! And I’m in the crucial point, where I need to work 24/7 in order to make the web world notice me! Anyway, bottom line, I love your post and I’ll sure try to implement your advises :)

  10. Alex says:

    these are all such good things to remind yourself of every once in awhile! and as a “working adult” I get up at 8 every day :)

  11. Charlotte says:

    Ohhh, yes, definitely wake up naturally while you can! Having to be in work by 7.30 now, I definitely miss that, its so good for you! And yes to taking breaks, so important! I may have to write some of my own tips I have learnt this year down, its fun to read!

  12. Danielle DIY says:

    “TURN OFF EMAIL SOUNDS” – This goes for small window popups in the corner of your screen as well! Nothing stresses me out more than working on a change for a client, and they are pouring more thoughts/small changes into 20 separate emails.

    Great list and best of luck in 2014.

  13. YES, YES, YES. Being a full time student + a graphic designer has it’s challenges and I am loving everything you have said here ! somethings I have found immensly helpful are: Postable (www.postable.com) I have just started asking my clients to fill this out that way at the end of the year i can send them a little card saying thank-you and I don’t have to spend 20 mins looking for their email address ! also intentionally setting a time to plan for the next month and look at what projects / school I have has being enormously helpful!

  14. I agree with all of these. This past semester at school I was working 3 jobs (all of which needed me at all hours of the day, so my phone was constantly going off and I always felt like I was on-call) + outside freelance design/photography work and going to school full-time. It was nuts. Only at the very end of the semester did I realize just how damaging it was to me physically and emotionally. I finally traded in the 3 jobs for one paid internship with my college, and I have a feeling this next semester is going to be so much better. I also love the part about not being everyone else. It’s so, so easy to want to be others. It’s funny hearing it from you because we all want to be like you, but you are a human too. You are great, thanks for all your words!

  15. Quyen says:

    What great lessons and tips. I recently started my travel blog and it is hard to juggle my regular work, my travels, and my blog all at once. I have a new motto though, travel first, blog later. I don’t think I could ever be the true blogger that blogs as it happens. I’m too busy living! One thing I did is buy an alarm clock. If you use your phone as the alarm, you will spend time in the morning looking at your emails. It has done wonders for my morning!

  16. Kara-Anne says:

    Turn off e-mail sounds AND the taking breaks thing is SO true for me!!

    I typically have the “Do Not Disturb” auto-turned off after 9pm everyday, but I should try having e-mails muted the rest of the day as well!

    And yes, I dare not take breaks because of the EXACT same reason “that it will feel better after I finish.” That’s never true. I just get more frustrated and upset! :(

    Thanks for this post!

  17. LOVE this Brenna! I feel that the weekend and breaks are so difficult to implement into freelance life and I still struggle with balance but I’m getting there slowly and next year, I intend to try even harder. I do find that it is a constant battle between ‘me time’ and pushing my business forward. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love the life I’ve created for myself and am very grateful :) xx

  18. Nesha says:

    I couldn’t agree more! I’ve also been waking up when my body feels it needs to, and I occasionally stay in bed for 20 minutes and paint! It feels SO good just sitting there with my paints, my pad and my coffee. A great way to start the day before settling down in front of my mac for the rest of the day. I would totally recommend that other creatives take time to themselves each day before work kicks in.

  19. Lena says:

    Great tips. So true, each and every one of them. A good reminder to keep in mind for the new year!

  20. Jess says:

    Thank you for this. As a new freelancer, it helps to hear some tips from others. I am definitely guilty of some of those things (like missing sleep and not taking breaks) and will be adding these to my new years resolution!

  21. Jenna says:

    I also turned off email sound alerts this year. Best choice ever. :)

  22. Absolutely love everything you’ve said – especially turning off the alerts and you don’t have to be everyone else. As a fairly new blogger, I’m still trying to figure out my voice and identity in the blogosphere. And you’re right, everything is visual and it’s tempting to do what others are doing. I’ve made it a point to know my vision and only do things that reflect it – I see it gets easier as time goes and you understand your style. Great tips, Breanna!

  23. emma says:

    I completely agree! Especially with the last point, it is too easy to get lost in other peoples blogs/ business’ and homes and not want it all! I love what you said about it being the highlight reel, such a good point! Thanks Breanna!

  24. Sarah says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Breanna. You have such sound advice. I made the jump to full-time freelance a couple months ago and I hope to adopt these habits. I think turning off email sounds will be especially helpful. I recently started using unroll.me to automatically put all subscription emails into a folder that doesn’t count towards my inbox, and it’s been immensely helpful in keeping the red numbers down. I didn’t realize how stressed it was making me to look over at every new notification (which were usually just promotional emails) when I was expecting client feedback emails. And thanks for the reminder on the last one, it’s such an easy thing to forget. I hope you have a wonderful holiday and I wish you all the best in 2014!

  25. Katherine A. says:

    Hi Breanna,
    I found your site through Love Taza. It’s beautiful and so easy to get around. I’ve been enjoying it this evening and wish I were at a point where I could pay you to talk about blog design. :)

    I wanted to let you know, I’m hosting my first link-up party on Saturday, and the theme is “In 2013, I Learned …” It’s meant to be a bunch of thoughts / reflections / etc on a range of topics. To be honest, my goal is for like 10 people to post, haha. But, I came across this post, and since it is already written, I wanted to invite you to come over and link to the others. The post explaining it is here, but like I said, the link won’t be open until Saturday and then will be up all week!

    http://idonthaveacluebutimfindingout.blogspot.com/2013/12/lesson-147-in-2013-i-learned-link-up.html

    Again, beautiful site.

    Best,
    Katherine

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