Making It Work: Balancing Work, Home, and Freelancing
Guest Post by Sarah Madewell, RN
As a full-time nurse and a mother of two girls, never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d have the time or the energy to have a side gig. Bedside nursing has a reputation for being physically and mentally demanding, and I certainly can attest to those claims. So how could I possibly balance work, home, and freelancing?
I must mention, my schedule is a unique one.
Most nursing units run on shifts, like 7 am to 7 pm, or clinic hours, such as Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm. As a recovery RN in an outpatient surgery center, I work according to the surgery schedule. The facility is a same-day surgery center so there are no overnight stays, no weekends, and no on-call shifts.
However, every day is different. One day, I might be done by 2 pm. Another day, I might be busting tail until 6 pm. You can probably imagine that planning around this schedule is challenging.
Home life is also a tremendous portion of how I spend my days, as it should be. Spending time with my kids, keeping the house tidy, and streaming my favorite tv shows are a few examples of my personal life. Finding the right balance between work, home, and freelancing has made a great impact on my productivity.
Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along my journey that can help you balance work, home, and your freelancing business.
Step 1: Identify Your Daily Routine
Are you wondering if you even have the time? If you really want to do something, then, yes, you have the time.
Sit down and write (or type) what you do each moment, each day, for about a week. A visual schedule of daily habits will let you see exactly what you are doing and for how long.
Next, estimate how much time you are spending on each activity. It’s not a perfect science — you just need a rough estimate.
I like to write the actual time I typically do something (e.g. bath/shower for everyone from 7-8 pm) and how long (1 hour). Do what you feel works best for you and be honest with yourself.
Congratulations! Now you have a laid-out schedule that you can use to find time for your freelancing side gig.
Step 2: Prioritize Activities
So where is all this extra time that you don’t have?
Prioritizing will narrow down what changes need to be made to help make spare time appear. Important activities include obligations (work) and responsibilities (making dinner) while also taking into account activities that promote mental well-being, such as social interaction and adequate sleep.
Here’s how to do it:
First, make a spreadsheet for three or four major categories.
Under each category, list your activities and the time you spend on each.
As you are listing, you may already start to notice activities that are taking up too much of your precious time.
Then, prioritize by scoring each activity with a 1-10 ranking system, or maybe you already listed your activities from most important to least.
Look at your time spent on the lower-scoring activities.
Are there any activities that can be traded out for freelancing time instead? Is too much effort being spent on time wasters?
- games on your phone
- incessant shopping
- watching non-stop videos on TikTok or YouTube
- binge-watching movies
Examine the high-priority activities.
Can you delegate any responsibilities to family members? Are you working a lot of overtime?
Step 3: Find Down Time
You might be surprised how many opportunities there are to work throughout your day already.
Here are some more ideas:
Commuting To and From work
I drive approximately 25 minutes one way to work. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that in 2017, the average commute was 26 minutes. In 2019, the average increased to 27 minutes. Americans are driving longer distances, which is a costly time guzzler.
Utilize your driving time by listening to podcasts related to your side business. I made leaps and bounds in growing my business by just listening to podcasts alone. Practice safe driving by having the episode ready to play before driving.
When I was just getting started as a new nurse writer, I especially enjoyed Jane Kelbach’s Savvy Nurse Writer podcast and Beth Hanes’ The RN2Writer Show.
Some other great options include The Business of Writing,The Defiant Business Podcast, and Medical Writers Speak.
Depending on your shift type, after work may or may not be an option. Getting home after a 12-hour shift of craziness doesn’t sound like the optimal time to work on your side job. Family kisses, dinner, and bed would be my plans.
However, if you get off early or you leave work every day at 3:30 pm, you might find an hour you can reserve for your freelancing every weekday.
Those who work 12-hour shifts usually have 4 out of 7 days off per week. Those days may shuffle around, but that doesn’t matter in the freelance world. Put that time off to good use and get busy with your business.
Kids at School
Bless my lovely children, but is there ever a nicer time than when the kids are away at school while you are home with “nothing to do”? Reschedule your chores (scrubbing the tub can wait) and put some major hours into the biz.
Weekends are for rest, but if you work all week, you may feel like you haven’t accomplished anything else. Focus on your priorities more here and reward yourself with some rest afterwards.
My Saturdays are usually spent at the grocery store or other errands. My Sundays are used to clean high-priority areas of the house and also putting in time for freelancing. By evening time, I’ve usually met my goals and can relax (or sneak in some networking ideas I’ve been playing around with).
Step 4: Make a Schedule
Using a calendar is the best way to organize daily, weekly, and monthly planning. Organizing your life may sound overwhelming, but when you are being pulled five different ways, a calendar can bring you the balance you are looking for.
There are a bunch of popular free organizational apps online and for smartphones, and the majority use a calendar as their base format.
Once you have found time by prioritizing, slot in your freelancing time on the calendar and stick to it. Set reminders if needed. Your new schedule will help you balance your work, home life, and side gig.
Keep your family informed. Kids generally understand clear, definitive boundaries such as “Mommy is freelance working from 4-5pm today, then we will all have dinner together.”
The Balance Between Freelancing, Work, and Homelife
Now you have found time for your side gig. You have marked your calendar and are satisfied with the amount of time put aside for freelancing. The balance of your time between work, home, and freelancing should have a collaborative flow, and you should be more organized and efficient.
Avoid swinging to the other side of the spectrum as well. Too much time spent working on your side hustle could potentially cause problems such as burnout, anxiety/stress, obligations forgotten, and loss of family interaction.
Don’t lose sight of what is most important to you.
It’s OK if some days are just too full. Life has a way of consuming your time. Maybe one day, your freelancing business grows into something bigger, something financially sound. Until then, your side hustle is just that, a side hustle. Try not to let it burn you out. Spare time is subjective, meaning it’s up to you.
How will you find the time?
Guest Post by Sarah Madewell, RN, BSN
Sarah Madewell, RN, BSN is a nurse writer in content marketing. She writes consumer health articles and blogs in the healthcare space and specializes in psychology and patient education. She has 2 beautiful girls and enjoys gardening and movies. You can find Sarah at RNBubblescripts.com.
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Awesome, practical tips! Thanks for sharing!