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Freelancing Tips: Set Limits, Set Strategies, Set Standards



Freelander Asian Male Outsourcing

Freelancing tips often cover productivity and how to land jobs. A large aspect of that productivity and your ability to keep impressing and charming your clients rests on the foundation of your mental health.

No, this article won’t be about meditation or gratitude, although they work. This is about accepting your bad minutes or hours and then… moving on.

This helps so much with getting things done. Perhaps you even already do it unconsciously. Whether or not you already do, harness it and you have a powerful new tool in your arsenal to change your days and your life.

It’s called the reset. It’s been around for years. Oprah has talked about it. Every other lifestyle and motivation vlogger has talked about it.

We need it even more now as freelancers and remote workers.

We work with so many types of people

People of different cultures
Your clients, or bosses, aren’t always angels. The best practice is to filter your clients in the first place – you can always tell from the interviews – but yeah, even the best ones can have bad hours and just might send a very curt (stabby) email, or miss or misinterpret something you said and go on a sudden rant.

We also, as part of the outsourcing community, we have colleagues coming from all sorts of backgrounds and worldviews. It doesn’t matter if you happened to debate them on a certain topic or method of work or you saw their inflammatory status on Slack. Sometimes it’s just how they talk or work that grates on you.

We just work with every sort. Some are the sweetest, some require extra grace and patience, if not avoided altogether.

By “work with” I also mean having to persist with professionalism despite your housemates being absolutely bonkers. Spouses, kids, and, for many Asians, parents whom we live with if we’re unmarried. They’re not always cooperative, or they can be insensitive.

Other professionals cross your life, too: delivery services delaying your new desk, this or that government office still not done with an important document you need.

Any of them can derail your day (or evening). Depending on how annoyed you are, it’s so easy to just give up for the day and put things off until you feel better.

That “ruined your day” mentality is just your annoyance taking over your head. Acknowledge the annoyance. I won’t ever be a proponent of toxic positivity. But then, after venting or maybe punching your desk punching bag, do a reset and carry on.

And no, you don’t have to wait until tomorrow or the New Year. Had a setback with your diet? Nope, it doesn’t have to mean you’ll start over next week. That’s just your craving for hash browns talking.

Just do the reset.

Reset Step 1: Acknowledge that you need that reset: get into the mindset that the reset works

Drained person with head on table
Any time of the day when things go wonky, whether or not they’re within your control, say yes to a reset. Imagine ripping off a page from a spiral notebook. Or wiping off a dry-erase board. That easy and that satisfying.

The snag that gets ahold of our ankles most of the time when a bad minute happens is we try to fix things or our brain comes up with comebacks we should have said to that as*hole or recalls every other annoying thing that certain person did in the past.

While our brain is stomping around in that net, time is passing by and it’s another attack of guilt and annoyance when you notice the time you lost.

I’m not saying you should shut yourself off to healthy anger. It’s all right to be angry and frustrated. Allow those feelings some time and then you’re done. You tell yourself, I need a reset. I don’t want to feel like this another minute.

Once you acknowledge that, it’s like magic, really. I experienced it myself and it really works. It triggers the construct that the reset can clean your slate, so to speak.

Whatever annoying or frustrating thing you encountered is in the past, behind you.

And now you can keep moving forward and get through your to-do list or start over with your plans. Eating your brother’s leftover bag of Lay’s doesn’t mean you have to wait next week to diet again. That ruined sweater can be replaced. You can reply to that email in a half-hour with a clear head. The mess on the kitchen floor won’t take that long to clean up, really.

You’re fine.

Reset Step 2: Step away and breathe

Sitting down meditating
The reset does need a cue. Something as simple as stepping out of the room. Or pouring a tall glass of cold water and having a nice, long drink. Or the strike of a match as you light your favorite candle or stick of incense. Blasting your favorite song. Writing a new meal plan to make up for the calories you just ingested. Finding your cat and smooshing your face into that soft fur. Taking a walk and coming back refreshed, literally, from taking in new vistas outside.

I can’t go out much because I live in a county where the sun is friendly only very early in the morning or very late in the afternoons so sometimes I open 4k videos of landscapes and tours on YouTube.

It’s in the senses. Give your brain something new to take in and effectively push out the negative with something empowering or something you love.

That’s all it takes. Your reset is done. And you don’t have to wait until tomorrow.

If it’s really, really awful and you feel drained– this happens!–take a nap or a warm shower. You’re at home. You can totally do that.

Optional and with caution: Vent to a friend.

Friend comforting another friend
When steam builds up, it needs to get out. That’s powerful stuff. But be careful about who you choose to vent to. They need to know how to listen and not make you feel worse by trying to fix things or giving you unsolicited advice.

The best thing about venting to a friend you can trust? They might make you laugh. They might get angrier than you on your behalf so your own anger deflates. They’ll definitely give you perspective. OR you end up giving yourself perspective: things come out as you talk it out.

Simply feeling that someone listens and understands your frustration takes a lot of the load off.

Take steps so you won’t need resets in the first place

The reset is a powerful tool that removes your annoyance or frustration like a tweezer. Just pluck it out and boom, nice and smooth space in your head.

But annoyance isn’t something you should live with. If you keep needing resets, it’s time to investigate why and what you can fix.

There’s this pervasive and unspoken belief that you’re not professional or working hard enough if you’re happy with work and those you work with.

It’s the martyr complex. Some like to “bear things” and “self-sacrifice” and take some sort of pride in doing so. This is why there are toxic bosses and toxic friends. Why are they even still your boss or friend? Bathroom bleach is only toxic if you ingested it. I would have resigned and ghosted that “friend.”

There’s a certain line where another person’s annoying behavior becomes partly your fault. When you don’t stop them from repeating it. When you don’t establish boundaries. When you don’t speak up. When you don’t take responsibility for what you can absolutely control.

Set limits.
You don’t have to be mean or snappish to be able to say, “Oh I can’t talk about that” or “My calendar’s quite full so I can’t take that on.”

Protect your time and your personal space. When you do this, you give yourself a bubble that people don’t pop, simply by putting your bubble in a protective box of established boundaries.

Set strategies.
Board with strategy plan on it
If your colleagues or team asks questions about the same things over and over, set up a FAQ they can consult. Get yourself out of the middle of that. If you notice a potential problem, nip it in the bud and speak up before that annoying behavior grows in your team.

If your housemates (kids or adults) get in the way of your day in some way or another, examine what it is they end up doing and take steps to prevent it, divert it, avoid it or deal with it in a way that doesn’t frustrate you.

It can mean waking up earlier in the morning so you can get things done and feel accomplished before the krakens wake. If they’re noisy, that’s easy enough to solve with a closed door and/or noise-canceling headphones.

There’s a solution for every annoyance. Recognize this and look into this.

Set up requests.
The above are things within your control. Other people are outside your control, and external circumstances can be downright mean sometimes, but you can try asking. Sometimes all it takes is to ask.

“I’d appreciate it if you…” “Can you please…?” “I really need you to please…”

You might be surprised at what you can accomplish and how your days improve if you simply ask for the outcomes you want to see.

Set up more realistic standards. For yourself, too.
Person using laptop
Kids would be messy. Newbies will slip up. And many people don’t have the same level of EQ you wish they had.

I’m not saying you should set your expectations low. Rather, be realistic. Some people are nice, some are rude. Some online sellers would be fantastic with customer service. Some would be inept. It doesn’t have to ruin your day when you come across a bigot or an idiot on Facebook or Twitter. And yes, the news can be depressing and politicians in power can downright make you want to strangle them.

And you might not always be at your best. You’re not perfect. You might regain all the weight you lost.

Whichever level you’re in your job right now, you might still be learning or you might already be an expert.

Whatever goals in life you’ve set for yourself, give yourself kindness when you relapse or don’t quite reach your timeline. You can reset, remember?

When you have moments of self-doubt, that’s healthy. I’d take that rather than overconfidence any day. It means you have good taste and a good head on your shoulders.

But perfectionism is a dangerous slippery slope. You would end up paralyzed. Watch that you’re not beating yourself up with unrealistic expectations. And watch that you don’t need a perfect day to feel good enough either.

When something annoys or infuriates you, acknowledge the emotion, and then do your reset to continue forward with a clear head.

Then look at what happened with fresh eyes.

Let it go and let it be because there’s nothing you can do about it. It might even make you laugh. Or see if you can change things and prevent or fix them.

Rinse. Repeat any time you encounter a bad second or a bad minute.

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