It's a feeling most working adults have experienced at some point in their lives: The career that was once exciting and invigorating has become a source of exhaustion, apathy, or even dread. This can happen to anyone, but independent consultants, are particularly prone to it due to generally high paced schedules. Here are some tips to keep in mind to help you to continue to enjoy your work, feel motivated and encouraged and avoid burnout.
1. Pace Yourself
An independent consultant can often feel pressure to get as much work done in as little time as possible in order to satisfy clients and earn income. It's important, however, to make sure that the expectations you set for yourself are realistic. Pushing yourself to meet an "emergency" deadline once in a while is understandable, but consistently putting pressure on yourself to meet unrealistic goals and deadlines is unhealthy, and a recipe for burnout.
In many cases, the old adage that slow and steady wins the race is true for an independent consultant. Working at a steady but comfortable pace will not only improve the quality of your work, but it will also help keep you in a calm, focused, state-of-mind. In the end, you will likely find that you are more productive in the long run when you pace yourself in the short run.
2. Maintain a Solid Work-Life balance
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is one of the most important steps any worker can take. However, despite the media highlighting the negative implications of letting this balance go by the wayside, too many workers continue to push their boundaries and work too many hours. This leads to stress, poor physical and mental wellbeing, overall unhappiness and burnout.
To prevent these effects, it's essential that independent consultants set a strict limit on the amount of time that they dedicate to work. Providing for your family is important, but so is spending quality time with them. Make sure that you're allowing yourself plenty of downtime to help stay healthy and refreshed so that you continue to enjoy your career.
3. Take Care of Yourself
Working as a self-employed independent professional means taking on a lot of responsibility, which translates into long hours and full schedules. Between work, family and social life, your health and happiness is often put on the back burner due to lack of time. This equates to skipped breakfasts, fast-food lunches, and take-out dinners. Busy independent consultants find that client appointments take precedence over doctor appointments, and long days are spent at a desk while gym membership cards collect dust.
When your job begins affecting your health - mentally, physically and emotionally - you will often find yourself fatigued and unhappy. For your consultancy to succeed, and for you to have the energy to tackle your client projects with enthusiasm, you have to take care of yourself. Here are a few tips:
4. Ask For Help
No matter how "independent" you feel, there are times when you can't complete a project on your own. Perhaps the client request has many dimensions that require skillsets in areas that will take a lot of research on your part, or the scope of a client project has gone beyond what you anticipated. You may have also oversold yourself to a client, and as a result, are in over your head. In any case, you have a choice: push yourself to do it all on your own and risk underperforming due to a variety of constraints, or hire someone to help you. Whether it means outsourcing part of a task to a specialist, or bringing in another independent consultant to partner or subcontract on a project, ask for help before the pressure becomes unbearable.
On a positive note, there is one aspect of an independent consultant's job is helpful in avoiding burnout: project variety. That is the ability to choose your projects and clients and to keep a variety of projects on your plate helps keep interest levels high. In turn, you are less likely to lose interest in your work. Just as exercising your body in new ways increases your fitness, exercising your brain in new ways increases your engagement, intelligence and happiness.
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