A few ways I’ve reduced my stress levels…

I didn’t really have a new year’s resolution this year, mainly because I have been working towards a few big, personal goals for a while now.

As a Freelancer and a workaholic (who loves what she does), working for myself hasn’t come without its challenges. I found it so hard to switch off and felt guilty all the time for not creating content or taking time off which slowly led to working weekends, evenings and constantly scrolling my phone over dinner.

I knew it wasn’t healthy, but the guilt of stopping and switching off was often worse than just answering every email and giving into the demands of others.

Last year, I made a few big decisions which have made a real positive impact on my work/life balance – it has taken a while to put them into practise but I’m slowly reaping the benefits and can honestly say, I’ve never been happier. Here goes….

Jumper: Next (old). Corduroy dungarees: £45, Asos Maternity. Mules: Boden (old). Photographs: Christopher O’Donnell

I stopped posting everyday

This sounds really silly, but I genuinely believed that to grow my social media accounts, I needed to be uploading everyday without fail, often a couple of times a day. This is what every article on building your following tells you to do, but in fact once I slowed down I found the opposite happened.

I now blog a couple of days a week (rather than every other day) and then Instagram daily if I can, but if I genuinely don’t feel inspired or can’t take a strong enough photo, I don’t. I found that my following has grown quicker when posting less but more meatier, thoughtful content (I actually gain more instagram followers when I don’t post!). And the weeks when I have just uploaded 2-3 photos I love, I find my to-do list is so much more manageable.

I rented an office space

We remortgaged to help pay for our building work for our home office…and then I decided that actually, I needed a separate space. Not very frugal, that’s for sure…

I tossed and turned the idea over in my head A LOT and knew that although it would be great to work from home when I could, I needed the separation of ‘switching off’ and leaving my work behind me, something that wasn’t happening at home. My freelance career was turning into a business with boxes constantly being delivered to my house for projects, I was running all over town for meetings and I needed some help – and working from a renovation site wasn’t helping. My work was also encroaching into my husband’s sphere, too – he was constantly having to move around boxes in our living room and wait in for deliveries – something had to change.

Ironically, I picked up the keys to my office the day I found out I was pregnant. I couldn’t go in for months – but when I did start to go in regularly I found myself so focused. It’s local, so I save money on travel (or finding coffee shops in town to work from), it’s also quiet with no distractions – no builders asking me constant questions. I store everything work related there so all my stationery, chargers are there, which also means I am not storing all my paperwork/portfolios/ 7 years of tax returns in my spare room – I organise most deliveries to go here, too.

Importantly, it’s an office, it’s not my comfortable warm sofa – I don’t actually want to be there for long periods of time so I get in, do my work and try to get out at a reasonable time. I’ve made it as chic as possible but also been careful not to make it so cosy I never want to leave!

I hired an assistant

This has made a huge difference to me – there is sometimes only so long you can go on trying to achieve everything yourself.

Yes, both the office and the assistant cost me money (I have always paid everyone who works for me), which essentially means I earn less but for me, my goal has always been to enjoy my life and have more balance. So far, the help has been on a part-time basis but it has helped me greatly and means I can pass over a large amount of admin and research work which frees up so much more time. I haven’t worked late evenings or weekends for at least 5 months now and it feels amazing.

This is where the office has come in handy, too – when I was being sick everyday in my first trimester, there was no way someone could work from my house (mid renovation with a puking boss – no one would apply for that job!). Luckily, a lot of that freelancer guilt was removed from the equation because I knew that, to some extent, things were getting sorted in my office without me.

‘Self Care For The Real World’ by Nadia Narain, £11.89, Amazon. ‘Soho’ diary: Smythson. Notepad: kikki K.

Turned off messages on Instagram Stories

Now I don’t do this everyday, as I think it’s so important to keep a conversation going, however, when I was frantic in the lead-up to Christmas and the house was taking up every extra spare inch of time (without even having to remind everyone I’m pregnant on top), I found Instagram messages a bit relentless.

Not only do I respond to hundreds of emails a day from both PRs and readers, tweets, blog comments, facebook messages and instagram image comments, the questions on Stories became a bit much. It was nearing 200 direct messages on a usual, busy day – where was my coving from, my desk, my earrings, could I add a link to my coat, what colour were my walls etc.

Don’t get me wrong I love a chat, but I was spending ALL my time answering everything and didn’t have 5 minutes to myself. So now, generally, if I know I’m going to be busy and need to keep my head down and finish a project, I switch messages off. Often not even for an entire day, sometimes just a few hours when I feel a bit overwhelmed, this way my readers know it’s not a good time to ask (or if they really need to know something, they can always email me in my bio). I think the DM button has made people hastily ask questions that pop into their head, often not even expecting a response – and don’t even realise there is a frazzled person at the end of the line answering 50 questions at once in case they lose a follower over it.

At first I thought it was rude to close the door to conversation but then often forget it is a choice – and it’s more of an ‘out of office’, not a ‘don’t message me’ button.

So all of these factors have really helped my workflow and made me appreciate my free-time a lot more. Although I won’t deny that a huge factor has been the renovations and pregnancy – I’ve just had so much more on my mind and had to spread myself so thinly, I realised something had to give.

Hopefully I can keep this up into 2018 – I know it’s going to be an even bigger challenge once a child is in the mix, but equally why I knew it was important to sort last year and shift the balance.

62 Comments

    1. Good for you, I was taken aback when you replied to me within the hour about some shoes when we all really should think about bigger things. Remain ‘frugal’, less is more, quality not quantity #cocochanel.

  1. Hello! Love these tips and your office looks great! Thanks ps If you don’t mind me asking, where is your diary from and would you recommend it?

  2. Hi Alex! I am a huge fan of your blog. For me the posting intervals are just perfect. I go back to what you posted a couple of times and think whether there is something there that I would like to try. Usually I am still thinking of a post when the next one comes. Since I have nothing to do with the fashion world, I don’t need a daily bombing with reading material. Plus I think most of your readers value quality over quantity, and so far you’ve been doing great in that sense! Keep up the good work… And the chilling moments! And thanks for sharing so much!

    1. Thank you, this is so interesting to read and makes sense – and agree an instagram everyday selling product can also be just too much – I just post when I have something I want to talk about rather than feeling the ‘need’ to post and I’m enjoying it so much more x

  3. This is very interesting. I’ve noticed you post a little less and you know what, I like that! I prefer aa little less content and more quality and you definitely do that. I have unfollowed some very popular people in the past 12 months because I just found them too much. Constantly on every platform and the IG Stories of them banging on every day. Honestly, sometimes less is more. Well done you!

  4. What a sensible approach to it all – social media can be so relentless can’t it? I made a positive step to restrict the amount of time I would let myself spend on it as it was encroaching too much on my own time and ability to get normal everyday things done. I took to actually muting my phone during the day so I wasn’t listening out for pings on the phone which “needed” responding to. And you know how the old adage goes “Less is more”. Ain’t that the truth. Take care. x

  5. I don’t mind less content, as your content is always top quality, its worth waiting for!
    I think a separate working space for people who would otherwise work from home is almost a necessity rather than a luxury. It means you’re not thinking builders, washing, what to have for tea when you should be working. And it means switching off at the end of the day can be as easy as shutting the office door.

  6. I think posting less can be a really positive thing! I have stopped following certain people recently because I just can’t keep up with reading/watching all their content! Your Instagram stories are always the first ones I watch though, especially for updates on your house renovation!

  7. I drastically reduced the amount of people I was following in 2018. I was feeling overwhelmed with trying to see all posts (I know it is silly isn’t it!); kept seeing the same products worn/promoted by multiple individuals; and most importantly was comparing myself in a not very healthy way. Now I longer have that FOMO stress and enjoy the small bit of IG that I now follow. So less posts and more quality is the way to go. (I also turned off all screen notifications for all apps – best thing I did to reduce my screen time.)

    1. Yes I agree! I unfollowed quite a few this year too – nothing wrong with what they were doing but it has made a drastic difference to my mood! And yes those notifications – we have something built in that makes us mark everything as ‘seen’ and ‘read’ and important to turn it off! xx

  8. I love this, and well done you!
    I look forward to all your news – even if its shared less often.
    PS a follower who is fickle enough to unfollow based on not receiving an instantaneous response, is not a follower that you need 🙂

    1. Ha – they probably don’t unfollow! When you work for yourself you dream up all sorts of things that readers may think! Thank you and happy new year to you – may it be full of wonderful travels xxx

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