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. Loved reading this and definitely think the assistant and office makes total sense despite the cost, it’s good to separate life and business and not end up working 24/7.

    I stopped daily blogging nearly a year ago now (I was blogging daily for 5.5 years) and that just lifted such a huge weight from my shoulders. I can’t imagine going back to it.

    Mel x mediamarmalade.com

  2. This is such a great post Alex, thanks for sharing. Completely agree that less is more. Certain influencers/bloggers constantly push certain brands and items that you start to lose faith in whether this is actually their style or not. What I love about your blog and Instagram posts is that you always stay true to your style and us readers know that you have invested in that piece of clothing/shoes/bag because it’s genuinely what you like and wear multiple times. Thank you and continue to keep up the great work! Love reading each blog post.
    Ps congratulations on your pregnancy too x

    1. Thank you so much!! It’s so easy to lose your way with blogging – especially when you’re working by yourself and no one to soundboard ideas off of…I’m currently uploading my next outfit post where everything is old – but hey – that’s life! x

  3. So important to put yourself first sometimes and to find ways to make life a little easier for you. Even more important when working, renovating a house AND growing a little person.

    I love your content Alex, but definitely think a little less screen time/social media makes for a healthier life and mind, for us all. Xx

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and tips. I think there’s a culture of prioritising work above all else in the UK and I believe it not only damages our health, but makes us produce less quality outputs (whatever your role). Unfortunately it was illness that forced me to realise how unhealthy my attitude towards my job was and to make some fundamental changes. I now work part time, try hard to deliver high quality work within the hours I’m paid for and am a vocal proponent of balance, especially with my team and other colleagues. It’s hard not to get sucked back into staying in the office late into the evening, but I’m still working at it!

    Good luck keeping up with your new approach!

    1. Yes, I really think it is in the UK! And terms like ‘killing it’ sometimes are actually not helpful – makes people inadequate if they’re not achieving everything at 100%! And it is so true that it is usually something big (like an illness) that makes us re-evaluate. There are a few brands I have heard where the boss makes sure they leave on time always to pick up their children etc – so the culture of guilt and staying late doesn’t impact anyone else – which is so healthy! x

  5. Hey Alex, I’ve been following for awhile but yet to leave you a comment. Really appreciate your general sensibilities (fashion, authenticity, etc.) and this post was just what I needed to hear. As a very small blogger with a full-time job, it can feel overwhelming to feel like you need to be doing EVERYTHING in order to grow. Instead, I’ve found that being true to myself and thinking about what my readers will value has been an especially helpful guiding light.

    Thanks for all your inspiration – especially the maternity inspo! As a non-mom scared to have a baby, you make it look cool. Looking forward to following along when you officially become a family of 3 😉

    1. Yes – and you forget that blogging is supposed to be FUN and something you want to do! Thank you – I always so scared of starting a family but now it doesn’t feel as daunting at all! Taking everyday in its stride x

  6. So wise for one so young! Alex I’m sure like most of your other readers I would far rather think of you living a happy, fulfilling and non stressed lifestyle with the balance your life needs than satisfying a demand for daily posts and the need for constant Insta stories messaging.
    At the end of the day it’s your blog and your life with so many exciting and wonderful things coming your way – we hope to join you in some of that journey but should always remember this is your job and you have every right to non work time like we all do (when we are reading your blog!).

    Wishing you both a fulfilling 2018, a wonderful home to bring your baby home to and good health.

    Pip x

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