Though the holidays are a pretty spectacular time of the year, they can also be pretty stressful. From gift-giving obligations to social plans, it can be hard to avoid overspending and stick to a solid work schedule. The latter especially applies when you're a freelancer who doesn't get paid time off. As such, my colleagues and I are currently in what we'll call recovery mode as we kick off the new year. Here's what we're doing to get back on track.
1. Preparing to work
Selena Maranjian: The holidays are over, and I didn't get as much work done as I'd hoped. That's not good for a contractor or freelancer, as we get paid by the piece, not on a salary. Still, it's a new year, and like many people, I'm full of good intentions for a fresh start. One thing I'm doing is preparing to work -- tying up loose ends and ridding myself of some distractions.
For example, I've got a long to-do list that often distracts me from concentrating on work. So I'll aim to knock out as much of it as possible in order to minimize that nagging feeling that I should be doing something other than working. (On my list, as examples: setting up a new computer, looking into back-up systems, researching healthcare options for my mom, and so on.)
I'll tidy up my work station, too, as a clean and uncluttered desk can make me feel better as I work. A Harvard study found that messy desks can hurt productivity, and other studies have reached similar conclusions. (A different study, though, found that many geniuses thrive with cluttered work stations.)
Finally, I'll fill my calendar with dates that I need to remember and will set up folders for 2019 tax-related papers (receipts, records, trade confirmations, etc.). Once all my ducks are in a row, I'll feel ready to hit the ground running.
2. Working extra
Daniel B. Kline: Over the holidays, I have the added challenge of having my 14-year-old son home from school while my wife still has to work. Florida's students get over two weeks of winter vacation, and if I don't want my son to spend that entire time playing video games, my work volume suffers.
To make up for that, I work extra whenever possible. That includes working seven-day weeks during his breaks. Since I almost never get to put in 8-9 hours at my desk while he's out of school, I grab work hours on the weekends -- sometimes before anyone else in the family has gotten up.
Once school vacation ends, I plan to keep up a seven-day schedule for a few weeks. That means I'll work a normal day during the week and keep putting in 3- to 4-hour days on Saturday and Sunday.
I'll keep that up as long as my schedule allows through January and maybe some of February. I won't be militant -- if an event comes up where it makes sense to take a day off, I will -- but I'm pretty dedicated to getting back on track.
That's the blessing and the curse of being self-employed. You get an enormous amount of freedom but also must have a lot of discipline. And that's why I'll be working extra once school vacation comes to an end.
3. Reducing my spending temporarily
Maurie Backman: The holidays were expensive for me this year, partly because I hosted several gatherings, and partly because I chose to be generous with certain key people I felt were worthy of being rewarded (like my kids' teachers and babysitter, to name a few). The end of the holiday season also culminated in school being out of session for about a 10-day stretch, and so I spent some money keeping my children entertained.
All told, I spent way more than expected in December, and I also worked less than usual because of the aforementioned school break. And so I'm attempting to recover now by reducing my spending in the coming weeks.
Thankfully, I didn't end up taking on debt during the holidays. But due to the amount I spent, I didn't meet certain financial goals I'd set for myself, and so to compensate, I'm going to reduce my spending in January. Namely, I'm going to avoid all non-essential purchases (like clothing or electronics I don't need right away) and cut back on restaurant meals, which are often a budget-buster for me. With any luck, these changes will get me back on course. At the same time, I'll hopefully do a better job of planning for the holidays the next time around so that I'm not caught off-guard by how much they wind up costing me.