Working as a contractor has its rewards but one of the downsides is lack of job security. While it’s great to have the flexibility to switch between assignments, and the potential to earn more as you fill short-term skills gaps, the pressure to constantly perform at your best can feel overwhelming.
We all feel stressed from time to time and a certain level of pressure can be a good thing.
But when it all gets too much and you feel overwhelmed, it’s important to spot the signs early and take steps to reduce your stress levels.
Not only is too much stress bad for your health, it also stops you thinking clearly and working effectively.
Here are 5 steps you can take to reduce stress.
Prioritise your tasks
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of items on your to-do list. Get into the habit of prioritising your workload and thinking ahead about the best way to approach a task. What information do you need before you begin? Can other people help you and have you spoken to them? Do you really need that meeting which will take you 2 hours to get to in rush hour traffic, or can you do a video call instead? Is it possible to switch off your phone and close down your email so you can focus on one task at a time? Simple changes to the way you work can make an enormous difference. Read our article on time management tips for contractors.
Talk to someone
A problem shared is a problem halved, as they say, so if you’ve got an issue which is causing you to worry, try to talk it through with someone else. The NHS says ‘a good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your work troubles and help you see things differently.’ Not only will this help to make you feel better as you can talk to someone you like and trust who can sympathise, but it will also help you gain another perspective. Sometimes, when we’re in the midst of dealing with a problem, we get too wrapped up in it, and can’t always find the answers ourselves, no matter how hard we look. Another person’s input could help you to think differently.
Look after your health
When you’re extremely busy balancing work and home responsibilities, it’s all too easy to get out of the habit of exercising regularly, eating well and sleeping enough. However, it’s proven that regular exercise can help to reduce stress, so don’t feel bad about taking the time to do some exercise. Whether you like an energetic gym class that gets your heart pumping, a gentle yoga class after work or a walk in the park at lunchtime, schedule the time to exercise so that it doesn’t slip by the wayside more often than necessary. Shop online and plan some quick and healthy meals so it’s easy to eat properly without having to spend ages preparing food after a busy day at work. Follow these tips on getting a good night’s sleep.
While there are big things in life which cause genuine, often unavoidable stress, there are lots of minor, everyday situations which can easily be avoided with a little forward planning.
Think of some of your personal habits which disrupt your day – finding your car keys in the morning, remembering to charge your laptop or phone before you need to leave the house etc. There are probably other areas of your life where new habits would help – small things like filling up the car before the warning light comes on; aiming to arrive for appointments 10 minutes early rather than just in the nick of time etc. Small changes can make a big difference when you’re under pressure.
Organise your finances
Having poorly organised finances is a common cause of additional work and stress. Staying in control of your income and expenditure is vital, so you need to keep on top of your invoicing and payments to ensure you don’t add cashflow to your list of problems. Make sure you don’t take more out of your company than you should by setting aside enough to cover your tax and VAT and any other bills.
Our team would definitely recommend that you do not let the ‘busyness’ of daily life allow you to get behind with your business finances – spend a little time each week updating your accounts so that you keep accurate records of expenses and mileage, store your receipts safely and keep track of invoicing and outstanding payments. This saves time and hassle later on, and is very easy to do when you’re a contractor with JSA. As a platinum partner of FreeAgent you get access to this fantastic online accounting tool which makes it super-easy to keep on top of your finances, wherever you are.
Got any good tips? Let us know about them [email protected] and we’ll share them with other contractors.