Creating a routine and making sure you optimise your time so that the work does not become your life. It is necessary to ensure that you can continue to produce high-quality work.
Gig work is trending. Globally, more people are choosing the precarity of gigs over the security of a full-time job. Some people are more suited to the uncertain work conditions than others, but all those engaged in gig work can benefit by ensuring the following:
1. Managing time effectively
Time is the currency of the gig worker and gig work, and by definition, is unstructured. Most organisations are primarily interested in the outcome or product of your work, hence they do not necessarily monitor your time and how you use it. It is incumbent on you to make the best use of your time. Working across geographies and time zones can mean that you do not clock off. Creating a routine and making sure you optimise your time so that the work does not become your life is necessary to ensure that you can continue to produce high quality work.
2. Having clear priorities
When working for more than one organisation or online platform, it is possible to feel overwhelmed by competing priorities. Every piece of work becomes urgent, even if it is not important. If your priorities are not clear, you will be led by the demands of the client, who in turn is working on their priorities. Even when working on a single task, it is important to create a sequence of how you will accomplish the outcome at a pace best-suited to your personality and way of working.
3. Balancing work and leisure
'Chasing the surge' as drivers on some apps do means losing sight of the things that matter. Suddenly, the money or the work becomes more important than relationships and things you actually enjoy doing. Similarly, the feast or famine principle of gig work makes you want to make the most of the work you are getting at any point in time because you might feel you will not get the opportunity again. This makes it hard to say no and pull back from over committing. Balance is a personal choice, the parameters of which are determined by you. So, choose wisely.
4. Creating boundaries
Boundaries are essential in all human interactions. If you do not set these, others will ride roughshod over your personal and professional space. In gig work, it is important to manage expectations so that the client does not invade your personal space. For instance, calling at odd hours or pressurising you to deliver before a deadline. Create boundaries for yourself and you will find others respecting them. This could be as simple as not answering the phone or messages when you are having your meals.
5. Taking care of your mental health
Loneliness, isolation, anxiety, and stress come with the territory of gig work. This is largely due to the lack of personal interaction with most work being done digitally. As one piece of work segues into another, there could be times when your only interactions are on your smartphone. Binge watching a show or playing video games is not the solution, take time out to meditate and distance yourself from all tech gadgets, go for a walk amidst nature, and most importantly, get enough sleep.
6. Managing stress
Always being 'on call' or financial anxiety about pending payments or where the next assignment will come from has a physiological effect on your body. Stress raises the levels of cortisol, which can lead to development of problems like high blood pressure and other metabolic issues. There is 'eustress', which helps you perform well but when it tips over into burnout, it needs to be reined in and managed. Learn to take breaks, engage in activities other than work which bring you joy and keep things in perspective. When you have the freedom to sit on a beach and work, should you really be worrying about connectivity?
7. Eating well
As a gig worker, your body is your company. It is necessary that you take good care of it by providing it with the right nutrition. When working odd hours, it is easy to fall into the habit of eating junk food and consuming a lot of caffeine. The detrimental effects of both are well known, but what we fail to remember is that eating better actually helps us work better.
8. Having an exercise routine
When time is compressed, one of the first things we let go of is physical exercise. Too tired, no time, later, tomorrow are all excuses. Movement can change your state of mind and exercise impacts your performance remarkably. Some form of exercise, be it time at a gym, doing yoga, or just going for a run should be prioritised.
9. Staying connected
When inundated with work, it is easy to shut yourself off and limit your real time interactions with people. The digital and physical world is not interchangeable. Loved ones need time, relationships and friendships need to be cultivated with presence and attention. Take time out to spend with family, friends, and other gig workers, who understand the trials and travails of this type of work. This not only compensates for the lack of belonging to an organisation, but gives you an opportunity to share your journey with those close to you.
10. Asking for help
At times, no matter what, you struggle to get past the overwhelm or sense of isolation or even the sheer anxiety of not having a clear career trajectory. Although family and friends care for you and can help you overcome some of these feelings, a professional counsellor or therapist can, as an unbiased third party, give you the perspective you need. Do not be afraid to ask for help and remember you are not the only one going through these challenges.
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