Discipline is Freedom: How to Balance a Freelance Career and Ultrarunning

Discipline is Freedom: How to Balance a Freelance Career and Ultrarunning

It seems the digital world is hell-bent on destroying our productivity. As much as silicon valley execs sell their products as productivity enhancers, our digital devices are an unhealthy addiction.

Thinking back to the era before the smartphone, I don’t know if life was better or worse. The device became mainstream as I left college. And I did not adopt the technology until four years later.

But I can tell you that there is some merit in boredom. When you don’t have a social sphere at your fingertips, there is more time for you. If you’re creative, you have more time to dream. If you are adventuresome, you have more time to plan adventures. If you’re a freelancer, you have more time to make money.

Do Away With the Smart Phone?

I’ve considered ditching my smartphone. But the things I use it for — calendar, alarm, communication — seem like they’d be hard to replace without increasing bulk. So I must find a way to divorce myself from the time sink aspects of my phone and increase my productivity.

I waste too much time on frivolous smartphone activities. When I’m deep in my training season, I really can’t afford to sink time into frivolous activities. But that smartphone is addicting.

So, here’s what I’m doing to ramp up my freelance career, mitigate the smartphone habit, and continue to push forward with my training.

1. Schedule and List EVERYTHING

I’ve never been a lists kind of person. When I tried to make lists in college, I’d just get overwhelmed. But as I entered the world of freelance writing, I’ve found lists helpful.

If I leave a list of to-do items unlisted, my mind makes a big deal of little tasks. I experience analysis paralysis because literally, everything seems like a big task.

No matter if you’re a type A personality or a type B personality, the list is the best way to untangle the tasks before you. If you don’t externalize your tasks, you might perceive something as simple as scheduling training workouts for the next week to be something complicated and overwhelming.

That brings me to my next point:

The schedule

Even if I don’t follow my schedule to a “T,” I’ve decided to do a thing beforehand. I struggled through college mostly because I left everything up to my “in-the-moment-brain.”

Your “in-the-moment-brain,” AKA your emotions, will never want to do the important things. They’ll use the excuse of “complicated and overwhelming” as a reason not to do it. Or, in the case of training, cold, dark, too early, tired, etc.

I’ve found I function best when I’ve pre-determined what I’m going to do for the day. Whether that be training, my blog, or even time devoted to finding new work.

Now, I’m not type-A. I must have flexibility or I then revert to panic mode when I can’t do “as much work as I intended.” Which brings me to another thing:

2. Don’t Be So Damned Optimistic

Life sometimes gets in the way. The world doesn’t follow your schedule. And sometimes, your brain will still hijack you no matter what.

I tend to be too optimistic about what I’m going to accomplish in a day. I’m learning to accept that when I schedule work, it might take longer than I think.

I suffer from attention deficit disorder. This means my sense of time is all screwed up. It’s something I can work on, but it’s not easy.

A lot of the people I know with attention deficit disorder are dreamers. They think they can do more in the time they have than they really can. And then something comes along that is more stimulating than life and it’s all over.

Then they feel guilty. They didn’t accomplish what they thought they could do, and they wallow for a day or two.

Then they get optimistic again. They get excited about accomplishing something and the cycle starts all over again.

I must limit my own personal expectations. Especially if I’m going to continue to train for ultramarathons and work as a freelancer.

So, do like I’m going to do. Schedule modestly. Don’t be so damned optimistic.

3. Lock Up All Your Devices

I use my phone as an alarm. It’s the only way I can get out of bed to train. The app Alarmy is my drill sergeant in a way.

To turn off my alarm, I must walk upstairs to my home office, turn on a light, and take a picture of the CTRL, ALT, and SHIFT keys on my keyboard.

If I don’t have training, it’s easy to hike back down to bed and go to sleep. But when I do have training, I keep my running clothes near my keyboard and change there.

Then, when I go to the gym, I listen to music or a podcast.

I have my phone in my hand when I leave for training and when I come home from training in the morning. It’s so easy to mindlessly browse Facebook or read ten blog articles while drinking my recovery drink.

I’ve gotten into the habit recently of getting lost in my cell phone for longer than is feasible. I could start work at 9AM, but often I’m not hitting the keyboard until 10 or 11AM.

And it’s all my fault.

Leash Your Phone

So, if you’re like me, you need to lock up your device. Maybe not literally. But put it in another room.

Have a place you automatically plug it in. Once it’s tethered to the wall, don’t touch it till lunch.

Make this a habit.

Why? Because even being around your smartphone limits your ability to concentrate.

It seems weird, but researchers have found that the mere presence of a smartphone on your desk takes up mental capacity. Even if it’s in a pocket or a bag nearby, your working memory and your fluid intelligence decrease significantly.

And if you are afraid of putting your phone away, there’s a name for that. It’s called “nomophobia.” And it’s simple to cure. Get in the habit of locking away your phone.

You can call people back. You can read texts later. You can catch up on Facebook posts while sitting on the toilet.

Trust me, we used to have to find a pay phone or a landline if we left the house before cell phones. We survived just fine. And so will you.

Discipline is Freedom

I recently had a counselor tell me that “discipline is freedom.” We were talking about controlling your emotions, something I’d never attempted to do before.

But he’s right. In every area of life, if you can discipline your mind, your body, and your emotions, you can achieve the impossible. This doesn’t mean you will avoid struggle. But you’ll find the freedom to accomplish your dreams.

Don’t forget to follow me at feelmisery4happy on Instagram.

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