By Evie Cooper
Being a freelancer or a remote worker comes with some of the most fantastic freedoms that anyone with a career will ever be able to enjoy. Do you want to wake up at 11 AM and work in your pajamas while you snack on hummus all day? You can! Do you want to set your own rates, command higher than you would at a normal job, and be really selective about what projects you choose to work on? You can!
Do you want to go to sleep at a normal hour every night and have a simple and easy to manage schedule? You… might not be able to. If you’re working with clients across a wide variety of time zones, you often need to be up and active when they’re up and active to ensure smooth communication over projects’ details.
Sometimes, you might get away with simply receiving an email delineating your new tasks, but sooner or later you will need to virtually participate in the important 1 PM meeting – which, in your timezone might be 3 AM or 9 PM. While an occasional meeting like that won’t have a bad impact on your health, frequently losing sleep or rest time due to work is bound to leave you irritated and worn-out.
Fortunately, with right strategies, you can stay sane and healthy while you learn to navigate working with clients and employers across multiple time zones.
1. Start Meal Prepping
Communication may come at odd hours for you. It’s going to be hard to prepare nutritious meals and keep yourself properly energized when your dinner time is someone else’s morning, and your morning time is after another client’s lunch break. Meal prepping over the weekend can assure you always have something healthy to grab when you find the time to take a lunch. That time may vary from day to day, and you should never skip a meal (or settle for junk food delivery) when you only find yourself with a spare half an hour for nourishment.
2. Adhere to a Strict Sleep Schedule
You need to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. If you have clients or a boss on the other side of the planet, it can be very difficult to find a sleep-wake schedule that works. It may happen that you need to go to sleep at 5 AM and wake up at 12 PM or 1 PM in order to be able to conference in real time with your clients.
Find a median, schedule meetings around that median, and make sure you’re always ready to go to bed at the same time. You should never sacrifice sleep for work – you won’t be able to do your best if you’re exhausted.
3. Don’t Double-Book Yourself
Don’t try to schedule meetings, conference calls, or skype sessions across different time zones on the same day. It’s really easy to accidentally overlap meetings or double book conversations. Focus on one person from each time zone every day.
If you have solo work (work that doesn’t require live, real time collaboration with someone in a different time zone), use that to fill the time before and after live interactions. You’ll be putting your time to good use without scrambling in a million different directions faster than the speed of light.
4. Allow Yourself Some Time Outside the House
A common problem people working in multiple time zones have is that they’re constantly stuck in their home or office. Hours are odd, and they may need to sleep at unusual time. This means they don’t get to go outside much. They miss sunrises or sunsets. They’re living their lives in someone else’s time zone, but without any of the positive experiences that come with that.
Work away from home when you can. Work from coffee shops, or the park. Be somewhere that will allow you to at least experience nature, even if it’s only intermittently through break time. Staying stuck at your desk all day is terrible for your mental health. Your skin won’t synthesize vitamin D from the light coming off of your laptop. You won’t get much fresh air from your desk fan. There’s a great big world out there – all you need is WiFi and you’re good to go almost anywhere.
5. Use Organizational Tools
You’re going to have a lot to keep track of. You’ll need to convert and synchronize time zones a lot. You have tasks for different people, all with different specifications, and they’ll need to be delivered at different times. Having an organizational system and an arsenal of tools that will work for you is absolutely necessary. You won’t get much done without it.
Some scheduling and calendar apps, especially those with advanced settings, can convert time zones for you. Choosing a different color for every time zone (or every client) and documenting them in a ledger will help you quickly retain and memorize all the important differences. If you can’t find one tool to do it all, try to find tools that will synchronize with each other for an optimized experience. Many tools provided by the same company are designed to work in tandem, even if they use multiple interfaces.
Working across different time zones will always be a little challenging, but if you approach it in the right way, it’s certainly not unmanageable. Once you create a system that works and get into the swing of things, you’ll find that it’s nothing you can’t handle.