DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been working on about four freelance projects at the same time ever since I lost my job late last year. I am doing my best, but I am exhausted. Recently I have been messing up, and I’m sure it’s because I am tired. I’m afraid to let go of any of these jobs, though, because I am worried about being able to pay my bills. How can I manage my time better so I don’t lose everything in the process? -- Stretched Too Thin, Brooklyn, New York
DEAR STRETCHED TOO THIN: Operating on fear will not serve you long-term, as you are experiencing. It is completely understandable that you would have accepted all these projects in your effort to work after you were laid off. What you need to do now is step back. Take a day or two off so that you can rest and evaluate where you are and what you need to do. To step off wisely, do a quick review of your imminent deadlines. Communicate with your clients and let them know you are not feeling well and may need to negotiate your timeline or simply be unavailable to speak for a specific period of time.
When you step away, first get some rest. Literally go to sleep. After at least eight hours of sleep, get up and look at each of your projects, what is left to do, what your compensation is and how you can complete it successfully. If there is a project that is in jeopardy of falling apart or that isn’t worth your energy to complete, be prepared to speak to your client and apologize as you admit you don’t have the bandwidth to finish the job.
Finally, look to the big picture. What do you want to do? Evaluate if the projects you are working on will lead you any closer to your goals. If not, look for other things to do.