07/24/2014 03:05 pm ET Updated Sep 23, 2014

How to Maintain Your Sanity If You're Self-Employed or Freelancing

Are you freelancing, self-employed or unemployed and being driven partially insane by either downtime and/or the uncertainty of what lies ahead? Are you having trouble filling the hours of the day when the only boss you have to answer to is you?

Here's what you can do to stave off those unsavory feelings: Make lists for yourself. Make schedules for yourself. Then enjoy the much-needed endorphin rush that comes with abiding by those lists and schedules while perhaps even being a little productive, too.

Having done the freelance writing thing for the past two-and-a-half years, I've grown all-too familiar with the pitfalls of life as your own boss. As a good friend of mind and fellow freelancer aptly put it recently, "Half of surviving freelance/contract work is a bizarre game of being an occupational therapist for yourself."

Those existential crises when you're constantly asking yourself, "What am I doing?" have a way of being magnified. Whatever you set out to do loses meaning, and you start thinking about trading it all in for something more stable even if it has nothing to do with your dream.

Like with most things worth having in life, attaining that dream - particularly outside the paramaters of a normal, salaried job - is a slow but steady process. Very rarely are there big, sweeping actions by which your dreams can suddenly be realized. There's a checklist you need to go through and stay true to until it's completed. You can't just expect to wake up one day and have everything you've ever wanted.

What does that mean for freelancers like me? It means greasing the wheels of your professional network, sending out emails asking for advice or inquiring after work opportunities. If you're a writer, it means producing one piece of work each day or however many it takes to feel like you've done something.

It also means taking advantage of the downtime you do have - downtime that wouldn't be as readily available if you had a salaried job. Taking the time to finally get into that book that you've started and stopped three times before; exploring a part of your neighborhood or city that you've always wanted to see but never got around to; going to museums; sitting in a park and people-watching.

Sometimes, simply telling yourself that you'll do all this isn't enough motivation to actually do it. It helps to put it all down on a list so that you have a reminder of what you set out to do and why. It helps to have that satisfaction of ticking it off when you've completed it, to know that you've done enough to constitute a full day or, at the very least, done more than nothing.

It'll do wonders for your sanity. It'll do wonders for keeping your dream alive.