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I am a web designer / developer (front end and back end). I do that proficiently since more than 10 years, and I am appreciated and good skilled in designing and programming. I work alone in a home office. My target business are local clients, small to medium companies, hotels, shops, restaurants, etc.

When I started to work in the beginning I was single and younger, I used to work in normal office hours to pay the bills and evenings and weekends I used to study to obtain new skills and research for "new frontiers" about my area of work, stay updated, obtain new knowledge and competence in collateral areas, etc.

Now many years passed, I'm older, I can't stand to stay for very long time in front of a computer screen (not like I used to do before like 8-24 for a week with no problem). I am a husband and a father of a beautiful daughter. I have almost zero free time out of working hours and family duties, and when I have some short free time, I go out for a walk or rest.

I feel myself more and more like running after my own job more than being the captain of it. I don't know if you get what I mean… I learn new technologies and solutions only when I can't make workarounds or same solution with my actual knowledges and I do that always rushing and not really going deep into the matter.

Don't get me wrong. I have many happy clients and I am able to fulfill virtually any or their needs (regarding what a single freelance can do), but I feel like the need to take some time off to study and improve myself, maybe look for new things, differentiate a little my job with some new area of ​​competence, but at same time I feel stuck because I can't take days or weeks off when I have many works in progress, deadlines and bills to pay.

How do you manage your life/work duties with studying and staying updated?

(Now while I am writing maybe I am realizing that I could have had some episode of "work burnout" in the past that made me slow down my usual work rhythm that I had in the beginning, and I have subtle feelings of "repulsion").

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I think you need to find a balance, which can be easier said than done. No doubt, your earlier routine may have worked at one time, but when you get older you have more commitments, and different interests. Your motivation at the time was paying bills and becoming a really good dev. Im guessing with experience you earn more money and you dont need to pull so many all-nighters. You now probably already know the stuff you used to research, so theres not so much need to do that anymore.

Having a work/life balance doesn't mean work full time, do research on the weekend AND maintain a social life, family duties, and everything else. It means working the hours you need to and then do things outside. If you think about it, you never had a good life/work balance from the start. Working full time and then investing your time into research on the weekends is not having a life balance. It sounds like it was almost entirely your work. You can't do that now because you have other interests and commitments.

Don't expect to be able to do the amount of work you used to, while also doing the additional things you now do, such as family, walking, etc. There's simply not enough time, and expecting yourself to be able to match that now would be unrealistic, and can cause anxiety and stress.

In order to feel satisfied in all areas, only do little bits at a time. Make a schedule for yourself to fit things in through the week in between your duties. For example, on monday, during your free time, do house jobs/laundry/paying bills/whathaveyou. On tuesday, use your spare time to go for a family walk/picnic. On wednesdays, read a book (not a programming one), on Thursdays, research something related to work, perhaps a question you didnt know to answer, or something you feel your knowledge is less in. It doesn't have to be huge research. Just something small to help grow your knowledge just that little bit. Maybe use that time to do overtime if you need it. Friday, meet up with work colleagues or friends or family.

I'm aware that routine wont suit you exactly so you have to do what works for you and your life, but make sure you get a little bit of everything. You work to live not live to work.

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