Time to Take Up Juggling

Yesterday was much more productive than I expected. I finished a smallish project in the morning, then devoted the afternoon to research and outlining an article. A large project due in a few weeks ago has a delivery date – I should see it by the end of the week/Monday of next week. That gave me enough time to get the stuff on the desk started and in great shape.

Control. What an illusion! Just when I thought I had a handle on things, another project came rolling in from one of the queries sent out last week. Great! Only… deadline is sooner than expected. Still, it’s a month out. I tend to panic prematurely, but the result of said panic is work that’s done ahead of schedule. I’d much rather pop a Tums or two than miss a deadline.

Then comes the delusional thoughts – what if all of those queries I sent last week are accepted? There were three others. They were targeted. Hey, it’s possible. Okay, not probable, but possible. Even the best-targeted queries get rejected for one reason or another.

What I noticed is that the long-tail project will finish October 1st. Let’s hope. I’ve blocked out a few weeks after that for Ireland. It’s one of those projects where despite the best intentions of all involved, it could hit the fan quickly and unravel.

So what do you do when work extends into your personal life? You don’t let it. My plan going forward is to finish the projects in front of me ASAP, then concentrate additional time to the long project, and yes, I may even work a weekend or two if need be. The work isn’t hard – just time-consuming. If the plans get screwed up on the other side of the working relationship, I will take that vacation anyway. Tickets are non-refundable. The client knows my time constraints. I’ll do my best, but I won’t lose money because of someone else’s bad planning, indecision, foot dragging, plagues, or locusts.

I purposely avoided vacations this August (I usually head to Ontario twice a summer) so I could get work commitments completed. I couldn’t expect that planning an October getaway would interfere with a project I’m about to be assigned. But as I said, the client knows. It’s up to me to be available within reason, not endlessly.

How do you handle projects and time away?

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  • Devon Ellington August 10, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    When it comes to travel, I don't change my plans. My plans are my plans. If it means sometimes working extra hours to get it all done before I go, then so be it, but, for instance, when I travel to Scotland or Iceland or Prague, I am not available to clients during that time. Everything we've agreed upon is to them before I go, and they have to deal until I get back. They know in advance I'm not available during that time, even if I don't think it's their business to tell them why.

    If I've taken on too much, or gotten a feast of work before a trip, goody for me, and I just work until it's all done. I do NOT simply keep to set hours and let things go. I work until my commitments are met, and then I'm free for the time I'm free, and then we get back into the groove when I return.

    I don't keep set hours anyway — the point of freelancing, to me, is to work when I'm at my best, not stick to a 9-5 schedule. Too many freelancers remain in the 9-5 mentality. You might as well work somewhere, then, that gives benefits.

    If I want to work at 2 AM, I do. If I NEED to work at 2 AM because a boatload of projects came in at once and I said yes to everything, that's what I do.

    Reply
  • Cathy August 10, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    I pretty much handle it the same way.

    I rarely work a weekend, but if I have something coming up, like a vacation, I may work weekends. I often find if I do that, I even get done quicker than I thought, so I might take an afternoon off during the week.

    I have the 3-Day Walk coming up in November and I am going to take extra days to visit my San Diego buddies, so I am pushing it out now.

    The good news is the 3-Day Walk is the weekend before Thanksgiving & that's always quiet for me anyway.

    Reply
  • Lori August 10, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Good point about freelancing hours.

    My reasons for working 8-whenever are simple – I like spending evenings with the family. And I like my Fridays to myself (or even Mondays, depending). I don't work weekends because we tend to do lots of things together. But if I've committed to a project and I have to have it done before I head out, the weekends are just as good a time as any.

    I used to be available during the week for corporate clients. That's not so any longer. Rare is the "emergency" that requires my immediate attention. I'm here, but I'm not waiting by the phone or email.

    It's now because of family. If I weren't in a house full of 9-to-5ers, I would probably work every morning from 7 until noon. That's when I'm at my best.

    Reply
  • Lori August 10, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Cathy, I've been fortunate that my summer has allowed me to take Fridays off. Lots of work, but nothing so pressing that I can't take time when I feel like it.

    Reply
  • Cathy August 10, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Lori-This summer I mostly work a few hours in the morning and every week Mom & I go to lunch and I take the rest of the day off-very nice.

    After all, the idea of me moving here was to help Mom and enjoy my time with her and sometimes work has me forgetting that.

    Reply
  • Lori August 10, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Cathy, what a gift to be able to spend so much time with your mom. 🙂

    Reply
  • Cathy August 10, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Thanks, Lori-make that a few hours on Friday mornings-I WISH I could afford to work only a few hours in the morning every day. 🙂

    Reply
  • Ashley August 10, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    I was on vacation last week, and I'll admit I made a few work-related phone calls that I promised to make. But hey, that's just following my own Golden Rule – do what you say you're going to do. But I wasn't available at all hours or constantly through the week.

    It's just important to get the work done on time. If I promised to get it done, I will. But if I want to procrastinate until the last minute, fine. If I want to get it done early and take the extra time for myself, fine. Shouldn't matter as long as I get it done! If there's poor planning on my part, I pay the price. That's just how it goes. If it's poor planning on their part, well, I'll do what I can, but no guarantees.

    Reply
  • Georganna Hancock M.S. August 10, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    My life is pretty much free-form, and I haven't spent a night away from home since summer 2006. Travel is just too expensive!

    I work whenever I feel like it. I have that luxury because I have no commitments to other people. Sometimes I feel like working all through the weekend, so I do. I like working, most of the time.

    Lori–thanks for your comments about the Casagrande book I'm reviewing. Reading it is weird: I could swear I already saw the chapter on adverbs, maybe even participated in a discussion online in which she delivered the same material. I'm sure I recognized the examples!

    Reply
  • Jake P August 10, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Count me with Devon. I scrambled till midnight the night before our recent vacation because psychologically there was NO WAY I was going to bring my laptop. I'll bend the rules for three-day weekends, etc., but this one needed to be "glowing rectangle" free, as one of the commenters on my blog put it.

    I attempted to make the week before vacation a light one, but a bunch of well-paying stuff came in late, so I wasn't going to say no. But my clients also knew there weren't going to be any followups or revisions till I got back.

    Reply
  • Paula August 10, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    So you're telling me there's an upside to never getting away?

    Yes, I often spend 5-6 days with my brother's family over Christmas. (I get to bring my dog, which is why I can be away more than one night.) Since few people I work with are in that week anyway, it's never been a problem.

    I usually work a couple hours on weekends, but generally so it frees up my time during the week.

    Reply
  • Lori August 10, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    How was Sans Diego, Jake? 🙂 And I never say no to work coming in, either, unless it's just too big and the deadline is yesterday on it.

    Ashley good for you! Do what you say every time. If you suffer because of promises conflicting with your own schedules, you learn from that. If the client suffers, you lose from that. 🙂

    Georganna, she's not recycling chapters, is she? Maybe adopting her online stuff for book form?

    Reply
  • Jake P. August 10, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    SansD was great–thanks for asking. Pleasantly cool and near-perfect winds for sailing. But didn't catch anything trolling, darnit!

    Reply
  • Wendy August 10, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    I don't go away, unless it's for day trips or on the rare couple day getaway. I do take a week off here and there, though, just for myself.

    I can get my body away from the computer, but my mind has a hard time following it. I'm always thinking about one project or another and ideas seem to flow easier during those times, much to my dismay.

    Reply
  • becky @ misspriss August 11, 2010 at 6:07 am

    I'm going to meet with a potential client on Friday about a 3-4 month project. But I'm already letting clients know that I will not be available for on-site work in the month of December. I will probably, however, do a little remote work. I can't afford to take the entire month off — I just won't be in my normal office or available for meetings here. It is what it is. Hoping I don't lose out on the contract because of that, but if I do, I do. I can't change needing the time off, nor would I want to.

    Reply
  • Lori August 11, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Wendy, you need to go where there isn't access to electronics. Where I go, it takes a good wind to bring a momentary cell signal. 🙂

    Good luck, Becky! I hear you. Taking the entire month is a great dream, but tough to pull off in reality.

    Reply