What’s on the iPod: The Woodpile by Frightened Rabbit
Made a lot of headway on three different projects yesterday despite my having a slightly interrupted afternoon thanks to some errands. I have two projects in great shape and the third will be framed in today. I have a few weeks to finish them, but I want them done sooner rather than later. I have a wedding to attend in two weeks and I’d love to have a little R&R before it, you know? I’d love some time when I don’t have to think about incisions or complications or recovery — just space to be in.
Coincidentally, that’s this month’s blog theme — work/life balance. It’s something we self-employed struggle with constantly. How can we build a business and take time off for ourselves? It’s one thing to say “I’m working these hours and these days and no more than that.” It’s entirely another thing to actually stick to it.
Then there’s the guilt. Right now I’m catching up on several weeks of idle time thanks to surgery and recovery. However, I need a vacation badly. I need that time to just chill out and enjoy thinking about nothing in particular. Will I take it? You tell me. Would you?
If your answer is anything but yes, you’re letting guilt get in the way of what you need. Most of your clients don’t know or simply don’t care if you follow an extended absence with a vacation. They’re not your employers, so you don’t have to answer to them unless they’re waiting for a project and you’ve promised to deliver. Even then, as long as they get it when you’ve agreed to deliver it, it’s not a problem.
I say this as I stomp down my own guilt over wanting and needing time off.
So how does a writer strike that delicate balance between work and personal life? How can you as a writer find a happy medium, take that vacation, and maintain a thriving business?
Accept what you cannot change. You won’t be earning while you’re away from the desk. You have to be okay with that. If you take time off regularly, your earnings will reflect that. Perhaps instead of beating yourself up for not pulling down $6K a month, you should adjust your targeted earnings goal to maybe $4K or $5K a month? You’re still earning, but maybe taking one less project a month will give you more personal time.
Larger projects equal more free time. Maybe taking on 15 small projects a month sounds lucrative, but if you add them up, what are you really gaining? What if you took four projects that were larger in scope, but paid more? How would that free up your schedule?
Time off is unpaid, but it doesn’t have to result in bankruptcy. You know you need a break. So why not take one right after you’ve finished that phenomenal month and your bank account is flush with money? There’s no better time to get away than when you have the cash to do so.
Utilize voice mail. It’s 6 pm and you’re making dinner. The phone rings. You recognize the number as a client number. Instead of answering it and letting dinner burn, stop working. Allow the call to go to voice mail. Respect your own needs by not being on call at the drop of a hat. Most clients understand that 6 pm isn’t going to be a good time, but some will call expecting to leave a message for you. Let it happen. Just remember to answer them within 24 hours. That’s just proper business etiquette.
Simplify. How many things are you cramming into a single day? How much of that is necessary to your financial well being? How much of that is what you want to be doing? How much of that is stuff that’s somehow thrust upon you that you really don’t have time for? Trim accordingly.
Do what you love, not just what you must. I’d love to say every project I’ve taken on has been something I love. Not true. However, I make sure that plenty of what I do involves things I really want to do. Sure, we all have to take those projects that dull the senses or suck up a good bit of time and creative energy. Just make sure if you’re taking those types of projects, you’re getting compensated well for them. Otherwise, stop agreeing to them.
Writers, how do you create that space for your own personal down time? When was the last time you had a day off on purpose? What do you find are the obstacles between you and that free time?