with Mir Kamin
I'm a freelance writer and mother of two working from home, which theoretically means I can set my own schedule so as to best accommodate my family. In reality, "flexible hours" often equals "working too much." Yes, I'm my own boss; no, that doesn't mean life is easy. It's hard to leave the office when you live there. But I love what I do and feel very lucky. And not just because I get paid to work in my pajamas.
To learn more about Mir, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! or visit her blog at http://www.wouldashoulda.com/
Sometimes I feel like if talking about balance was the same thing as actually achieving it, I would be the world’s most balanced person, by now. Pity it doesn’t work that way. But I definitely appreciated Nancy Nally’s honesty about the catch-22 of taking time off as a freelancer, in her recent piece at Salon. She sums it up succinctly:
The entire process of essentially working double-time before and after my time off is so exhausting and stressful that most of the time, it completely offsets any benefit I might get from the time off itself.
(It’s really nice to know that I’m not the only person who wonders if time off is even worth it, given this conundrum.)
Nally goes on to talk about how she does find some respite, though.
She details two different “partial activity levels” she engages in to give herself a break while still preventing a work backlog that could make for a perilous reentry. Her “Light Day Mode” sounds like my standard Friday; I’ve gotten into the habit of leaving myself only an hour or two of must-do work on Fridays, and then taking the rest of the day to run errands or just chill out a bit. Lest you think that heretical, bear in mind that I work most weekends, too, so having Friday as somewhat of a flex day has evolved into something of a necessity. (And if the rest of the week has involved travel or otherwise swamped me, well, I can catch up on Fridays, if I must.)
The overall idea here is brilliant; “mini” mental breaks keep you fresh and rejuvenated in a way that longer vacations—so difficult to manage (and then recover from) as a freelancer—never can. It got me thinking about whether or not I do enough of this, and while I’m not sure I do, I have a few practices I think are my way of doing this, even though I may not have realized, until just now, that this is what I’ve been doing!
Lunch dates. I’ve seen countless how-to-freelance sites recommend that you do work in a coffee shop or shared office to make sure you don’t end up too isolated. That’s a nice idea in theory, but some of us like working in a nice, quiet, solitary home office for a reason. Continuous isolation is not a great idea, though; that part is true. Although I don’t always manage it, I try to schedule a lunch out with a friend or colleague once a week. It gives me something to look forward to without disrupting my work flow too much.
Couch time. Even when I’m really swamped, so swamped that I have to go back into my office and work after the kids have gone to bed, I try very hard to take at least an hour in the evening to just hang out on the couch with my husband. On the rare days when I don’t do it because “I have to get stuff done,” I am cranky and not terribly productive. I’d rather stay up later working and still get to have that break.
Fresh air! Sometimes I just get up from my desk and go sit on the porch for a few minutes. Yeah, sometimes I take my computer outside with me. But the simple act of “leaving the cave” can reset my mental state, sometimes. In fact, I’ve recently been so bad about remember to stop and go outside, I am now using my workaholic tendencies as the main pillar of my argument to my husband about why we need to get a dog. (”I’ll have to stop working and go walk it! It’s like investing in my health!“)
How do you take mini mental breaks in your day?
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