I read a blog entry recently about the epidemic of folks unable to leave work behind; the writer’s position was that folks who are utterly unable to “unplug” feel that they are simply too important to the world to ever take a true vacation or hiatus from their work. The epidemic of Crackberry addicts, laptops at the beach resorts, etc., are, in her opinion, due to an overblown sense of importance on the part of the folks unable to step away. But then she goes on to ask if it’s perhaps fear (of standing up to the boss) or people who just really, really love their jobs.
I responded in the comments to say that, as a freelancer, when I work on vacation—as I’m doing right this second—it’s not because I think I’m so important, but because I realize exactly how replaceable I am. If I don’t do it, the people who employ me can find someone else who will. If I don’t blog, folks will find other blogs to read. I have no illusions of being such a special snowflake that only I will do; part of the reason I get hired and read is because I’m dependable. (You know, like the postal service, but with fewer anger issues.)
But does that mean I can’t ever unplug?
I am truly torn on this issue, because working all the time isn’t good for anyone, and I think it’s especially tempting as a freelancer to believe that you “can’t” ever step away, not really. I fall into this trap myself, constantly. And at the same time, one of my standard pieces of advice for newbie freelancers is you must build time off into your schedule. So what’s my problem?
Honestly, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this since I read Suebob’s post. Here are the conclusions I’ve reached:
1) There are a number of times when my work is disrupted by something truly unavoidable (think illness, kid emergency and the like), and I feel like my unwavering dependability otherwise makes those situations less stressful.
2) I am always, always, always worried about money. (Not because money is a problem, but because this is one area in which I remain completely neurotic.) As a freelancer, no work = no pay and I have a really hard time doing that willingly.
3) Most of the time when I’m gearing up for a vacation I’m about to “work ahead” on a bunch of stuff so that my work load while gone is comparatively light, so that feels vacationy. (Yes, I realize how lame this is, now that I’m typing it out and looking at it.)
4) I maybe have a case of “do as I say, not as I do.”
Earlier this summer my family took a cruise, and I prepared for weeks beforehand, doing enough work that during the week we were away I worked just an hour or two a day, and checked email only once a day. That was the first time in about five years I’d limited myself so. If I go back through my personal blog I see places where I worked through the flu, other vacations… well, I did take off completely for my marriage and honeymoon in 1997, but that was only three days. Basically, I am lousy at unplugging.
And I’m typing this in a camper at the beach, by the way.
On the other hand, when I’m on my normal work schedule, I work all day and often well into the evenings. When we’re on vacation and I feel the need to work, I set an abbreviated schedule and then share it with my family so that they’ll hold me accountable. On this trip, for example, I’m allowed to work in the mornings, but by lunchtime I’m done for the day. It’s not a full unplugging, but it feels like a good compromise, to me; I still get work done, but I spend the majority if my day with my family, doing vacation things and not working or checking my email.
Or maybe I’m so deeply in denial about my inability to stop working, I don’t even realize it. Hmmmm.
Fellow freelancers, what say you? Do you ever completely unplug?