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/
I’ve written before about the challenges that face any freelancer who attempts to take a vacation; unlike those who work salaried jobs, freelancers can (theoretically) take vacation whenever they want. The problem, of course, is that salaried positions limit vacation time, but then you are (usually) not expected to do any work while exercising said vacation days. I can go wherever I want, whenever I want, and if I have my computer, I can work.
The problem is that it’s very hard not to do that. It’s very rare for me to stop working entirely even while “on vacation,” and most of my fellow freelancers suffer from the same malady. All work and no play may make Jack a dull boy, but if Jack was a freelancer writer I suspect all work and no play would make Jack a burned out, bitter person. Just a guess.
I’ve taken several different approaches to various vacations over the years, from killing myself for up to a month beforehand to get work done ahead of time (stressful!) to just telling clients I will be unavailable and giving up income for some time period (also stressful!). This time, I’m winging it.
I’d love to tell you I’ve found the perfect balance, and it’s born of experience and wisdom. I would. That would be a lie, unfortunately. The truth is that I’m on a family vacation and the stress of life in general lately meant that 1) I was already working less than usual before we left and 2) I didn’t really have the presence of mind to plan how I was going to handle work while we’re here. So for better or for worse (little humor for you there—part of the impetus for this trip was to attend a wedding), here’s how I’ve kind of been handling it.
Turn stress into an advantage. I live in the Eastern time zone, and we’re currently on Pacific time. Every night I am trying to stay awake past the time when everyone’s kids go to bed, and then silently cursing when I wake up hours before anyone else. Am I tired? Oh God yes; I’m exhausted. But until I adjust to the time change, I can use those early morning hours to work, without missing out on any family time later on.
If you have to work, make it work. I know some people can’t work with any sort of distractions going on, but I do pretty well in a noisy room if I have to. So rather than holing up in my room to do work during the day when I must, I sit down in the middle of the chaos with my laptop. That way I’m not missing as much, and I still get to enjoy being surrounded by the extended family I’m here to visit!
Let some stuff go, even if you don’t have a firm plan. If I was smart (or less stressed out and more organized before we left), I would’ve come up with a plan for the work I planned to continue and the work I was okay skipping this week. I didn’t manage to do that. Nevertheless, it’s not impossible to prioritize on the fly—some work is continuing as usual, some isn’t. It’s only a week and the sky won’t fall if I don’t do everything.
Accept that some days nothing will get done. It’s a vacation, after all. The day we went to the Grand Canyon was a long day and not exactly amenable to spending quality time with my laptop. So I didn’t. I made sure to maximize my time the next morning, but it all seemed to work out.
When not working, ditch the guilt. It’s not enough to make peace with it being a day (or an hour) where you’re not working. Embrace the change in routine and remember that as long as it’s not work time, you may as well not waste any time feeling guilty or wishing that it was. I don’t even attempt a vacation very often; how ridiculous would it be for me to spend it wishing I was working?
Remember it’s temporary. For me, it’s just a week. There’s very little I could do to make or break my career in a single week, right? Right.
So I’ll be back in a week, and it’ll be okay.
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