Work Life Balance

Despite the best intentions, some times life intrudes. Whether it’s illness, a personal crisis or a death in the family, occasionally things happen that take you away from your work. This is one of the areas where freelancing and a day job differ significantly.

If you freelance, it means you don’t have anyone to answer to (except your clients) for days off. If you move assignments around so that you can still finish them by deadline, you can take off almost at a moment’s notice. On the flip side, however, it means that if you take a chunk of time off, there is no one to run things in your absence. No one else at the office who can try to make ends meet while you’re gone.

Being able to take a break when I need it is one of the perks–but it’s also one of the disadvantages. The guy I’ve dated on and off for the last six years recently joined the navy. Granted, it’s a great contract–they are going to train him to be a nuclear engineer and pay him a salary that broaches on ridiculous. Although he won’t leave until December, we’ve been spending a lot of time figuring out what this change will mean for us.

During college, he went way upstate (Rochester) for college, and then did co-ops in Virginia and Tennessee, so it’s not like we haven’t dealt with being long distance before. But we’ve been dating for almost six years and his contract will be for the next six years. It’s one of those turning points in a relationship.

Unfortunately, while I’ve been dealing with that, I haven’t been dedicating as much time and effort to freelancing as I was before that particular issue arose. I’ve still been working on it–but not as much as I should have been. There are lots of articles out there about the struggle freelancers have convincing their significant others, their parents and their friends to respect working at home as a real business with real hours. But it’s not just important for those around us to respect the time our businesses require–we have to respect the time it takes too.

Fortunately, I’m still only freelancing part-time, and my full-time job pays my bills. Money earned freelancing goes backing into freelancing (buying business cards, getting my website set up, etc.); unfortunately, this is still an area where I need to improve. So here are the steps I’m going to take to better focus on achieving my long-term freelancing goals:

1. Break the big steps into small steps. After looking at my long term goals I’m going to try and figure out how I can work toward them on in little ways. I’m going to give myself a small goal to achieve everyday–whether it’s writing a query letter draft or finishing up an assignment–and do it. That means, starting tonight, I’ll be updating my Goals page on a much more regular basis (I haven’t updated it in a while….).

2. Consequences and rewards. It seems basic, but if I don’t achieve the goals I want to achieve by the end of the week, my weekend is forfeit, until those things are done. In essence, I’ll ground myself the way parents do to teenagers who don’t clean their rooms. And, if I accomplish everything I set out to do in a given week (or when I finish a particularly dreaded job), I’ll reward myself in some small way–something in the $10-15 range.

3. I’ll give myself time off. No one can work 24/7 everyday. Until now, my goal has been to blog everyday and everyday work on freelance stuff and 5 days a week work 8 hour days at the day job…. which means things like laundry and cleaning my house fall behind and I end up stressed out with a short temper. I’m going to start taking one day during the work week (M-F) and one weekend day (sat or sun) where I don’t touch work and where I don’t blog.

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