I have a low level awareness when working with clients and colleagues of those who turn off their computers at 5.30 on Fridays and don’t switch them on again until first thing Monday morning. These people impress me. They have achieved a separation between their private and professional lives which is admirable. They have boundaries and they focus on one thing at a time.
The upside of this is that they get fully relaxed in their leisure time and can return to their work refreshed. Also their families get to enjoy them for personal time without interruption.
I don’t know that I could ever achieve this for myself or even if I want to but it doesn’t stop me admiring another’s effective system of working. I do often encourage my clients to aim for this, especially those with families. I think parents of small children might choose to set up their working lives to work mainly in chunks which match the school terms. Then you can be with your tinies when they are off school rather than trying to split yourself in half.
And I think if you have major life challenges right now – bereavement, divorce, moving house, illness and so on – that work finds a place lower down your list of priorities, which is exactly as it should be.
My own way is more muddly.
I like to do things off peak. It reinforces the joy of self-employment for me if I go to the cinema in the week and work at weekends to make up for that lost time. And I love the large chunks of time that you can devote to project work at weekends, without interruption. Because getting my work done is one of my priorities in life, I work the very strangest of hours as many will attest if they get the odd email from me in the middle of the night.
There is no real separation in my life. Work. Life. Life. Work. It works for me but there are risks. It can feel like there is never a real break although I am pretty diligent about keeping Sundays sacrosanct when people make requests of me for time on the 7th day, which does happen. And yet sometimes my Sundays and Saturdays swap, and then where am I?
The thing which poses most risk to us is perhaps email, especially when available to us on a tablet or smartphone. Such addictive little blighters, aren’t they? Who can resist checking? Who can switch off? I guess you know they have proven that the very bright light which emanates from them tricks our brains into thinking its daylight which, in turn, can make us sleepless at night. Beware. Keep the gadgets out of the bedroom.
And who can ever truly switch off from work when some subliminal thinking is always going on at some level, awake or asleep? I wrote here earlier in the year about how I had taken up the creative nap on a couple of afternoons a week, stepping away from the desk for a couple of hours after lunch. This is a sort of creative space, where I allow ideas to come to me rather than working hard to find them. It’s an experiment still in the evaluation phase and it isn’t always possible.
I am always experimenting with the best ways of working for me, even after several decades of self-employment. And it occurs to me that is perhaps because I am changing along with everything else in our world like technology, clients all around the world in different time zones, clients with day jobs who need evening/weekend time and the availability of so much 24/7/365. The expectation of so many is to be able to reach us all the time; resisting that can be a tough call.
Perhaps what’s most important is deciding for ourselves what suits us best, setting ground rules around that and experimenting with them. And then educating our clients and colleagues about that by negotiation or practice. Nothing pleases me more than when I see someone not reply to an email from me at weekends. It means I know they’ve got their **** together.
What’s your best way of working? What have you experimented with that might help the rest of us?