You may not know this, but I’m on vacation. Which doesn’t make me happy because to me vacation is a dirty word. I’m a workaholic through and through. Even when I wasn’t doing this freelance thing, I always wanted to work more than I didn’t want to work. When I worked hourly jobs, I’ve often had the conversation with my boss where he told me I could come back to work until such and such day because he couldn’t afford the required overtime. And I never took my vacation days. I just got them paid out to me at the end of year.
When I worked in a salaried position, on Fridays while everyone else was counting down until five pm, I was taking one last look at my desk because I knew I wouldn’t be able to see it until Monday. I once missed the bus as a child and my mother told me I could just stay home from school that day because she was already across town at work. Most kids would have been happy to hear that. Instead, I cried uncontrollably until she left her job and took me to school. (I will not further embarrass myself by telling you how I old I was when this happened.)
As an adult, I finally figured out what the problem was. It’s not that I love to work so much that I can’t possibly take a day off. It’s that I love routines. I like to know my schedule and stick to it. Being late stresses me out. Having to adjust to new surroundings stresses me out. So when I get up and don’t do any work, I feel off kilter. It wasn’t school I was crying about that day I missed the bus. It was the fact that I couldn’t cope with being off my schedule.
The truth is I realize that all work and no play will create burnout faster than anything else. If I want to have a healthy freelance business, I have to be healthy too. And working all day every day never gives me time to recharge. Downtime and vacation is necessary to the soul . . . even if your soul is telling you that your to-do list is the most important thing in the world.
So this year, I scheduled a vacation. For six months I reminded myself every day that I would not be doing my usual thing in the last week of September. I told myself that I would leave my comfortable routine in Chicago and go to Florida for a week. I have friends in the Orlando area and it seemed like the best place to get away for a bit. I found a dog walker. I scheduled the blog posts. I gave the clients plenty of notice that I wouldn’t be able to be my usual fully accessible during work hours self for about a week.
But, of course, old habits die hard. I did setup one speaking engagement for the book because it was so convenient and good practice for the events I have coming up. And I also have one long-term client project that I couldn’t step away from. So I do a little work on it in the early morning hours. I’m also still having moments of anxiety where my mind screams at me “Oh no! You’re not at your desk! Someone probably emailed you and you haven’t answered it. What about that to-do list? Who’s gonna do that?!” But I just tell it to shut up. I’ll be home soon. And if I can survive this, I know that I can push myself even further. Maybe next year, I’ll take that trip to Asia I always wanted without spending most of it in a hotel room working. But for now, it’s baby steps and I call a week in Florida definite progress.
Ok, let’s hear from some people who actually know how to balance work and play. How often do you take vacation? Do you leave all work at home or do you still put in the same hours?