As a freelancer I’ve always felt like I have to be working. I don’t mean 24/7, every hour, every day (clearly there has to be some time for biscuits). And I don’t mean that I shouldn’t be with my family. The opposite really, they are why I became a home-working freelancer.
But it’s the daily. rhythm.
In general I feel like I have to show up Monday to Friday, every Monday to Friday. And then more often than not, on Saturday… and maybe Sunday.
I think part of the problem comes from the days of having private nursery care for our kids. Those places only ever shut on bank holidays, which is brilliant, but it puts you in an ‘always on’ mindset. And it turns out when your kids transition to school, your mind sticks to that.
But schools. Oh, schools SHUT. They shut a lot.
They’re always having days off, weeks off, months off. 13 weeks of the year they’re not at school. And that’s not counting the extra ‘INSET’ (Incessant Noise Spoiling Every Tea) days. Now, I’m not great at maths, but what’s that? 25% of the school year not at school?
So when our son started school 4 years ago I carried on with the ‘always on’ attitude. I’d arrange things for him to do in the holidays and, while he was off playing, I’d carry on working. My wife would continue the daily grind commuting to London. And I’d continue the daily grind of kid-doing-something, me-at-my-desk.
I eventually gave up trying to forge my daughter a new birth certificate and accepted my fate: To strip back my workload and pile on the fun with the kids.
Fast forward to Autumn 2017 and both our kids are now at school.
Along comes October half term and I screw up booking childcare (as caught on camera in my vlog — I edited out the swearing…) Apparently four-year-olds are in some weird no-man’s land: definitely old enough to have left nursery, but too young to be in school camps.
So after much cursing, I eventually gave up trying to forge my daughter a new birth certificate and accepted my fate: To strip back my workload and pile on the fun with the kids.
And when I explained to my clients that I’d be off with the kids for half term, guess what happened?
They were cool with it.
And for those clients who then have their own end-clients in big businesses, they simply said ‘Steve’s off next week’. And those bigger clients WERE COOL WITH IT.
Because that’s the thing. In every office across the country people are taking days off. They’re taking weeks off.
Julie’s off next week because it’s half term.
Terry’s off on Tuesday because it’s his wife’s birthday.
AND PEOPLE ARE COOL WITH IT.
In every office across the country people are taking days off. They’re taking weeks off… AND PEOPLE ARE COOL WITH IT.
It’s me, as a freelancer, who felt guilty. Who felt I couldn’t take a day off outside of my summer vacation. But that October half term was a week off not just for the kids, but for me too.
I HAD THE BEST WEEK.
Turns out it’s okay to take time off.
And now, for my long-term ongoing projects, I’ve realigned deadlines to fall before each school holiday. And I don’t know about you, but having a deadline makes me more focussed and productive. So weirdly, having decided to take time off is actually making me more efficient in the lead up to it. The work has to get done.
So instead of dreading the school holidays I’m looking forward to them. Sure, when the kids are around it’s a bit harder to eat those biscuits, but to be able to work and be there for the kids was why I became self-employed in the first place.
Yes to time off.
GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION
Photograph by Steve Folland.