defending-your-downtime

It’s noon on a Sunday as I write this. I’ve just enjoyed a fab breakfast, spent some time playing games on my iPad, walked the dog, and read a few chapters of an Orson Scott Card novel.

Want to know what I have not done today? I have not checked my email. I have not popped into a help desk to solve any customer service issues. I have not turned on Skype.

And I’m not even stressed about it.

 

Of course, it wasn’t always this easy to lounge away a Sunday morning. When I first started as a VA, I worked all the time. I was checking email and solving problems from the moment I woke up until I went to sleep each day. I thought I had to, in order to keep my clients happy and keep the money coming in.

It didn’t take long before I was pretty burned out and quite resentful of clients who expected me to respond whenever they had a question. And it was my own fault for setting that expectation in the first place.

The Power of Setting Regular Working Hours

I know, I know. You left your soul-sucking day job, in part, so you could work when you wanted, not when someone else told you to work. I get it.

You still get to enjoy that flexibility, but it’s better for your business (and your stress levels) if you can do it with a little more planning. Here’s why:

  • When you have regular working hours, you can say to a demanding client, “I’m off right now, but I’ll look into this tomorrow when I’m in the office.
  • When you have regular working hours, you can schedule projects appropriately and not worry that you won’t have time to complete it.
  • When you have regular working hours, you are forced to get things done in a timely manner, because after you “clock out” and turn your computer off, you’re done for the day.

Not only that, but you also then have the ability to defend your schedule to your kids, friends, mother-in-law or whoever else falsely believes that because you’re home, you’re available to them.

So far, so good. But what about YOU and your expectations?

When You Work at Home, You Live at Work

While working from home is a dream job to many, it does come with a dark side: it can be nearly impossible to get away from the office. Or the phone. Or your email. Sometimes that means you don’t only have to defend your downtime to clients, but also to yourself.

Do you feel guilty when you sit down in front of the television without a laptop to check your email? I sometimes do. There are always more tasks to do, more projects to finish or start, more emails to answer, more more more.

Whether or not you believe in trying to achieve the mythical “work/life balance” it is important for you to get away from your work from time to time.

Practice self care. Get a pedicure. Spend an afternoon at the movies. Plan a date night with your spouse. Go to the park with the kids.

Whatever makes you feel relaxed and rejuvenated and ready to tackle the next project that comes your way.

Here’s the critical thing, though. When you schedule that time off, make sure you don’t turn into dictator boss again and start demanding more hours from your faithful employee (you). Everyone deserves a break.

What about you? Do others (or you) make demands on your time that are unreasonable? How do you handle it? Share in the comments.


Comments

  1. says

    Having regular working hours has been a huge bonus for me. I didn’t used to have them until maybe two years ago. I am so happy that I do that now because when I am off, I “feel” off.

    Like you said, if your work is at your home you live at work… the only real way to get time off that feels stress free is to schedule that time off in.

    The added bonus is that I get more work done in less time than ever before. The schedule keeps me motivated and stops any excuses for not wanting to certain tasks.

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