When I had a corporate job, my schedule was cut-and-dried. I spent Monday through Friday, 9-10 hours a day at the office, and I crammed personal errands, recreation and “living” into weekends and two to four weeks of vacation. But the upside was that when I walked in the door at home, I was done. I didn’t bring work home and when I was off, I was able to put work out of my mind. The demarcation between work and non-work was clear. Family and friends understood the concept of employment; no one called me at the office to ask, “What are you doing?” and I never received complaints about me working too much.
I’d had several corporate positions and even changed careers once (journalism to public relations). I worked for some great companies doing great things. But while I felt like I made a contribution and derived a sense of professional achievement from those positions, I didn’t derive enjoyment. I didn’t hate my jobs, but I didn’t like them either. I felt like my time was occupied doing what other people wanted me to do, rather than what I wanted to do.
I wished my life away, longing for Friday, for holidays, for vacations, living for weekends. My first thought when the alarm went off every morning for 20 years was , “crap, I don’t want to go to work today.”
Now I write erotic romance for living. I love it. It’s my dream career. I write what I want to write. I look forward to every single work day. I can count on one hand with fingers left over the number of times in the six years I’ve been doing this when something happened and I thought, “crap, I don’t like this.”
Because I love it, I am willing to work longer and harder than I ever did when I worked for someone else. I’m at the computer most days by 5:30 a.m.
Being self-employed and working at home gives me a flexibility I never had. I don’t have to cram everything into the weekends. I can schedule doctor appointments in the middle of the day, do my grocery shopping on a Tuesday afternoon to avoid the weekend rush, take a morning yoga class, go for an hour walk for exercise in the afternoon.
But while the schedule is flexible, the job still requires 40+ hours a week. Missed work hours have to be made up. For the last two months, for example, I had two 3-hour physical therapy appointments ( 2 hrs drive time) during the week plus two one-hour yoga classes. That equals one eight-hour day of missed work. That time had to be made up…
A missed hour here or there doesn’t matter, but consistently over time the lost productivity would have a negative impact on my career.
The downside of “flexibility” is that I never have a day off. I work seven days a week. My family doesn’t like it, and I’m starting to not like it either.
I keep striving to find that elusive balance.
One solution would be to go back to a rigid 9-5, five-day workweek and schedule personal business on my two days off. But I don’t want to lose the flexibility because some stuff, like exercise is essential. Health is more important than career in the long run.
I often tell myself, “You just need to focus more, work smarter not harder.” But I truly don’t think I’m doing anything that I shouldn’t. I think I’m pretty organized and disciplined as it is.
Maybe I could hire a virtual assistant to take over some of the promotional tasks. But what could I delegate? Would I save time if I have to compile all the info to give to her v. just doing it myself? Could I trust her to make decisions about branding and strategy?
Should I cut back? Work part-time? Problem there is I like full-time money, and I’m trying to build my fan base and grow my career, not shrink it. Accepting less would run counter to my goal. I don’t want a “jobby” but a career.
I don’t feel as frazzled as I did a few years ago. Somewhere around the 5th to 7th book, I started feeling like the plate spinner on the Ed Sullivan show. After 22 books, it’s not crazy anymore, it’s just…constant…
How do you balance your work/personal time? Do you use a virtual assistant? For what tasks?