Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Just How Easy is that Livin'?

It's not summer yet but you can see it from here. Even I have taken the faith-filled step of washing our winter hats, mittens, scarves, etc., figuring it's probably safe to put them away. And once the grass dries, it will need cutting -- a sure sign of summer.

Summer = vacation for those of us still on school calendars, whether mentally/emotionally or practically (by teaching, being in school, or having school-aged kids around the house).

But when you work for yourself, whether you have paying clients or just write for (soon-to-be-less-)imaginary (one hopes) readers, how do you know when it's time to quit? Not quit working -- just quit for the day, quit for the weekend, quit for the summer? Do you take work on vacation?

I recently went away for two weeks. "Recently" meaning "last month." I didn't take work -- a couple of things found me anyway, but I mostly punted them until I got home. It was refreshing.

On the daily level, I usually find it harder to determine when I'm "off work." Part of the joy of working from home is taking advantage of sunbreaks, of an invitation to go out in the canoe or watch the deer, of a really good book that's calling your name, of a two-hour lunch break. What's the benefit of working for yourself if you don't set your own schedule and allow that schedule to be flexible?

But what if that two-hour break means you feel compelled to work at night, either missing out on family time or sleep? Is that just the price you pay? When does flexibility become procrastination or general malingering? (And what a loaded word "malingering" is, so full of judgement.)

I love routine, which can work against me. Two weeks of a real vacation have re-set my routine buttons; NOT thinking about work has felt more the norm than it did before I left. It's been difficult to resume the fully productive life (though I still love those 25 minute sessions of suffering). I also don't want to resume the feeling of always possibly being "on duty."

No answers from me. But two smart writers, Seth Godin and Gretchen Rubin, have touched on this topic recently. Seth's advice, more or less, give or take: recognize that it's your choice to keep working or stop. (Also, and I'm sure this message was directed TO ME: Words with Friends can get outta hand as easily as routine email checks.) Gretchen's: set a quitting time, and then quit.

Hope your long May weekend is/was restful and inspiring! Welcome, summer.