Vacationing as a Freelancer
In my update blog I wrote about the trips I went on April and used the word “breaks” in quotation marks. That is because, at least in my experience, social media managers never really take a day off. There may be a way to do it but in the last three and a half years I’ve found that it is very difficult to truly and fully shut off.
I like to check in on the news feeds of all my accounts at least twice, hopefully three times a day. This is a great way to engage with the online community, find relevant articles or news stories to share and just stay on top of what is going on in those worlds. With all the accounts that I have it usually takes me about an hour in the morning and an hour at night even if I am able to check in in the middle of the day. It’s an easy thing to do that can be done while watching TV or listening to a podcast but when I don’t do it, I can get pretty stressed out. If I miss a day it is not a disaster, I just think that it is. I feel behind and out of the loop and concerned that I missed a vital story. Which I guess is one of the main issues behind social media addiction in general.
Now that this is what I do for a living I feel an even more pressing need to keep on top of everything. Not only because I have more accounts (yay me!) but this is my job, I should be doing this regardless of where I am or what day of the week it is. The day this issue really became clear to me was when I was in Tofino for Whale Fest, lying in bed stressing out because I knew I had a long day ahead of me but also that I really needed to get up right then, so I could get my work done while Nicole and Sara got ready. But I was also concerned about waking them up and being tired and cranky for the day and it was just a whole big mess and an incredibly unproductive stress session. In the end, everything worked out fine. Just as I was trying to decide what to do, Sara woke up (yay being friends with fellow morning people!) and I was able to do what I needed to do.
That was my first time away or “break” from work since I started this new chapter. It was really eye opening to how different this life style is. When I was working full time and had a day where I missed catching up on things I cared way less. It felt much less important than it does now. I knew had to find a way to balance my work and my trips or else I would stress out and not enjoy what I was doing. Luckily, Tofino does not have great cell reception so most of the day we spent out and about, I had no service, so it was just like the olden days where you had to check your social media feeds at home on your computer-the horror! But the bigger test was yet to come.
A week later I went to New York with my sister. And it was epic awesome. I love to visit New York and we had a great sister trip. I definitely did not stay caught up in all the social media worlds I usually am in daily, but after my experience in Tofino, I had much more realistic expectations. I had a data plan, so I could see my notifications and respond to anything urgent, and I had told my clients that I would be away during this time so less was expected. I think being far away from home for a week and having so many other things going on was a big help.
One of the tips I was told most often by other people who work at home before I started was how important it was to have firm work hours. Taking a day or the weekend off, stopping at a certain time of night, that kind of thing. This is still a work in progress for me, partially because I check my news feeds twice a day regardless of the day of the week and partially because I am just not good at it yet. If I go out and spend time with real people I can shut off and relax and almost forget about work but anytime I’m doing something at home that’s not work I’m thinking about how I should be using this time to work instead. There is always work to be done and it is more important that watching TV or vacuuming (well one of those is true). I know I need to work on my time management but at the end of the day I am always going to feel the need to do one last catch up before I call it a night and I don’t know if that will ever go away.
A few weeks ago I dog sat for 10 days for Sara’s parents and it was a weird combo of work and vacation. It wasn’t that far away but far enough that I felt isolated and able to really focus. It was kind of like the beginning of Love Actually where Colin Firth goes away to write…sadly without Colin Firth.
I was in a new spot that was relaxing and different but aside from taking care of a very co-dependent dog all I had going on was work. It was a great break that I didn’t know I needed and I came home reinvigorated and with new motivation to get my work done.
I still getting the reactions from people of “oh you have tons of time since you’re unemployed” and “what do you have to be stressed about?” because of my new career choice (You’d be surprised how many people think of freelancers as being unemployed). And yes, I can do laundry and go to the grocery store in the middle of a Wednesday instead of on a Sunday which is great but without the structure of a commute and 8 (or more) hours of work, 5 days a week it can be really difficult to get a full day’s work in with enough time to unwind at the end of the day. The middle of the day trips to the grocery store wreak havoc with a work schedule so even though they are great I sometimes find it easier to go on the weekend or the evenings anyway. Setting firm lines between working and not is a struggle and something that I deal with every day. As I get more work my days are becoming more structured because they have to be, but finding a routine that I can stick to is still a work in progress. Just another unexpected challenge in this crazy new life.