It's a Saturday afternoon, and after a coffee date with a new friend and colleague this morning and then a birthday brunch afterwards, I was in the middle of what I call "light working" – you know, a few emails here, drafting some ideas there – when thoughts on working on a weekend began circling around my head, so I wanted to share some of them with you. Like always, I'd love to hear yours, too, you're warmly invited to continue this conversation in the comments!
If you've been following my journey for a while, you might now that my main goal for this year is balancing work and life in a somewhat healthier manner – I've talked about it more here if that's something you're interested in. At the beginning of 2018, I was looking back on two years of seven day work weeks, at first juggling my job in educational research and my own business, and then with going full-time self-employed and co-founding another business. More often than I'd like to admit, I'd wake up after just a couple hours of sleep and go straight to my desk only to realize at some point in the afternoon that I didn't have anything to drink or eat that day yet, and after a hasty meal in front of a screen, I'd then continue working until I couldn't stay awake any longer. This isn't what every day in 2016 and 2017 was like, by all means, but it did happen far too often.
Now creating a healthy work environment for myself is completely my own responsibility, I'm fully aware of that, and I knew that this was something I'd have to put a lot of work and effort into as a small business owner. Over time though, I've come to notice a few things that I stumbled upon again and again in the making / creative business community, and I will say they didn't necessarily make the balancing act any easier.
Judging from fellow small business owners' online presence, I'd often get the idea that everyone works around the clock and is more than happy to do so, never tired of repeating how much of a blessing this small business owner life is. I've heard people voice the opinion that you should only build a business of your own if it was something you were willing to give up everything for. I've seen people struggling to use the term "work" for what they do for a living, even though they clearly work hard, because their work felt "too fun" to be considered "real work". And I've seen myself adopting those thought patterns and clearly not dealing well with the pressure I felt.
Now I truly love being self-employed for a million reasons, I'm grateful for being able to do something I enjoy doing so much for a living, and I wouldn't trade my job for any other in the world. But after all, it is still work. Don't get me wrong – there are those days when I, too, have to pinch myself and can't quite believe how I got so lucky, but still, it's nothing like doing weekend activities for 7 days a week straight. And while in the beginnings there's often just no other option than working the extra night shifts until you figured out your business' potential future, the time came when I had to accept that continuing to work the way I worked, feeling pressure I felt, just didn't work for me in the long run. Facing this had me feeling bad in countless varieties, guilty being a strong favourite here, for the longest time, even questioning if I deserved to do what I did if I didn't want to do it 24/7. But in the end, and thanks to friends and family who were patient enough to talk this through with me over and over again, I've come to actually see it as a good thing. Deep down I know that I thrive when I have a job that I love and I identify with, yes, but when there's also enough breathing space for all other parts of my identity and life.
By no means do I want to point the finger at anyone – I know how much of a challenge all of this online presence thing can be, and I truly believe that everyone's entitled to share whatever part of their life and work they feel comfortable talking about – and I've been hesitating to even bring up those thoughts here, but then again, I believe it's an important conversation to be had. It has certainly led to me trying to be much more aware of what depiction of a small business reality I share publicly. And while I primarily talk about the work part of my life online, a little while ago I started sharing more non-work parts of my life, too, to put things a little more into perspective, if you will, and quite frankly, I've found that it also helped holding me accountable for not forgetting about all the non-work parts of life.
"But here you are, still working on a Saturday?", you might think. And yes, you're right, but while we're at it, I've also been trying to really make the most out of the benefits that come with this self-employed life, and to me, one of them is not necessarily having to take my time off on Saturdays and Sundays. It's usually what I end up doing because most of the people I spend time with work on a less flexible schedule, and I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go, but it feels like I'm on a good path.
No matter where you are in your life, whether you're a fellow small business owner or not – I'd love to hear your thoughts! Is this something you think about, too? How do you handle work time / time off? Are you working today?