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Why I really need to take a week off for rest right now

When I first started working as a freelancer, I never really thought much about setting up the business in a way that demarcated clear boundaries about my personal time off.

And I put that down to knowing I would have to work hard, having a great deal of independence and autonomy about how I could choose to spend my time but also thinking that it would sort of fall into place.

But here is the thing.

When you work for a company, the company structure and system is already set up for you. Other people have done that for you.

This is not the case with a freelance business. You have to set up the structure and system of operations. You have to set up the limits and boundaries.

And look sometimes no one else around you understands these boundaries and thinks that you sit at home all day doing nothing and are therefore available to chat at all times of the day. In a way they would not dare to do if they knew you were working in an office environment in a company.

Because in that scenario everyone understands that your time belongs to your boss.

Which is a weird way to think and strange thing to accept but ok.

But as a freelancer, I am the boss too. And the manager. And my time belongs to me.


Working out when and how to rest

It takes a long time to work out what works for your life and yourself in terms of working hours and limits and boundaries around your work.

And this changes as you change, as the industry you work in changes, as clients come and go, as your circumstances change.

So it is a work in progress but there is a habit to build here.

And that is the habit of communicating and protecting boundaries you set when you set them. Not just against others crossing them but also yourself.


How I am going to try and rest

So here is a boundary. I don’t know if it will stay in this form forever and it is somewhat of an experiment but that does not make it any less serious.

I am going to try to take a week off every two months.

The main reason for this is that I am tired. Exhausted. Stressed.

If you recall, I tried to take all of November 2020 off and it didn’t quite go to plan since a project reared its head and chaos ensued.

And maybe I will revisit the idea of taking a whole month off at a later date.

But I thought it would be best to try a week off onc every two months for now.


For me, I am equating rest to taking leave

As my accountability partner Creatrix Tiara put it: “You are taking leave. You have leave owing.”

And so from 21 Feb to 28 Feb 2021, I am on leave.

I will reply to any and all correspondence on 1 March.


Making sure I actually do rest

And to prevent myself being my own worst enemy, I have a list of the things I am allowed to do and a list of what I am not allowed to do.

What I can do

  • Write my book
  • Spend time w/ friends
  • Garden
  • Talk to family
  • Painting & sketching
  • Sewing
  • Gaming
  • Reading
  • Cooking
  • Accountability chat
  • Baths
  • Drink water
  • Walks
  • Spend time w/ partner
  • Any health appts
  • Sleep
  • Housework

What I can’t do

  • Write blog posts/website work
  • Livestreams (not even gaming ones)
  • Admin work
  • Accounts work
  • Union work apart from one preapproved meeting
  • Pitching
  • Side projects
  • Firefighting – ie fixing other people’s crises
  • Work for other people
  • Marketing
  • Activism/advocacy
  • Journalism
  • Editing
  • Mentoring
  • Speaking gigs
  • Meetings/interviews

It has kind of meant that this week is a flurry of activity to try and get everything done in time.

I am sort of looking forward to my week off though.

I know it’s very easy for us freelancers to fall down the rabbit hole of looking at how much we can get done with productivity systems.

But I want to manage my energy so I can get more done.

And I can’t do that if I don’t set boundaries and rest. If I don’t take leave.

It’s mandated by law for employees inc ompanies for a reason.

So if you are a freelancer too, have you thought of setting your systems up to also account for your leave?

Marisa is a globetrotting freelance writer, journalist and editor with cat for hire (her, not the cat). She is currently based in Melbourne.

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