Working from home can have a lot of advantages (case in point: I’m wearing slippers as I write this.) However, one of the greatest disadvantages can be burnout. When you work from home, you never really get to leave the office. There’s always one more email, a few more files, a client to call back – it doesn’t end because you’re always there to see it.
It’s advisable in the first year to work hard at growing your business. Market yourself, get out there and network, make connections, see that show, post, tweet, shoot…whatever. But with so many responsibilities, it can be a challenge to find balance.
I lived in a small German town where everything shut down on Sundays. I mean everything, from convenience stores to the gas station. Knowing things would be closed, people planned ahead to make sure they had what they needed for their day off. No one died, and everyone got a day of rest.
If it works for Herrenberg, it can work for me. One of my goals for 2011 is to give myself a day off (I’ve chosen Sunday), and I’ve set some guidelines for what that means.
This is the most basic tenant, and it’s harder than you’d think. But by not doing business work on my day off, I am free to be productive in other ways. I don’t answer client emails, I don’t return messages, and I don’t work on projects for anyone else. It’s important to answer inquiries in a timely manner, but I don’t need to be available 24-7. It’s not unreasonable to take one day off.
During the week I work hard to stay focused and get things done. That means the voice inside tells me to get back to work when I find myself clicking through the newest issue of Covet Garden, or checking in on Facebook. On Sundays, I allow myself the time to catch up on the things that interest me, or that I’ve been putting off. I read the paper, slowly, and with a large coffee. I watch TV in the middle of the afternoon if I feel like it.
The day is mine.
I find that by the end of the week, things around me have become somewhat chaotic. I use Sunday as a time to get my life in order. Changing my sheets, emptying my paper recycling, or clearing off my desk all help me to ‘reset’ for the week to come. But I don’t sweat it if those things don’t get done.
Accomplish Other Tasks (But Only If You Want To).
There are often ‘life tasks’ that get put off during the week because I’m too busy with work. Painting my front door, setting up a shelving system, or shopping for bookends are the kind of things I can choose to accomplish on my day off because the result benefits me as a person, (versus me as a business).
Read Up or Look Around.
I love to read, but I don’t tend to make a lot of time for it during the week. Books, newspapers, magazines, and anything I haven’t read yet make their way to me on Sunday. I also try to look at some of the photo books I’ve invested in. (After writing the post about Annie Leibovitz, I ordered this beauty….) Most galleries are open on Sunday, so going to see an exhibition is always an option. My day off is a time to refill the inspiration bank.
Taking time off helps give some perspective. It clears some time to reflect on the past week, and think about what’s coming up, without the pressure of having to respond just yet. I used to think that a day off was a luxury, but I’m starting to believe it’s a necessity for my well being. I know one photographer who works seven days a week, but he ‘closes for the day’ at 5pm. He stops whatever he’s working on, and goes upstairs to make himself dinner. It’s important to figure out what works with your lifestyle. I appreciate that not everyone is able to take one day a week for themselves, (for some it may be one day every two weeks, or months), but I do believe it’s a worthwhile aspiration.
There will always be exceptions. I’m not going to turn down a shoot just because it falls on my ‘day off’. But I will try to schedule it for a different day, if possible. If a client needs an answer by noon or they’ll need to book someone else, I’ll return their email. But, whenever possible/reasonable, I work to make the day off my priority.
Think about how you can arrange your schedule (class, work, personal) to make a solid block of time for yourself.