I’ve been working as a solopreneur for 10 years.
The first year I went away on holiday, as a newly self-employed birth worker, I noticed that I was still responding to work emails, something I never did when I was an employee. I didn’t resent it but I was very conscious of the difference. As an employee, I used to truly switch off when I was away, and I rarely worked outside of my contracted hours.
Sure, in my pre-parent years whilst working a postdoc and then for a biotech start up I worked very long hours, including weekends and evenings, but chose to do so myself and didn’t resent it. After becoming a parent, I did the odd bit of work in the evenings and at the week end, but mostly I went home and did not work, and certainly never worked whilst on holidays.
Since I left science and started working for myself, my business has kept growing. There is always stuff to do, and at the beginning I was rarely switching off in the evenings or during the week-end. I also interact with a lot more people than I did at the beginning, so there are messages coming from many different sources and apps, messages on my business page, comments and questions, and so on, which need replying to.
In the digital age with live in, where the boundaries between work and home are somewhat blurred, I might have ended up there anyway if I’d remained a scientist. I read Cal Newport’s book, A world without email, and his description of the corporate world of today certainly seems fitting with a constant barrage of messages.
As I’ve grown older and a more experienced self employed person, I have become more conscious than ever of the need to establish firmer boundaries in my life between work and play, to be more present to myself and my family, and to resist the desire to answer yet one more email or message. The downside of being self employed (the upsides far than make up for it however!) is that I used to have an underlying feeling of guilt when I was not working. I found myself thinking that I ought to work 9 to 5 and be productive all the time, something that I now see as a hangover of our education and workplace system.
About 4 years ago I embarked on a journey to get out of this productive overwhelm, and I blogged about it here. I ended up writing a whole collection of posts on the topic, which you can find listed in this post. It has been so utterly transformative that I am think I may end up creating a course to help others do the same.
The other important aspect to consider is, when you have chosen a path that involves giving and caring for others, you need to spend time away from that, refilling your own tank and giving to myself, before I am ready to give again to others (I wrote a post about that too).
During my first summer break as a self employed doula/birth educator, I was quite shocked to notice how tired I was, because for the first for the first 3 or 4 nights of my holidays I slept for nearly 12h each night (a normal night for me is usually between 6 and 7h of sleep).
In recent years, I’ve learnt to plan for time off work by putting in in my diary so I know what my availability is and I also know not to over commit myself. I’ve also become much better at feeling my body’s energy and wellbeing, that when I need to slow down I feel the need before I reach crashing point. February to April this year were an intense time for me, supporting my last doula clients, and having a new puppy to care for, and launching 3 online courses (the postnatal rebozo closing ritual course, updated rebozo for pregnancy and birth course, and my new How to run a mother blessing course). I really feel the need to slow down and recharge deep in my bones.
Ahead of my holidays, I plan my work so that I can truly switch off. I am going to have long leisurely days with a lot of time outdoors, some long, social family diners, I’m going to read more books and swim in as many bodies of water as I can. Bliss.
And when I’m back at my desk, I am going to continue refining my work-life balance, so that I am in a state that works for me, keeps me purposeful and happy, to keep putting the things that keep me fuelled like drumming, wild swimming and dancing as the most important things in my to-do list, and spend as much time as possible being joyfully present.