When you’re working, but you don’t really think you’re working

(subtitled: When CPD eats into the wee small hours)

It’s all too easy these days to work the work, without actually realising you are working.

Work isn’t just about working for clients (although that’s the main aim, obviously), it’s about working for yourself if you are freelance, and one thing I have found is that sometimes it’s easy to discount work that doesn’t feel like work.

Does that make sense?

Ok, let me start again.

Caution - work in progress

I’m an Independent Word Wizard (well, Witch just didn’t sound right), in reality I work freelance although I’m still not sure what I think of that word. I work with clients who decide that they would like to work with me, and I work with clients that I decide I would like to work with. It’s mutually beneficial and I love it. Work also involves all the usual paperwork… you know the boring stuff, accounts and the like.

But, then there is also Professional Development… this invariably involves courses, training, reading, observing and networking. And this is where things can fall down.

Something struck me the other day, and it may seem obvious to others, but it came as a bit of a revelation to me.

I had a day off…

I’d finished a couple of pieces of work, and had some free time. So instead of doing the normal “day off” things – you know, housework, that pile of washing that was starting to morph into a laundry monster, emptying the dishwasher – I sat in front of the computer and read a blog… then read another, and another, did a bit of social networking, then read another blog or two. All industry blogs, not a grumpy cat in sight. Plus then I sat down to a lovely book written by Louise Harnby.

Before I knew it, the day had gone. I’d read some interesting stuff but at the end of the day I thought I may just have wasted my time off.

Thinking about it, this is a regular occurrence. I can get attached to the laptop. On an evening, the laptop is on… I’ll be reading as I’m watching some equally interesting telly programme… watching a documentary on Egyptology while reading a publishing blog is nothing new. I am woman, I multi-task.

laptop

But, it dawned on me that what I’m doing is valuable.

This doesn’t affect my work, as I don’t feel like I’m “working” just surfing. In fact I didn’t think I was working… until I read a blog that told me, yes I was working.

So, should it actually be thought of work if you enjoy what you are doing? … erm, actually, yes. If you are lucky, you spend your time enjoying your work but I’ve come to the conclusion that we do ourselves a disservice if we don’t realise that any time spent “with the trade” is actually work.

It won’t make any difference, I will still be reading a blog, or a piece of coursework, or a news story at some ungodly hour. But from now on, when people ask me what I’ve been doing, I won’t dismiss it as playing on the internet, or whiling away my time avoiding “stuff that must be done around the house”… I will remind myself that I have been networking, or reading up on the industry, or researching, or listening to what my peers are saying.

time

My time is valuable to my clients.

But it is also valuable to me, so I should accept that doing what I love is still work. I’m just lucky that I love my work, and perhaps I should remember to take some time off every now and then. No, honestly, really take time off. Turn the laptop off and switch off the email.

Come on now, own up… how many of you fellow freelancers recognise this situation?

As a final note, just as I’d finished writing the blog this came up in the Freshly Pressed list. It’s a very interesting read. There’s a fine line between loving your work, working hard and burn out. We all should remember, even the freelancers, that time off is important… even if work is interesting sometimes you have to remember to step back, after all the CPD will still be there tomorrow and weekends should be fun.

Have wonderful and unproductive weekend everyone!

6 thoughts on “When you’re working, but you don’t really think you’re working

  1. Oh, you and I have so much in common, Sara! Thanks for reminding me that not all my messing about on the internet is just play or unproductive. Then again, the garden calls: there is lettuce to pick, for one thing…

    • I really, really thought hard about putting this blog up.

      There’s a fine line between working hard to improve your business and being a workaholic (if you haven’t read the blog noted at the bottom I suggest you do, it sets alarm bells ringing for sure), and then there’s the CPD that feels like play, but isn’t.

      At the end of the day we have to learn to put the books away… all work and no play makes for dull times. And clients know, and accept, that too 🙂

  2. I do the same thing. Sundays are normally my day off from laptop and business related stuff. At nights I could be reading blogs, researching info on fashion, lolling at new materials. Like you said we are lucky it doesn’t always feel like work. My mum & husband are always telling me to get off my iPhone. They don’t realise that 9 times out of 10 I am networking on social media, updating business Facebook page or replying to customers messages.

    Hope you have a great weekend too 🙂

    • Tough isn’t it… people often don’t understand the level of commitment it takes to run a business, and sometimes they don’t see it as a business either, especially when you work from home.

      But I think we do have to learn to set times for unplugging and stepping away.

      Its hard to do though 🙂

  3. Hmm, there’s a bit of me that wonders if this isn’t too easy a self-justification. Then again, if I hadn’t built up a social network through blogging, I don’t think I’d have received some of the wonderful opporunities I have. Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Sara 🙂

    • It’s swings and roundabouts Chloe 🙂

      While you’re sitting there at 10 pm you have to wonder if it’s vital that you’re there to network, or if its more beneficial to shut the computer down. But then would you miss something really interesting, a new person or a new opportunity.

      Tough decisions to which there are few satisfactory answers.

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