It’s another new year. Last year, for me, was a bit up and down. There were more spaces in my schedule than I would have liked, but I also worked on some really interesting projects, including a cookery book which is something I’ve always wanted to do. The spaces in my calendar also allowed me to have some fun; something we all need more of. My fun in the later stages of the year came in the way of starting the Open University Creative Writing (A215) module. I’ve wanted to do it for years, and am so glad I took the plunge – not only do I find it highly enjoyable (mostly, if I ignore the stress of assignment deadlines) it will also help with my editing as a fresh perspective comes from drafting your own writing, so its win/win.
One thing that I have learned this year though didn’t come from work or from leisure time, it came from a realisation that dancing to someone else’s tune just isn’t healthy.
I realised early in the year that I constantly had my email online. I work primarily on a laptop (I find it more comfortable for some reason as it allows me to move around), and have my email hooked up to a PC (ironically to stop me checking it so often). I also have a little voice that calls me to tell me that an email has arrived (yes, really … actually it’s Worf from ST:NG but let’s not go there).
What I found was that at very regular intervals I would hear that little voice and go immediately to the PC to check my email. True, some of it was work but a lot of it was commercial tat. Unfortunately the result of all this toing and froing wasn’t weight loss as I got up to check who was demanding my attention (I wish), but stress. As a freelance consultant it’s important to be able to pick up your correspondences, but there is a point when enough is enough.
I had been gradually trying to wean myself away from too-regular email checks when something I read recently struck a chord, and apologies for the originator who I can’t reference as I honestly can’t remember what I was reading when my brain when ‘ping’:
Email is someone else’s agenda.
Plain and simple.
Getting up and checking emails isn’t a valid exercise regime.
As soon as I saw those words it was like an electric shock (no, I checked, my laptop was fine).
Here’s what I found happened when I switched off my little email voice and didn’t run upstairs every half hour to check my emails:
I haven’t lost any work*
Client’s haven’t suddenly revolted and gone elsewhere because I didn’t get back to them as soon as they hit the send button.
The emails haven’t stopped, they definitely haven’t stopped.
In fact everything is more or less the same. Although I was lying slightly when I said nothing happened – I found myself getting less distracted and becoming more productive.
So as long as your clients know you are not going to suddenly ignore them, and that you are actually going to reply in a timely manner, there is no need to keep constantly checking your emails. I make it a priority now to check my emails first thing on a morning, around lunchtime and before hanging up my editor’s hat for the day. Three times a day. That is enough, and if there is anything urgent my clients have my phone number. I may check mail on my ipad if I am about to take a break, but then again I may not.
As a freelance consultant I dance to my own tune now and life is so much more bearable. As long as my work doesn’t suffer, and my clients feel looked after (which they always do), the email can wait that little bit longer.
*ok, I may have lost one client because I didn’t reply to their email asking for a quote within an hour, but let’s face it… if they decide that quickly on hiring an editor they’re not the kind of client you want anyway.