Dance To Your Own Tune

dance to your own tune

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.

stress

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).

shock, electric, lightning

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:

Nothing.

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.

12 thoughts on “Dance To Your Own Tune

  1. This is super interesting! I just wrote a post about how my life seems to be more about emailing than writing, and as a startup it’s expected that I should need to pitch a lot, but I also find myself checking my email all the time, and my email is on my tablet, my laptop, and my phone. Maybe I should disconnect my email to my tablet and phone and try and restrict my email time as I let it xut into everything else.

    • I’m exactly the same. I do have email on my ipad and phone, but deliberately try not to check them. Emails really do eat your time. I kept thinking I had to check them or I’d miss out on that wonderful job offer, as being freelance is hard, but in the end it was either lose my sanity or lose the odd job. I can’t afford to lose any more or my sanity 😉

      • Haha I know that feeling! I try to do as much offline writing and work away from my laptop as much as possible, because it does offer far too many distractions!

      • The only way I’ve found is to lock either myself of my technology in a cupboard. But a lot of my writing needs research… which includes using the computer… it’s a vicious circle.

      • Yeah I get that, I was doing some pen and paper writing for an article about the benefits of writing on paper vs on a PC and found myself itching to do the research. I resolved to make big asterisks and do the research as I typed up. Or I go to my local library where the connection is poor or time limited and my options are research only or achieve nothing!

      • That’s a great idea. I also tend to do some writing on paper and research later, but sometimes the research is needed as you go along. Best thing to do is take each bit of writing as a separate entity and do what is needed, but set a time limit on time online.

  2. Great post! This business of being constantly in touch via email (or worse yet, text messages) has not only warped our collective sense of urgency, it’s also made many of us more prone to distraction. Good for you for drawing a line in the sand! I do hope your new system will yield more peace of mind and greater productivity. Happy new year to you and yours!

    • Happy New Year to you too 🙂 It’s a constant struggle, but being connected all the time really isn’t good. I remember the good old bad old days before the internet, life was a lot simpler then.

  3. I’ve reposted this on my Facebook page. I know you shouldn’t check your email more than 3 times a day, but I still do. Mind you, I’m driven mad when sitting in the office of someone whose email regularly pings. why would anyone want that?

  4. A psychologist friend used to have printed notices by his home phones (yes, I am talking landline), saying ‘Remember it is not compulsory to answer the telephone.’

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