Joyce and I have made the decision to close the business for a few days over Christmas for the sake of work life balance. Actually, that’s not true, we’ve agreed that unless the work is already in the diary, from the evening of 22nd December to the morning of 4th January, we’re not taking any more work on. I have one student to see and one small proof reading job in that time. It’s time for some Us time. I last opened an email connected to my school work on 19th December. So, there’s the first commitment broken, that was supposed to be 18th December. It’s the morning of 21st December and I’m already fighting the guilt.
Work life balance is a funny thing, especially if you are in any way self-employed, if you work in education, academia, or any of those other industries where the assumption that your good will means that you will go far beyond your job description. Already, I have a list of at least 5 tasks to be tackled over our ‘leave’ and 4 of them are career or business related.
The See-Saw of Work life balance
For all of us, but particularly for the self-employed, balancing the see-saw (teeter-totter for my American friends) of work/life can be very hard. There is a strong temptation to say, well, if I just do a half day on my emails, I can get a head start on the first day back… That is the thin end of a sticky wedge. Yes, most of us went into self-employment to do what we love, but it is too easy to spend the quiet times on the bits we don’t love. I’ve just spent nearly two full days catching up on the accounts. Yes, it needed to be done, but did it have to be done right now, in the run up to what is left of Christmas?
Often, I work with my students on managing both their study and their personal time, in the full knowledge that I could always be somewhat better at it myself. There are many charts, apps and tables you can use to help with this – just google it, or look at Stella Cottrell’s Study Skills Handbook, a great investment for academics and students alike (The link is to Abe Books, other book sellers are available). My favourite tool, however, was originated by Dale Carnegie. I probably don’t have the copyright to reproduce the tools here, so let me just ask the pivotal question. In your planning, do you consider what is important, or simply what is urgent? It sows the seed in our minds, that if something is only urgent, but not actually important, perhaps there is no need to do it at all?
Take a Beat
So, as we run up to what is going to be a Christmas like no other (I write this while the news that we are in Tier 4 is still sinking in), I am asking you, telling you, maybe even begging you, to think about what is important, not what is urgent. For me, this will be Zooming family and friends, going for walks, digging fresh spud and picking fresh Brussel sprouts for our Christmas Dinner. It will be sitting through the Dr Who New Year special with the young members of the household, because they enjoy watching it with us. It will be taking a breath. So, by all means, contact us for mentoring, proof reading, or whatever else it was that is urgent that we can do for you, but also, sit down for five minutes to make important plans.