Has this just been the longest January ever? It feels like months since Christmas.
Mind you, it’s probably a good thing that the longer month has given me time to redeem myself, because I started the year with approximately zero motivation for work.
‘I couldn’t be a freelancer, I would just never get any work done’ is something I often hear from people. And I have, until now, smugly been able to say that it’s not something I struggle with – I have no problem motivating myself, I don’t leave work until the absolute last minute and I’m good at getting up and getting going in the morning. See? Smug.
But after Christmas I seemed to fall into some kind of abyss. While people headed back to the office to get on with real life, I found my handheld sander far more interesting and suddenly had the urge to sand and paint every bit of wood in the house.
I spent the first two weeks of the year coated in dust and paint splashes, hopping around a house lined with newspaper pages. And, while the bathroom and living room certainly looked better for my efforts (and that sideboard I won on eBay for a tenner) in the back of my mind I was more than aware that this was not paying the bills.
But how to get back in the swing of things?
Forcing myself to sit down and look at a laptop was only resulting in me googling potential holiday destinations.
I think the problem was that I wasn’t actually behind on anything. In fact, it was pointed out to me, that if I was keeping up with all my deadlines then there wasn’t really a problem and I should enjoy my leisure time. After all, there have been enough worked weekends and evenings that surely this is effectively lieu time?
But there were two things on my mind that scuppered this justification. One was the usual freelancer guilt – padding around the house and sanding things just doesn’t feel acceptable, not for more than a day or two. I should be working.
The second was me thinking ahead – sure I’m on top of my deadlines now, but unless I pitch some ideas there won’t be any deadlines next month (although then technically I wouldn’t be behind on anything…)
In the end I found my answer. Take on loads of work. Like, way too much work, so I actually felt a bit stressed about how I would get it all done. I’m sure that’s an entirely unhealthy approach but it felt far more like a normal state of things, and it definitely seems to have cured me of my lull.
What I still can’t work out is whether I was being super lazy or whether I was doing what I was supposed to do and taking advantages of the calm before the next workload storm.
I’ve said before, I was told when I started that I would have to learn to ride the peaks and troughs of work and to enjoy them. I’m good at the peaks, I can work my socks off very happily when I’m snowed under.
This was the first time I’ve taken time out when things have quietened down and, while I’m pretty proud of all the smooth and newly painted wood in the house, I think I felt too guilty about it all to have properly enjoyed it.
How do you find the balance?
(On a side note: shame on you internet, it took me forever to find a picture of a woman doing DIY. Search stock pictures for woman and DIY and you get ladies sewing or sitting on the beach. Not cool.)