Guarding your time

I have freelanced most of my adult life as a writer, journalist, editor, artist, and during those near 40 years it has always amazed me how people generally have no concept of how hard a self-employed person works from home. There seems to be the assumption we can simply swan off whenever we like.

Well, that is true in part. Those of us who work from our home offices are at liberty to call our own hours, set our own dress codes, take breaks whenever we like. However, without a certain discipline nothing gets done. So that means if it’s summer, and you’d rather be in the garden than editing a manuscript, well, you better bloody well get that manuscript edited cause it surely isn’t going to edit itself. And fail to do so will likely mean you’ll piss off your client, your author, your colleagues, which then means no payment at the end of all that labour. The garden will still be there.

Same applies if you’re working on a painting for an upcoming exhibit or client, or writing an article for a periodical, or putting together a website for a new or existing business owner. If you work from home, the work comes first. The play comes later.

Sure, we take time out to take a walk and clear the head, to ride a bike along a difficult trail in order to nurture the body to nurture the mind. We allow ourselves 10 minutes to blast away at Mah Jong, or alien invaders. We wander aimlessly, favourite beverage to hand in order to escape the office chair.

But we do return, again and again throughout the day, often putting in longer days than our colleagues who commute to an office and punch 9-5.

We don’t have time to chat on the phone, answer text messages, email, phaff about on Facebook, Twitter or Google+. Because we work at home we have relinquished a certain amount of freedom in order to gain a certain freedom. We have embraced discipline and order and routine. We have eschewed the indulgence of long lunches, shopping sprees, and Internet browsing at the expense of our employer. Why? Because we are our own employers, and it turns out we’re harder task masters than the bosses we left behind.

So, for those of you calling for a chat, thinking I’m out in the garden on this lovely summer’s day, or are touring the area and thought to stop in for an impromptu visit — lovely thought, but sorry, I’m working. Would be pleased to make a date, schedule you in. But right now, don’t have time. Have to guard my time.

And that’s just the way it is.

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