Posted: 10th May 2019
As I was walking my dog in the woods this morning, protecting her from a bird of prey and taking in the beauty of the autumn leaves (I know it’s not autumn) and watching the squirrels enjoy their natural habitat I was acutely aware of how happy I am to have the flexible work /life balance that I have created, and as WiRE have asked for tips on switching off for a staycation this month I thought that I would share this with you:
Whilst I was enjoying my dog walk, Outlook was sending summary e-mails to my clients that I had scheduled at 11pm to send at 9:30a.m. Facebook was posting pre-scheduled posts and my washing machine was washing my clothes! How easy we have it these days compared to our elders.
When I became a mum – all I really wanted was a secure, well paid, engaging role to keep me busy 30 hours a week whilst my daughter was in school allowing me to occasionally swap lunch for parent assembly or sports day. The reality of how difficult this was/is forced me into a battle of creating self-employment and asserting myself non aggressively with availability. I fought to sustain my business and utilise my skills wherever possible to help that happen.
This week I have been extremely busy with networking in my capacity as freelance BDM, having conference calls in my capacity as freelance assistant in Civil Litigation, planning to attend an exhibition for the KIH Bed, studying and dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.
My point is that people don’t mind if you control your diary, often we are too keen to please and consequently we compromise our own wellbeing. My clients do not mind that I am unavailable between 3pm and 7pm. They are happy with a conference call at 2pm or 9pm. I am happy to prepare summary e-mails at 11pm and schedule them to send at 9:30 a.m. My BDM clients do not mind that I am only available to network for them during school hours. What matters is that I am committed to helping them and I do what I do well. Sometimes we fear reactions too much. And when it is the school hoildays I have learned to remove stress from trying to do things during the day. I do not diairse appointments, networking, or take on any more work than is essential. I get into full holiday mode during the day and ‘ignore’ the mobile phone. It doesn’t take long to realise that replying to all urgent e-mails in the evening is okay! People generally are still happy to get a reply the next day. Only once did I have three consequtive messages in the space of an hour – the third being ‘ok fine, ignore me completely then!!’ – this was a new business contact that I did not know at all. My initial response was not to do business with her but then I just reasured her ‘I do put my phone down when my daughter is home, I will never ignore you but always allow 24 hours’ – she was also a mum in business and so I hope that this would lead a good example and not a negative one. It is worth noting that she did employ my services afterwards.
As a mum I have 30 hours in the week that I can manage my workload and 21 hours in the evening that I can prepare my workload. I attend every parent assembly and I pick my daughter and drop her off. I look pretty rough and it would be easy for other parents to assume I do not work, but that does not concern me, what concerns me is that I can do homework with my daughter, cook tea for her, bathe her, read her a story and accompany her to groups and enjoy all of the school holidays with her.
Note I schedule late night emails to send in the morning as it can be very stressful to receive work e-mails in the evening, we should be free to relax unless we ‘choose’ not to, that is the difference between scheduling and email and actually sending it. We are primitively wired to be on high alert as the day becomes night and so fight or flight response is much more likely if an email stresses us out in the evening. Send serious (or possibly invasive) emails in the day when people are better placed to receive them.
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