For those of us who are self-employed, creative workers, writers, or teachers, friends and family often misunderstand the rhythms of our workweek, workday, and even work year. Ask any teacher or academic about her summer “off” and she may not correct you, but she’ll feel that inward groan. So-called “vacation time” is often when major work on dissertations, books, articles, or other creative projects take place.
What our lovely, but misunderstanding friends and relatives are correct about, however, is the kind of freedom many creative workers have with their time. This freedom can be both a blessing and curse. It is this freedom, for example, that allows me to do yoga midday on non-teaching days, or to take a weekday writing break at a coffee shop to visit with a friend after finishing the day’s pages or lesson plan.
It’s also this freedom, though, that means that on Christmas day, I feel that pull to work. Or that when whiling away a Saturday doing nothing in particular, I feel the guilt that I could always being doing something productive.
For writers, creative workers, and the self-employed, the shop never closes and the office never turns off its lights because the worker is herself the business.
In my own life, I am hoping to implement a no work on weekends practice; this is especially important to me because I have an infant daughter and I am trying to develop a good distinction between work time and family time.
I am also trying to implement a similar practice about the end of the workday, after which my attentions belong to my family.
But here’s the rub: when your brain is the office and your home or your neighborhood coffee shop is the cubicle, how do you decide when the workday is done? And how do you finish up the day well?
I’ve been playing around with an idea that I’m calling the “final fifteen.”
The “final fifteen” are the last fifteen minutes of the workday. They are the last chunk of time in which a person could “just touch” her creative work if she’s not done so earlier in the day.
Or, if there’s a nagging but yet-unstarted project on the task list, the “final fifteen” is a great way to open the task so that it’s in process for the following day.
Whenever you choose to end your work day, the “final fifteen” is a good way of ensuring that you’ve done at least a little of what you had intended. This is the working, push side of the final fifteen, but there’s also a work-life balance side of the equation.
For people who have workdays that don’t really end, but, rather, whimper out into the evening, the final fifteen is a nice way of saying, “that’s it workday! We’re done! See ya tomorrow.”
Especially for those of us who tend to feel guilty about not working, the bright demarcation between work and off time is especially important. But a good, hard last push can allow us to feel that work has been accomplished and now it’s okay to play and relax.
What do you want to be sure to accomplish in your “final fifteen” today?
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