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The end of the week can be a great time, can’t it? It usually bubbles up with a feeling of mild euphoria. You swiped one or two big items off your list and squelched several unexpected fires (with style and grace). Work is done and you can officially walk away from the laptop for the better part of two days…ahhh. Haul out the sock monkey slippers, drag out the ice cream.

Not so fast. There may be a glitch in that formula if you’re a workshifter. Particularly if you’re self-employed.

If the nature of your work requires consistent, daily attention and action, it can wear on you. Emails, bug fixes, a post or some research. We all need a chance turn our work brain off, and bed time doesn’t count. Sleep is an autonomic response. Besides, I’ve lost hours of sleep lying in bed thinking about work. I’m talking about having the opportunity to willfully, deliberately power down, made more satisfying because you can join friends and family when they kick back. For some workshifters, traditional hours and norms are a lost language.

The Conflict

My kids are heavily involved in several sports so we’ve been traveling a lot each weekend for months. My thoughts are with my kids and on their games, but there’s a very practical side to attending their events, too. I have to work longer hours during the week to take care of what would otherwise be done over the weekend. Or I have to tote my laptop and work during pockets of time in the car, between games, when the other parents are hanging out during pool time.

Neither feels like a great option. I already work long hours so tacking on more each day makes me more tired and possibly less productive. Working during wedged-in time pockets on the road may sound efficient, but it can be hard to pound out a report with interruptions and distractions. Remember I’m talking about working within the vicinity of kids, games, gymnasiums and swim floaties.

Little Green Monster

If I sound like I’m a little envious of some of the boundaries “traditional” professionals enjoy, maybe I am. After all, I have to make the tough calls. This is my business. I don’t have any teammates to pick up my slack or serve as buffer to clients who (rightly) expect their deliverables. Rolling deadlines really don’t apply.

So I’ve felt a few of these envy pangs lately. Some ‘me’ time would be really nice. And then one afternoon I was suddenly struck with a great realization. It hit me while taking my son to hockey practice at 4pm.

I could actually take my son to hockey practice at 4pm.

Cue The Sunbeams And Chorus

I didn’t have to take vacation time. I didn’t work myself up into a lather just getting to the boss’s office to make the request. Every Wednesday, I can just take him, no questions asked. No eyebrows raised by childless, snarky coworkers who think they’re disadvantaged.

You know what else? I can take my daughter to the orthodontist and to get her hair cut on a Thursday morning. Or meet a friend for lunch without glancing at my watch 8 times in 50 minutes. What I’ve come to realize is I made some tradeoffs. I didn’t lose my weekend, it just took a different, non-traditional shape.

Sure, being a salaried employee has its real, tangible benefits. If you’re sick a day, you probably still get paid. Someone else helps contribute to your retirement. Someone else worries about ergonomics and the lifespan of a laptop. Someone else might even pay for some sweet training.

Workshifting Is A Lifestyle, Not A Job

But being salaried also comes with some strings, strings I had no hand in making. The question is, are you the kind of person who can operate with those strings tacked on? Maybe they give you some freedom from certain pressures. For someone else, the strings might be too binding.

Today when 7:23pm rolls around, if I’m still in front of my computer while my family is arguing over which Netflix movie they want to watch, I’m going to remind myself of my tradeoffs.

I chose to clip those strings. And all in all, it feels pretty good.

Photo Credit: Marc van der Chijs

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As Principal of Insights & Ingenuity, Heather helps brands earn customer preference. Specializing in digital channels, Heather’s firm provides brand-building positioning and content strategies to B2C and B2B companies. She’s a contributing author to Social Media Explorer, Content Marketing Institute, Shareaholic, MarketingProfs, and other media outlets. Find Heather on Twitter as @heatherrast or circle her up on G+ at gplus.to/heatherrast.
  • Ryan Heneise

    Great reminder. I’m constantly catching myself working myself into a 9 to 5 box, even though I don’t have to. Having the flexibility to work when and how is best for my family is a tremendous privilege.