The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Monday, August 13, 2018

Not working

Today is my first proper day back at my desk after roughly seven weeks of not working. That might sound like a fabulous long holiday, but it was actually an extended break to try and get my health back on track.

As some of you will know, I suffer from a chronic pain condition which makes managing work a bit of a juggling act at the best of times. My condition fluctuates enormously. I have good patches and bad patches, some long, some short, some which coincide with busy patches of work, some which don’t. At the start of this year, things were particularly bad. I put it down to a combination of several busy projects back-to-back and the cold, damp, winter weather. As winter finally morphed into spring though and my workload settled down to what should have been a very manageable level, by the beginning of May my pains were even worse than ever and I was struggling to work at all. So I decided that maybe it was time for a complete break and an extended period of rest.

I finished a project at the end of June and made the decision not to take on any more work for the rest of the summer. As a freelancer, that’s quite a scary step because no work means no income. I figured though that I probably had enough in the bank to eke out a few weeks off if I budgeted carefully.

Not working

As a freelancer, you have to be pretty self-motivated, so you get used to just getting up in the morning and getting on with work. On the whole, I enjoy my work, so motivation isn’t usually a problem, and even when I’m feeling less excited about a project, just clocking up the hours and working towards the next invoice holds a certain satisfaction too. Given that mindset, not doing anything turns out to be actually quite difficult.

My natural reaction was one of: woo-hoo, time off to do lots of other stuff and fabulous summer weather too! But of course, the whole point of the exercise was to physically rest, so energetic gardening or DIY or days out traipsing around shops or galleries were also off the cards because they’re all just as likely to aggravate my pains. So, what have I been doing?

Taking it gently 

I’ve been perfecting the art of “pottering”. Rather than rush at things full throttle, I've picked a couple of small jobs each day, spaced them out, taken time wandering to the post office, maybe stopping off for a coffee en route. The hot weather helped to slow me down - you can’t rush anywhere when it’s 30°C! 

I haven’t always managed life in the slow lane smoothly though. When you’re used to being busy, it’s surprisingly difficult to change gear. Some days, I got it spot-on with enough achieved in a day to be satisfying but without overdoing it. Other days, I faffed about and didn’t really settle to anything and got to the end of the day feeling listless and frustrated. I had to keep reminding myself that even if I’d done nothing else, I’d achieved “resting”.

Not dropping off the radar

I made a decision early on that I didn’t want to switch off from work completely. Partly, that’s because I didn’t want to give the impression of being “unavailable” for fear that the unavailable tag would stick in people’s minds far beyond the summer. And partly, I just enjoy the social part of my work. I like keeping up with what people are up to and joining in the social media chat. Plus, without the cash or the energy to rush around visiting friends, it would have been easy just to sit at home and feel isolated. That means that I’ve been spending a bit of time most mornings at my desk browsing through social media, commenting or re-tweeting, reading the odd interesting article or blog post and writing a few blog posts of my own too. 

Easing back in

So, my pains have calmed down enormously now. I’m still achy and not completely pain-free, but after 20 years of chronic pain, I know not to expect miracles! I think I feel ready though to ease back into work. Plus, I’ve started getting twitchy about not working and I really need to start earning again. I’m determined to take it gently though. The first project on my desk should be about 2 weeks’ work, so I’m starting it 3 weeks before the deadline to give myself plenty of leeway.

Looking ahead, I’m making all my usual resolutions to work smart – to spend short bursts at my desk and take plenty of breaks, to pay attention to my posture, to keep exercising regularly, to use my voice recognition software a bit more and to keep my workload at a sensible level. Yes, I know, all easier said than done - especially the last one! - but I’m definitely going to try.

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Blogger Sandy said...

Good luck Julie! And thank you for sharing how you're managing your condition - it's really useful, as stress is one of my triggers and doing less work is one of the ways I could manage it.

9:49 am  

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