One More Reward of Self-Employment

(This post was originally published in The Dreaming Cafe Newsletter, issue 76, July 4, 2010.)

journaling for self-discoveryI used to work an average 60+ hour week. I was usually up and out of the house by 6am or 7am and I didn’t return home until about the same time in the evening. I often worked Saturdays, putting in another 6-8 hours because the office was empty and I could get a lot done.

The problem wasn’t working, it was taking time off. I know that sounds weird, but wait and I’ll explain.

You see, every time I took time off, more then two or three days in a row I never wanted to go back to work. When the busy blinders came off I realized I didn’t want to go back.

This pattern of working and taking no time off because if I did I had too much time to think about it and didn’t want to return was even apparent when I was young and attending school.

I hated school and I had a love/hate relationship with three day weekends, spring break, Christmas/New Year’s break and summer vacations.

Once I was in school, in the classroom, I could stay busy and not think about how much I hated school, how boring it was and how many other exciting things I could be doing on my own. But, as soon as I had a break, it was all over. I had time to think and I dreaded going back every time.

This pattern repeated from grade school, through high school and then overflowed into my work life.

Work hard. Don’t think about it. Be the best. Learn all you can so you can stay challenged and interested. Volunteer for projects so you can keep learning and stay busy. Whatever you do, don’t take time off because you will realize how much you don’t want to go back.

Recently every day, hour or minute I wasn’t working the “I won’t want to go back” fear kicked in and I beat myself up, telling myself to get back to my to-do list.

I was afraid.

What if I take too much time off and not want to go back? This wouldn’t be a good thing since going back was going back to working for myself, my life long dream.

When I first started working from home I tried to create a routine and work a few hours every morning and again in the afternoon, every day. Working meant sitting at my computer writing blog posts, writing my newsletter, teaching my online classes, marketing and developing new projects.

I found I didn’t work well like this. I was bored, moody, and unproductive.

After a few hours of trying to make myself work I’d fall off the work wagon and start goofing off.

I’d read, journal, paint, go to the bookstore, cook, clean the house, watch old episodes of Murder She Wrote, and fill up notebooks with ideas.

But, as the hours stretched into days I’d begin to panic. I was taking too much time off. I beat myself up. Was it resistance? Procrastination?

Then, seemingly out of the blue, an idea would capture my interest and I’d move back into my office. That idea led to something else and that led to something else. My to-do list would come alive again. I’d work hours on end, sometimes into the middle of the night, never feeling tired or bored. I was in a zone.

Then I’d run out of steam and find myself on the couch with a book discussing the latest theories in neuropsychology or art therapy or marketing or landscape design. No topic has ever been off limits.

I felt guilty for this down time and beat myself up for not working. I was afraid that this was a replay of an old behavior pattern that dated back to my childhood, that if I wasn’t busy I would wake up and realize I didn’t want to go back.

But, over last few weeks as I’ve looked back over the previous months I noticed a different pattern.

I didn’t realize what was happening.

I didn’t realize that it was different this time.

I didn’t realize that it was okay and that I was actually finding my own, natural working biorhythms.

First, I realized that it is all work and play for me.

This was a new concept, one I’m still internalizing. It doesn’t matter if I am reading a book, learning something new, writing a blog post, or teaching a class, it’s all work related and it’s all fun. There is no division between working and playing. Even watching an episode of Murder She Wrote gives me ideas, helps me relax, teaches me how to create a story and serves as a role model of how to live a balanced, healthy, fun and fulfilling life.

It also doesn’t matter where I work and play. It can be in my home office, on the couch, at Barnes & Noble or the waiting room of a doctor’s office. My work goes with me wherever I go as long as I have a pen and a notepad.

I also realized I work best, or I should say, I am most productive in spurts. I don’t think I’ll ever be someone who sits down and produces something tangible everyday.

I have days where my fingers and eyes never leave my laptop. I have days where I start out working on my laptop, move to meeting with people all day and then back to my laptop.

I’m in a zone and I love it.

I’ll work two or three days in a row, up at dawn and work well into the night. Then I run out of steam and step back for a few days.

Then it repeats.

This has been happening for months.

Now I recognize that it’s not a bad thing. I’m not going to suddenly realize I don’t want to go back, because I never really left.

The realization of my natural working biorhythms, and moving into a greater acceptance of myself, is just one more reward of self-employment I’ve discovered.


I’m curious, what are your natural working biorhythms? How did you discover them? Have they changed over the years?

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