Several years ago, I wrote a post about whether or not freelancers should have a set working schedule. Ask many a productivity expert and they’ll tell you that one of the best ways to achieve work-life balance when you work from home is to establish true office hours. This way, you have a tighter differentiation between what is considered work time and what is considered leisure time.
And that may seem like sound advice if it were not for one seriously fundamental flaw: A big part of the reason why I decided to start freelancing in the first place was because I wanted to have the flexibility to adapt my schedule on the fly. This perspective is entirely opposite from a more conventional life-work dynamic.
More and more, I find myself trying to fit work into my life schedule rather than fitting life into my work schedule. I think that's okay.
— Michael Kwan (@michaelkwan) January 19, 2015
You see, most people go about their days knowing that they’ll be at work from such an hour to such a time on these particular days. Given this, they must then find a way to slot family time, leisure time and other personal obligations around this schedule. They can only go to the amusement park with the kids on the weekend, because that’s when they’re not at work (and the kids aren’t in school).
The work schedule takes precedence over the life schedule. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just not the way I want to lead my life.
When I wrote that original post back in 2010, I wasn’t married and I didn’t have any children. Having my life schedule meant going out for a three-hour lunch or watching a movie in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon. It meant I could get my grocery shopping done when no one else was there. These days, things are a little different as I take on the role of the work-at-home dad. Allow me to illustrate with a recent example.
Earlier this week, we took our daughter for her regular checkup at the doctor’s office. The appointment was early enough in the day that I didn’t really want to do anything beforehand in terms of work. After her appointment (she’s happy and healthy, by the way), it was pretty well lunch time. So, we all went out to lunch as a family.
And since we were already out and about, we figured it’d be as good a time as any to run a couple quick errands at the mall. While we weren’t exactly dilly-dallying, we did go around to a few different stores to pick up some essentials. This is all “life schedule” kind of stuff, even though aside from the doctor’s appointment, none of it was really “scheduled” in the traditional sense.
All said, by the time we finished shopping and got ourselves home, I didn’t really sit down to get some work done until about 4pm. Many other people would soon be wrapping up their work days and I had only begun. And in only a couple of short hours, it’d be time to get some dinner ready. After dinner, I squeezed in a few more hours before I retired for the evening, some time after midnight.
Some may look at this “typical” day in the life of a work-from-home solopreneur father as haphazard, unpredictable and unbalanced. And while it can be frustrating when you know there is work that needs to be done, it is also richly rewarding when I know I can spend so much of my day with the people who are dearest in my life.
I’m allowing life to take precedence over work. It’s no longer about work-life balance as the schedules become ever more fluid and the lines ever blurrier. It’s just all life and, despite the stressful days and sleepless nights, I think I’m okay with that.