Understanding what it means to work for myself

[Cross-posted #]

It’s been an awesomely busy and productive week, with no shortage of paying work waiting for me each day. I’ve been trying out a new work schedule all week — not starting until 3 and working as late as I need to — and so far it’s going great. 3 PM is early enough that I can still handle East Coast business calls if I need to, and late enough that my brain fog has completely lifted and I’m able to get focused and stay that way for many hours. Because it doesn’t matter how early or late I get up, I’m never fully awake until around 3:00, and evening has always been when I’m most energetic and able to concentrate. I am and have always been a night owl, and after a couple of decades of conditioning to conform to a day person schedule, I’m finally realizing that I have the freedom to keep night owl hours.

I don’t know why that realization has taken so long to sink in. I think it’s partly because I’ve also had a hard time understanding that I’m my own boss and it’s okay to keep my own hours. I started out viewing my clients more as supervisors, because that’s what I was used to, and thinking that I had to keep the same hours they did and be available during their office hours — never mind that they’re spread out over four time zones. I was really not enjoying myself.

I remembered all the sleepy mornings spent slumped in a task chair in a cubicle and dreaming of working for myself precisely so that I could sleep when my body naturally wants to sleep and do my work when I’m wide awake and rarin’ to go, instead of being chained to the 8 to 5 routine that my circadian rhythms always rebelled against and that was ultimately so bad for my health. As I’ve become more comfortable with my clients and in my new role, I’ve come to realize that they don’t see me as a subordinate who is obligated to work a schedule of their devising — they see me instead as a business woman with a life to manage. It’s way past time to start viewing myself the same way.

So now I’m working from 3 till 11 or 12 or even 1 AM if necessary, and not getting up until 9 or 10 the next day, which my adult, corporate-conditioned mind finds shamefully indulgent, but I’m not listening to that noise because this is what works. Then I have all day to get the things that would otherwise distract me, things like blogging and reading and playing on the internet and watching TV and doing housework and running errands, out of the way before I sit down to work.

And I said I start working at 3, but that’s for VA stuff. I’ve actually been sitting down no later than 2 each day (and earlier if I don’t have much else going on) to work on novel revisions. Those are going well, but talking about them will fill out an entire other post.

Which is all to say that I’ve been reading and getting a lot out of Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Freelance Survival Guide, which is as effective as it is free, and is still evolving based on reader feedback, and I recommend it for any kind of work you have to do under your own supervision, whether paid or not. She has a whole section on discipline, which she presents not as making yourself do work you don’t want to do so much as tricking your brain into wanting to do the work. That’s what my schedule overhaul is mainly about, and so far it has worked wonders. I’m going to keep reading and see what other epiphanies come of it. I’ve got time–I don’t have to be at work for another two hours.