The problem with being a student/blogger is that I have no set hours, especially now lectures are over for the year and I’m getting ready to hunker down for dissertation season. I have no reason to get up early, no reason to get an early night, no reason to even really leave my room most of the time – if it wasn’t for the kettle being downstairs I think I’d basically be a straight up hermit by now.
It sounds ideal, doesn’t it? No commute to work and no being at your desk for 9am and every day is a weekend. It’s the 9-5er’s dream. The summer holidays every single day, forever.
Except, let me tell you a secret. It’s horrible. Really bloody horrible.
Sure I can wake up at 9:30am on a Tuesday, and sure I can stay in my PJs all day – but to be honest all I want is a bit of routine. I want to go somewhere different to work and then be able to switch off in the evening. I want a weekend that feels like a weekend, and not just another day.
When you’re out of that 9-5 life, every day is both a weekend and a weekday. I’ve definitely been known to go a week without actually being sure what day it is. I honestly couldn’t tell you the difference between a Wednesday and a Sunday.
I’m always working OR I’m always not working. I write essays late into the night, and take three days here and there to do nothing but feel guilty about not working at all. I wake up every day at 8am and either don’t stop until I’m falling asleep at my desk, or lie in bed all day catching up on emails or blog posts or whatever. There’s no motivation and no routine. I can never just stop, leave my work at the office, and go do something nice.
If I’m not working on an essay, I’m working on my blog or on some admin stuff or whatever.
Something I’ve notice a lot of is all my freelance pals constantly feeling guilty for not working – for taking the bank holiday off or for going on holiday without your laptop. When you set your own working hours, it can be hard to clock out when you’ve clocked in. My brain is always on, always thinking of what I should be doing instead of whatever I’m doing. The guilt of taking time off is sometimes overwhelming.
There are a few things, in light of this guilt, that have helped a gal out.
One of those is trying to force myself to the library to work. When you work from home it can be super easy to get distracted by other stuff that needs to be done. I suddenly need to hoover my room or wash my hair or turn my mattress or whatever. Something more important always comes up. If I’m in the library, all I can really do is get some work done. It doesn’t even have to be the library, to be honest. A coffee shop or bar with wifi will work just fine. As long as I’m not working from my bed, we’re all good in the hood.
I’ve also been trying to work to some kind of schedule. I have no blinds in my attic room (I know!! Where does my rent even go??) so I wake up with the sun at 5:30am and then spend the next three hours in and out of an annoyed sleep until I can’t take it anymore and get up. The builders over the road start drilling shit at around 8am so it tends to be around then. It’s not an ideal form of waking up but it works so I’ll take it. I get up, have my breakfast with some TV, and then set to work until lunch. I break for lunch and then work again until dinner. After dinner, I’m done. Unless something is super urgent (hello deadlines!) I’ll refuse to work after dinner. It’s not quite a 9-5, and sometimes it works out at more like 10-8, but it gives me some structure and makes my time away from my desk all the better.
Finally, something that has been helping a gal out a lot is having a friend to do it all with. I won’t make it to the library if it’s just me trekking there early in the morning to spend a wonderful day alone surrounded by sadness. If I know I’m meeting a friend there, and that I’ll have someone to sit with on my breaks, then the whole thing becomes infinitely more enticing. If I’ve set a plan or an appointment or whatever, you can guarantee that I’ll be there – rain or shine. Promises to myself? Not so much.
Realistically, the best way to go about working outside that 9-5 is just getting on with it. The harder you work, the quicker the work gets done, and the more free time you have to ignore and keeping working through anyway.
Working for yourself, whether its as a student or as a freelancer, is always going to be hard. You’re always going to need to find motivation outside the fact that you have to be there. There has to be something that gets you up in the morning and to the library, especially on days where you just don’t want to do anything. It’s a bit like going to the gym really, except you’re always at the gym and the issue is forcing yourself to go home. Wild.
The trick is just to find balance. Isn’t that the trick with everything? x