Self-Employed Burn-Out?

I’m guessing I’m not the only self-employed person who finds it challenging to manage the work / life balance? Many of us these days have more than one source of employment. Whether it’s working for an employer whilst setting up your own business or juggling more than one part time job. Plus we need to factor in our commitments running a household, caring for family members. I thought I’d share some of my experiences and ideas for keeping sane!

Blurred lines between work & non work hours?

Particularly if you work at home, it’s easy to fall into the trap of scheduling too many non work appointments during the working day, such as doctors, dentists, haircuts etc. I find it’s then the slippery slope to spending even more time while I’m out doing other errands such as post office, pet shop, food shopping etc then before you know it, a whole afternoon has gone.

I found this works…

Scheduling in my diary just one regular slot in the week for errands, which is more realistic than trying not to do any in work hours at all.

The right kind of busy?

A former boss of mine used to ask “are you the RIGHT KIND of busy”? I suppose there’s the kind of busy where you’re running round like a headless chicken, frantically multi-tasking without much time to monitor if you’re being productive. Then there’s a more organised, diligent type of busy where you may be working all the hours but you’re focussed and satisfied you’re completing your priority tasks. If you have several clients and especially if you offer different types of services, it can often feel like you’re being the first kind of busy ie. trying to keep all the spinning plates in the air! I did empathise the other day when a friend described herself as “chronically self employed”. It can feel like that sometimes!

I found this works:

Book yourself a diary slot to manage and prioritise your task lists then write key tasks in your diary on days when you can realistically achieve them. I usually only schedule a small number of tasks to allow for the fact that unforeseen things will need addressing as well. Try and complete one task before starting another and allow yourself rewards to maintain focus.

Not Taking Proper Breaks or Holidays

Although it seems a good idea to push yourself and keep going if you have a deadline or work pressures, it ends up taking it’s toll on your wellbeing and ultimate work performance, so it’s important to take breaks. We all know this but it’s often a job to put it into practice.

I found this works…

Set an alarm on the other side of the room so you physically have to leave your computer. Then you can stretch, go outside etc. For the more spiritual among you, taking a few moments throughout the day to close your eyes and take 5 or 6 long, slow, relaxing deep breaths in and out, will help keep you grounded. Even if you don’t count yourself as “spiritual”, this is a great way to prevent the build up of stress. It’s well known that we commonly don’t breathe properly or blink enough when concentrating for long periods at the computer.

Self-employed people often fear that the world will end (or their business) if they go away and leave it. The reality is that if we constantly neglect our need for downtime then it might be us that comes to a sticky end! It’s good to remember that life’s not all about work! Often a change of scenery and some r&r really puts the wind back in your sails and can give you a more helpful perspective on work matters by being away from them.

How do you keep from over-working?

NOT Getting Distracted From Work!

Displacement activity – you know, when you’ve got lots of work tasks to do but you find yourself doing anything but! It can be so easy to find distractions, particularly those of us who work from home.

Here’s a few of my favourites (I’m sure you’ve got your own)
1. Getting lost with friends I didn’t even know I had, in Facebook-land
2. Looking for something to eat in the fridge
3. Suddenly finding renewed enthusiasm for chores that should have been done at the weekend.

So what is the key to keeping focussed on your work? Here’s a few ideas:

1. A dedicated place to work
If you have a separate room for your office / workspace – great! If you don’t then try and create a tidy space with a table and comfortable chair, ideally in a place where you won’t be disturbed by the comings and goings or chores in the house. Sometimes when it gets a bit much at my kitchen table or when I know I have to focus on writing a document, I get out of the house and take my laptop to the library – ahh peace! It may help you to make your work space visually creative and stimulating. Perhaps an inspiring landscape or some humorous or motivational quotes.

2. A bit of physical activity (note to self – not just to walk to the fridge)
This is really good if you work at the computer because minutes can turn into hours before you know it. A few times in the morning and afternoon, stand up, give your body a shake and do a couple of really simple stretches like reaching up tall and then slowly bending forward. Take some nice long deep breaths. If possible go outside and breathe some fresh air. Excuse me while I take my advice… (Ahhh back now after a minute of lovely winter sunshine.)

3. Work with your body clock
When I went on a time management course, we were asked to share with the group the times of day when we each felt most energised and productive. I was surprised at how different we all were. Particularly the lady who said she does all her hoovering at 5am. (her poor neighbours!). Figure out when your best times are. Hopefully at least one of your energy bursts will be during office hours. Try scheduling your most challenging tasks at this time, eg the ones that often get put off.

You could experiment with scheduling some of your tasks outside office hours if you find yourself seriously productive at those times. Beware you don’t upset your work life balance though. If for example you do an extra hour or two late in the evening, then make sure you take the time back for yourself for example by taking a longer lunch or starting later in the morning.

4. Minimise distractions
Sounds obvious and deceptively simple but we can all do a couple of easy things right now.
i) turn off your pop up email notifications and reduce the number of times you check your emails
ii) close social media pages (if you’re addicted then allow yourself time at lunchtime)
iii) switch your phones off unless you need to make or receive important calls
iv) tell your family when you need not to be disturbed.

5. Manage your To Do list
Review and amend it at the start of the day
Have it visible

Try this: prioritise tasks according to whether they are:
Urgent (mark with a U) or
Important (make with and I).

Start with the UIs
Then the Us
Why not asterisk any tasks that are daunting and schedule them at your energised time?

Maybe pick just one of the above and see how you go. Good luck to us all! Let’s feed back how we get on. More soon on keeping motivated. In the meantime, here’s a website with daily inspiration: http://www.greatday.com/

Fear Of Invoicing??

If you’re self employed as I am, you’ll need to invoice your clients before you get paid. I thought I’d share with you what I know about how to invoice in a professional, compliant way.

Yes, an invoice has to comply with legal requirements in the UK. If you’re reading this in  a different country then, do check with your local tax office who will be able to tell you or have information on their website.

If you are VAT registered, you may need to include additional information. Details can be found here: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/vat/managing/charging/vat-invoices.htm This list relates to the basic information that sole traders need to include:

1. The name and address of your business

2. The name, address (and contact name) of the company you are invoicing

3. A unique invoice reference / number for this invoice.

4. The date the invoice is raised.

5. Details of the products or services that you have provided. Usually arranged on separate lines with a cost breakdown for each.

6. The invoice total.

7. Terms for payment(30 days etc)

As well as helping to legally & efficiently keep a record of what money is owed to your business by whom, your invoice is also an opportunity to help promote your business. You can include your logo, your brand colours, taglines and fonts to reinforce the identity of your company.

Voila! There it is. You’re welcome :-)

Jodie Foster’s Speech

Just surfing and watching a video from Hollywood’s Golden Globes ceremony and my eye is caught by another “item” on screen. JODIE FOSTER “COMES OUT” AT GOLDEN GLOBES.

Ooh, that’ll be interesting I thought and watched the video.  She looked amazing. She pretended she was nervous about making a declaration about being gay, then made a different joke but held the audience in wonder (just look at Mel Gibson’s chin on the floor and how many actresses with their hands over their shocked mouths) as she spoke from the heart, with humour and eloquence about her life, her loves and celebrity. It was an incredibly well written, well delivered and dignified speech. Most unlike anything I’ve seen at an awards ceremony. I watched it again straight away because I hadn’t quite taken it in.

There must be quite a buzz about this on Twitter I thought and headed over there. I was disappointed reading articles by 2 different Guardian journalists. One was saying that Jodie, like all other gay A-listers had a reponsibility to talk publicly about being gay and this was a duty that she had shamefully shirked until now. Shame on you Jodie. Or words to that effect. The other journalist said that her speech was manipulative because it created a media story out of a “non-story” because everybody already knew she was gay. This journalist accused her of publicity-seeking because she is now a 50-something aged actress and her career is in need of a boost. Ouch!

I agree that the coming out “story” is a non story and the salaciousness of it was certainly what made me take notice. But eh? The most news-worthy part of her speech for me was that she appeared to be saying that she was retiring and going on to find a more fulfilling existence – to tell different kinds of “stories” and “be understood” and “not so lonely”. That was made it unique and mesmerising for me. But I suppose that the more gentle narrative of a spiritual journey doesn’t sell papers. You go Jodie.

Here’s her speech - see what you think

To Kennel Or Not To Kennel

We’ve owned rescue animals over the years  and currently have a rescue dog. Anyone that’s done similar will know that these animals often spend long periods in animal shelters in kennels or other confined spaces before they are adopted and taken to their “forever home”.

When we had our 2 rescue cats we always said we would never put them in a cattery if we went away because it would be too stressful for them. Animals don’t think the same way as humans. When you take them to the kennel or cattery, they have no way of knowing that you’re coming back in a week to pick them up and take them back to their lovely home. As far as they know, they’re being seperated from the pack and left in a place full of threatening barking and strange smells. And that’s it. For good.

I’ve been accused before now of projecting human feelings onto animals and that “it’s only a dog / cat / etc – they won’t mind” but I can only go with my gut instinct on these things and I’ve always felt it would be cruel to do that to an animal with an unhappy history.

So what to do if we want to go away? Now we have a rescue dog, it’s a little more difficult to arrange for friends or family to look after her because it’s so much more hands on than with cats. One option is only to go away places where the dog can come too. We’ve taken animals on holiday in the Uk a few times including our two cats! Quite often if we’re visiting friends or family one of us just stays at home to dog sit. But what if we want to go abroad? I’m thinking at some point we’ll want to do that, so have started looking around for alternatives and found a website that matches up people who want to animal sit, with people who are going away. Looks like a neat solution if you don’t mind a stranger staying in your house? How would you feel about that? What do you usually do with your animals when you go away?

 

I Should Be So Lucky!

I’m just pondering where I stand on the issue of luck…

A black cat lives up in our village and sometimes he saunters across the lane vaguely in front of us. This makes me feel very good, I point it out with glee and enjoy the “little ray of sunshine” moments when they occur.

One of the fields next to the house was full of clover back in the late summer. On our evening dog walks, we got into the habit of looking for the elusive 4-leaf type. A family friend has a good track record of finding them and had given one to my daughter. We joked about who was the most competitive as both I and my daughter managed to find one within a few days of eachother. Then my husband trumped us both with a FIVE LEAFER!! Much excitement, coo-ing and updating of facebook statuses. It’s in the flower press as eternal proof.

I do enjoy a lucky omen. A little luck  and magic can bring light to a dull day and cheer you up no end. Doesn’t matter so much if the actual piece of good fortune never arrives, it’s uplifting just to imagine the possibilities…

But I definitely don’t believe that we’re all powerless, subject to “destiny” or forces beyond our control  (except the banks, the higher world order… but that’s another post!). I think we all make a pretty good contribution to our own good or bad fortunes. People that say they have bad luck all the time – are they right or just not ready to take responsibility for their lives? Sure, there’s some things that are outside of our control but I’m a great believer in making your own happiness. Having said that, sometimes it’s so much easier to blame someone else!

 

Take today. I knew I was parking on a single yellow line. I’ve had a parking ticket on that street before. I took the decision to park there. Later, I saw the traffic warden walking towards that street. I didn’t run to move my car, I sort of walked a bit quicker. So would it have been bad luck if I’d walked round the corner to find him booking me? I would have gone purple faced and raged to anyone that would listen about my bad luck while truthfully being annoyed with my self for making foolish decisions. As it turned out he let me away with it! Now a rationalist might explain that by saying that there’s every probability some traffic wardens are more lenient than others and will not book 100% of cars illegally parked. To me it felt like a one in a million stroke of luck and I’m still grinning :-)

Should Women Be Allowed To Be Bishops’ Mums?

Seems a stupid question, right? Sadly it’s not that ridiculous.

What a shame that the Church of England voted not to have women bishops this week. Not a surprise I suppose but still it is deeply disappointing. I’m not religious but my best friend from school was ordained as a priest this year so I have an added interest in the story. What strikes me (apart from the fear of those voting against -what are they so scared of?) is the lack of respect for the great work women are doing in the Ministry. Where does this vote leave my friend and all the other women not only working in the church but involved in the church at all? How can this go on in this day and age?

I’m wracking my brains to understand the logic of those voting against. I think they felt the legislation didn’t provide for those who wanted the right not to be governed by a woman bishop. The logic being that we should respect the wishes and rights of everyone, yes? Well yes, ahem except the wishes & rights of women. Opposers not only wanted the right to be governed by a male stand-in bishop (which the legislation allowed for) but they wanted the male stand-in to be one that was also opposed to women bishops. It sounds like something out of a Monty Python sketch. And it is all rather, well… unchristian. But don’t let that stop you. As long as you’re in control.

Thanks to @tomOdaighre for the title of this post c/o Twitter. Another excellent tweet on the matter came from @thewritertype - “Look, it’s quite clear in the bible what Jesus says about bishops. Absolutely nothing.”