I’m heading to the airport today to fly to my home state (California) to visit my parents. I make this trek at least three times a year. My Mom and Dad are both in their 80’s, still at home, and could use a hand with a few things these days. I go home and try to be Martha Stewart – leaving them with meals for at least a week after I go. I visit my sister and a few friends. I even have a client that I work in each trip (write-off).
I must admit, I feel stress prior to any vacation, family time, or any day off in general. After all, I have commitments, a to-list that won’t quit, and a one-person operation that stops when I’m gone. It’s also hard for me to break from work during these visits. I am getting better at it, but I will still drive “to town” tomorrow morning and hit a Starbucks to check emails. My parents don’t have internet and because I’m on AT&T (city cell) and my parents live in Verizon country, I don’t have strong enough service to hotspot on.
Here are things I do to remind myself that work is not #1 all the time:
- My to-do list is never-ending – Just because I’m missing a day and a half of work doesn’t mean my list is going to explode in size. It’s there all the time!
- 99% of clients can wait until next week – Unless it’s a dire emergency, things can wait until next week
- Clients understand family comes first and if they don’t, that’s their problem.
Here are things I do to let my clients know I need family time:
- I let clients with active projects know I’m leaving to visit my parents and that I’m not readily available there
- I let the phone ring, listen to messages, and call back while I’m at my parents – this way I shorten the callback because I know something about their reason for calling
- I put an autoresponder on my email that I’m out of the office
- I usually don’t change my voicemail message – mostly because I’m terrible at changing it back
- I work the weekend before I’m heading out of town so I feel like I covered my days off
For any freelancing, self-employed web designer, taking time off when you are busy is hard to do for any reason. I remind myself that none of us is going to live forever. At the end of the day, it’s not the deadlines we meet that are going to be what we are most proud of in life. It’s the people we loved, those we cared for, and those that cared for us that are the most important, valued, and treasured things in our lives.