5.13.2013

Sorry, We're Closed...

It's easy for life to get out of control. Sometimes, we don't even realize we're spinning until right before we hit the rocks.  Let's face it, if you don't prioritize, there will always be something else to fill the time. 

Restaurant's "Sorry we're Closed" sign
Image Credit

I recently recognized that I've gotten slack on setting boundaries. This is a new experience for me, and one that has come about as a result of being a self-employed contractor.

As the opportunities for work increased, I found myself staring at a computer screen while Peter prepared dinner. I felt guilty if I took time to read or "close up shop" early. I stopped blogging. Why write for myself when I could write for someone else and get paid for it?

It's my own fault. I blame no one but me. I said yes to every request. I volunteered to help. I focused on what the paychecks could help us pay off. I was excited and stimulated by doing work that used my skills.

And then one day, I realized I had said "yes" one too many times. I was, in essence, writing a check I wasn't sure I wanted to cash. I still love my work, and I love the opportunities that I have said yes to, but in a flash, I understood that life was about finding a balance. As a client wisely advised...

Work is just a part of our larger lives.

Fortunately, this moment of clarity hit me long before I saw the rocks, and here's what I've discovered:

  • Working from home has it's downsides. There's no set end time for work. And there's always something more that needs to could be done. 
  • If I don't set limits and perimeters, someone (or something) else will. If I say yes to every job opportunity, I will soon lose the flexibility that comes from being self-employed and working from home.
  • If I don't make time for the things I enjoy doing - be it blogging or reading or hanging with the hubby - I won't find that time. Time is a precious commodity, and I want to use it wisely.
  • My work is better, my attitude is better, and my day is better if I make room in the schedule for "fun" breaks. Read a chapter in a book. Say yes to impromptu lunch dates. Watch a British TV show.
  • Work will always be there - but loved ones will not. Spending time with family, unplugging when my husband is home, making sure my focus is on what matters for eternity - those are my top priorities.
There are, of course, times when the unexpected happens and it's all hands on deck - and I'm happy to help. But in order to be ready for the emergencies, I'm learning to set boundaries when all is going as planned.

And so, earlier this month, I said NO. I turned down opportunities for additional work, and I felt relief. I realized that there can be an end to the work day - as a contractor, it ends when I stop saying "yes." By saying no, I believe my standards go up, my work improves, and I'm ready to take on new challenges - just fewer of them.

Do you work for yourself? How have you set boundaries?
Have you experienced the power of saying NO?

3 comments:

  1. Any time we transition to a new life "season" it's a good idea to re-configure our boundaries. Without that, it's easy to let things spin out of control and start to overwhelm!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I like this Carrie. I think you're on to a key secret to work/life balance that many many people struggle with whether they're in paid work in an office, working from home or volunteering. I find it myself in being a SAHM with 'no paid job' and being committed to my local church or committed to being a good friend. When people discover that you're someone who can be relied on to be there when they need help, they all come out of the woodwork and the amount of things we end up getting asked to do is limitless. I find it especially hard when it comes to church or wanting to reach out to friends but it doesn't always extend the other way. No is my hardest word to say!

    ReplyDelete
  3. "I feel…thin. Sort of stretched, like…butter scraped over too much bread." - Bilbo Baggins/J.R.R. Tolkien

    I know what you mean... I was dealing with the same thing a couple of years ago. It was such a relief to realize that just because I COULD do something didn't mean that I SHOULD do it. I'd much rather do a few things really well (i.e. the things God has called me to be doing) than a million things poorly.

    Have you read _Boundaries_, by Cloud & Townsend? It's really good - very helpful in sorting through the "guilt" associated with saying no to the things that aren't meant for you, which leaves you available for the things that are.

    Good post.

    ReplyDelete

There are more than 400,000 words in the English language. My only request of you is this: Use them wisely.

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