If you missed the memo, I recently took a trip to Thailand (it was amazing, check out my Instagram if you fancy). But while it was a purely indulgent holiday, I knew I wouldn't be able to make a complete break from work. I updated my social media, albeit far less often than usual without the pressure of a work environment driving me online all day, and I kept up with industry news and developments, again, less often but they were still on the periphery.
The most obvious difference here was the stress of work. Without any pressure to reply to emails, increase engagement or win new contracts, I eased into the original style of Instagram posts - documenting my day and posting in the moment. The seven-hour time difference meant that I uploaded new posts at times the algorithm and my usual schedule wouldn't reward, but a couple of continents away I found I didn't care. I was putting a small amount of content out that I was happy with, and I didn't feel any pressure for it to do well. The really interesting thing is that it did anyway! Maybe it was the bright blue skies breaking up feeds of grey ones, maybe my followers are big fans of Thailand, what I do know is that I'm not putting time into wondering why, I’m going with it. If it's possible to bring back a bit of spontaneity to Instagram, that's only a good thing.
The second thing I noticed was the biggest eye opener. Tuesdays are my most active work days when it comes to discovering new projects and going after potential leads, and one Tuesday during my trip turned out not to be any different. The difference was, I’d had my day and was browsing my social channels that evening, but everyone’s posts I was reading were there because they were still in the 9-5. In other words, I was allowed to do the usual discovery stuff I would at home, but at the time of day I always suspected I was much more productive. My inbox filled up in no time.
The biggest drawback to working evenings and unsociable hours is that others don’t, and when you need others to be online when you are for some aspects of work to work, late nights aren’t the one. But put yourself seven hours ahead and you have a win-win.
What I’ve learned here (aside from how moving to Asia would probably see me earn more contracts), is that learning how to work the hours I prefer could be really beneficial. I’ve lost count of how many days I’ve frustratingly wasted the morning, failing to get going, purely because my brain isn’t engaged. It’s just not me. Once, a university lecturer stopped a 9am seminar to ask if I was feeling ok because I’m evidently more of a night owl. It was a lovely way to learn I work so badly in a morning it makes me look physically ill.
What I need to do is really look at my workload and ask myself, ‘Which tasks need to be done in normal work hours, and what can you be flexible with?’. I know the more creative tasks will be most beneficially moved to the late shift. Any kind of copywriting and creative planning is likely to be much better quality and take less time if I do it post-9pm.
‘But what about your free time?’, people ask. When will you watch Netflix, relax in the bath, or just load the bloody dishwasher? Well, I’ll also do these things when they work best for me (usually before 11am). The only trouble here is convincing myself it’s OK to have my down time when others are at their desks, but where’s the trouble in that if I’m working while they’re binging boxsets? There’s a lot of guilt in working for yourself, and feeling as though you ought to be hard at work constantly just to prove you’re not slacking by opting out of the normal route of employment, but all that leads to is burnout. Balance is a much better goal – it just took me an entire holiday to believe it.