Two things happened to me last week. Well, lots of things happened to me last week, but two in particular made me think a little about the way my life is organised now. The first is that my car had to go into the garage. This was a very vexing thing on many levels, but mainly because my house is a forty-minute walk from the garage, with no direct buses. So, on the day I thought I would have to go and collect the car (but didn’t, grrr), I decided to go into the town centre, from where there was a direct bus, and work in the library. The library, I’m lucky enough to be able to say, is The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, and a very lovely place it is too.
I got loads done. I finished an online course I’d been wading through for weeks, I made myself a little marketing plan, and I even edited some of my own writing. I got so much more done than I would have done at home, and I was still feeling happy and productive when I finally got home (still without my car).
The other thing that happened was that I read this article on The Pool, about work/life integration being the new work/life balance, and how the author wasn’t a fan, thank you very much. I read it with interest. As those of us who run our own businesses from home know, work/life integration is not only largely unavoidable, for many of us, it’s one of the great perks. It certainly is for me. My husband, as a shift worker in the emergency services, has a very inflexible job, so it has always fallen to me to be the one who can be there for the school runs, the class assemblies, the visits from tradesmen. I was lucky enough to have an employer and a job that allowed me to do this, but even so, I love that now I can take a day off in the middle of the week just because my husband is off too, or spend just about every day of the holidays with my children. I can work on those lonely evenings when the kids are asleep and he’s at work, instead of sitting on the sofa with Netflix and wine (although I obviously still do that a lot too). I can respond to emails while my daughters run around the park, or put in some social networking time when I really don’t want to watch Moana again.
But having your work life and your home life so intertwined has its downsides too. I’m great at carving out time to edit – I plan out which hours I’m going to work, and everyone (usually) respects them – but when I’m between editing jobs, as I am right now, I’m less good at sitting down to do all that training, marketing and admin stuff that, apparently, won’t just do itself. When I have no deadline, I find myself sitting on the sofa for a little longer than is useful, or doing things like sorting out the box of random crap that lives on top of the piano (we have four pairs of nail clippers, if you’re interested), and the vaguely defined plan to “do some marketing” waits for another day.
I’ve also lost the distinction between Home-me and Work-me. Both drank too much tea and spent too much time shouting at their computer, but Work-me has always been a more focused, more driven and more productive person than Home-me. And while I can still call Work-me forth when I need to, there was something about that demarcation of time and space that automatically brought her out.
I have no desire to go back to the constant dashing between work and school gates, or to wearing proper shoes all the time. But there was something great about taking a break from these four walls and working somewhere else. Something that reminded me of the skills, focus and confidence I had in the workplace. I was Work-me again for the day, and I’d like to be her more often. So once a week, even when there’s no particular reason not to be at home, I’m going to put on a semi-presentable outfit, pack up my laptop, and go and work somewhere else. I’ll probably still wear my Skechers though. You can take things too far.