Week 2: I’M STRESS FREE!
Okay, maybe not stress free, but, boy, do I feel a lot less stress. A lot.
I mentioned this a bit last week, and as I’ve thought about it, I wanted to expound upon it a bit more.
The main areas I feel less stress in are all to do with demand — demand on my time, mental resources, and emotional capacity.
This is probably the most obvious one. When I worked my old job, I was locked in 8a-5p every weekday. I could flex a little bit in that timeframe, say, if I wanted to move my lunch break to run an errand, start a little earlier, etc. Even in that flex, the demand was at least 40 hours every week.
Sure, I could’ve worked a few hours on a weekend to make it up leaving early, but I was supervising a group of technicians who needed answers from 8a-5p. I couldn’t effectively do my job after hours unless it involved no human interaction, which wasn’t often.
This demand on my time made me feel stressed, even when I was working from home. When working from home, I didn’t feel like I could go play with my kids or talk with my wife for a few minutes because I was locked into the clock.
Now, as a free agent, I set my own hours. I do some hourly-based contract work, so I still need to hit an hourly mark per week, but as long as I hit that, it doesn’t matter when I work. I like that.
Case in point is yesterday. At 9am, my wife calls me and says we need to run to the clinic because my son got hurt. I ran home, got my wife and kids in the car, and drove off to the clinic. Thankfully, it turns out my son’s injury wasn’t all that bad.
While my wife and son were in the clinic, my daughter was napping in her car seat in the car. So, as any good freelancer would do, I pulled my laptop out (sitting in the driver’s seat, mind you) and continued to do some work while I waited.
While I had flexibility like that at my old job, the responsibility on my time was to someone else, not to myself, which added stress. Now that I’m responsible for my own time, I feel empowered all the more to make sure I’m taking care of everything I need to in a given day, even if that means taking an hour or two away to deal with a family situation and stacking those hours on another day.
I made mention last week about how my work made me feel “always-on”, with a phone call, IM, or email always coming in the pipe needing to get dealt with in a short order.
Before getting into these effects, I want to take a moment aside here to address the productivity concept of shutting out these distractions to get work done.
You can’t do that when that is your work.
As a maker, sure. You can shut email and IM all day long and process it once. But as a manager of people, your job is to make sure their needs are met in addition to getting your work done.
It makes for a tricky situation. Thankfully, there are limits you can impose on yourself to help weed through the battle, but that’s for another post someday.
I did impose some limits on myself for checking email, answering calls, and responding to IMs. However, since most of my work came through these avenues, staying away from them was not all that easy. If you’ve ever tried to get work done during the day, and you have these inputs coming at you, I think you can probably relate to how draining it can be on you mentally.
I remember multiple instances where I went to OmniFocus, picked a task, started to work on it, and proceeded to get pulled in 5 different directions within 60 seconds. Finally, maybe 5 minutes later, I remembered what I originally set out to do and began again.
That kind of context shifting is exhausting, yet in some capacity, my previous work required it.
Going out on my own has been the most freeing experience in this regard. I only check email when I want to, and send IMs only when I need to. The mental capacity I now have can be fully devoted to creating things, something I had longed to do for years. Now it’s here, and it’s grand.
I’m an introvert, not all that shy, but being around people most definitely drains me. I’m no stranger to remote work, and my last job was the epitome of such — managing employees 100% remotely.
Remote work has its benefits as an introvert; however, it’s amazing in a ~1,5000 employee organization how much you have to interact with people you never see.
If you’ve ever been in leadership in a semi-large organization, you know the number one tool use to get work done: meetings. There were some of my days where meetings dominated my calendar. Since I was a remote worker, that meant phone call after phone call after phone call after phone call.
I remember one fellow manager quipping about how she would have a full schedule of meetings she could hardly think after 2pm.
A day full of meetings is a dreadful ordeal when you have lots of work piling up in your email inbox and IMs throughout the day. Thankfully I didn’t deal with that as much as others, but the regular cadence of meetings did consistently drain me. Combine this with having a couple extroverted family members and the desire to get as much time as I can with them, and you have a recipe for a drained introvert tank most days.
On my own, I get lots of introvert time! At the end of the day, I end up feeling like I’m ready to go spend some quality time with my family, which I highly value and hold as a big rock on my calendar.
Not all of my stress will go away as a free agent. Other stressors will get introduced over time. This early in the game, I’m feeling great, and I can’t believe I’m here doing what I’ve longed to do for so long.
I’m wondering if the glow will wear off at some point still. It hasn’t yet, and I don’t know for sure if it even will. This is a dream realized, and I hope not to forget that!