FIVE WAYS I SET MYSELF UP FOR VACATION SUCCESS AS A FREELANCER

The Yellow Co. Blog: Spread good and bloomOkay Freelancers/Odd Jobbers/Strange Hour-type of workers…this one’s for you…

When not working for Yellow Co., I have a few side freelance projects-my husband is also a full time worship pastor-so, combined, our work schedules are “non-traditional,” to say the least. Freelancing gives me the flexibility to do my work out of office on odd days and hours, and my husband’s job requires that we seek out rest and recuperation on days other than Saturday and Sunday.

So…welcome Monday-Wednesday vacation for us! Just to be clear, this doesn’t happen every week-but it surrrree did this week.

And it was awesome. We hung out kid-free, laid out by the pool, got some great coffee, ate some even better food, and slept to our heart’s content (just to be clear…this never happens. Like…ever for us; and we are about to have baby number 5 join the world, so we saw it necessary as heck to get this time to recoup, regroup, and recover from a lot of sleepless nights and just an all around crazy season).

But, it took some hard work to get to the point of being able to check into the hotel and take a deep breath, and give myself permission to nap.

But it’s not impossible to catch a break when you have a creative-centric career! Here’s how I did it:

  1. I worked my tail off the two weeks leading up to the trip.There were a lot of late nights and early-early-early mornings (like, I mean earrrly). I have four kids, one of them is under two, so early for us is…like…before the sun comes up. But this was the only time where I could truly focus on the tasks at hand, interruption free, and knew I was making tactile chips away at what I absolutely needed to accomplish before heading out on vacation. Sometimes, it looked like doing more busy work (answering emails, formatting and designing images for posts, things that don’t take a ton of brain power but are total time suckers) from about 9pm-1am, then waking up between 4am to work until 11am to do my more creative work that takes process and thought-like editing posts, reading through submissions, etc. My creative mind is at it’s absolute best in the morning, so I always reserve this kind of work for my first cup up coffee.
  2. I made a list of what absolutely needed to be done.
    I use the Eisenhower Matrix concept every week to really help me map out the urgency of any and all of my tasks for the week. When I map all my tasks out, using this tool really helps me articulate and visualize what needs to absolutely be donevs. what really can wait. So, a week before we left for vacation I made a list of the absolutes: schedule posts for the week, edit all posts for series, email team regarding future team meetings, edit leader onboard manual…you get the idea. These were the things that had inflexible deadlines while I was away, the things I didn’t want eating away at me while I was laying out by the pool, or just weekly responsibilities that rested solely on me. Since this was our last getaway for who knows how long (because…five kids…) I really wanted to have a completely free mind and heart to be fully present and not feel tied to any work projects. I completed everything on my “URGENT/IMPORTANT” and “URGENT/NOT IMPORTANT” lists before we left Monday morning, which was hard and took sacrifice of sleep and time, but was well worth it in the end. This is where you need to ask yourself, (1) what rests solely on your shoulders, (2) and what do you really not want to think about while you’re away-be honest with yourself!k14
  3. Two days before leaving, I refused to add anything to my “Must Do” list, and let clients and the Yellow Co. team know I was prepping for departure, and prepped my mind for vacation.
    I emailed my team and set up my aut0-response two days before leaving for vacation, because, the reality is, in the creative industry, there’s never really a lack of urgency or amount of things needing to be completed. I wanted my last two days prior to leaving to be a time where I ease myself into vacation mode. I can’t go from full on hustling to rest in an hour-it takes a little bit of time to get there. So I started two days before by setting up auto-response, letting my team know I would be unavailable, and scheduling any last minute important meetings for Thursday-Sunday. As my productivity was starting to decline, and as I noticed my fuel was dropping low, I took advantage of the work-time I had left to give myself fully present to clients, the Yellow Co. team, and, most importantly, my kids (because, even though they wake me up too early, I was still going to miss them like crazy!). And then, I let go. I let whatever didn’t get done outside of my “URGENT/IMPORTANT” or “Must Do” list go, and accepted the fact that those things would be there come Thursday, when we got back from our vacation. Now, an important thing to note here is that this ONLY applied to those things off the must-do list. Anything ON that list was non-negotiable, even if that meant working at 4am on Monday, prior to jumping in our getaway car.
  4. I gave myself permission to work a little on our ‘cation.
    Mainly because we have so many kids, I knew that coming back to the reality of creative working-mom life was going to be overwhelming. I didn’t want to see my kids for the first time in three days and have the cloud of “crap…I have so many emails waiting for me” hanging over my head. So, my sweet husband and I went to a coffee shop, he brought his books, and I brought my laptop, and I did the kind of work that’s not stress inducing and more task oriented for a little over an hour, then we went off and enjoyed the rest of our day without a thought about emails or post edits. Give yourself permission to do you-this is where it’s important to know yourself. I genuinely love my job, and I love doing my work in “foreign” to me places, so there is a relaxing and romantic element to finding a beautiful coffee shop away from home and whipping out my laptop to blast out a post (confession: I am currently writing this post on our vacay and planning to edit it when we get home!) and clear out that inbox with zero obligation to any other responsibilities. How often do you really get to work on emails without thinking about anything else, all the while looking at the beautiful LA Hills skyline (thanks LINE LA!)?!k13
  5. SHAKE IT OFF AND HAVE A BLAST
    Work will be there when you get back…I promise. Let yourself go, and pat yourself on the back for the hours of vacation prep you accomplished. And when you get to where you’re going, you will feel a sense of “I earned this!” and be able to throw your shoes off with no qualms and jump on the bed with zero reservations. You made it!Everyone is different in how they balance work and relaxation. Some people are night owl workers, pressure workers, and like to bust everything out in a twelve hour hustle-stint…Others need the slow and steady enter into rest. This is where it’s necessary to ask yourself, how do I set myself up for a successful rest? It takes sacrifice, time, and planning to do it well-don’t be fooled-rest isn’t natural for everyone, and we need to free up our minds and plates before we can fully receive the gift of ‘cation mode. Receive it girl, you earned it.Photos by Kimberly Jurgens
    sally kim for the yellow co. blog

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  • Kayla Illies

    Great read! Thank you SO much for sharing! My family is doing a family vacation in Colorado soon so I’m trying to prepare for it now and work ahead so I can try to avoid the late nights!

  • Great tips! I struggled to take a successfully take a vacation for so long. Then, this year, I decided to block out weeks where I would take vacations, and I set concrete client schedules so that no work would occur during that time. It’s been a huge life saver, and I was finally able to take a relaxing-no work vacation.