When I first went freelance, I essentially never took a break. I worked long, long hours every day, seven days a week. Holidays meant nothing to me. I was a working machine. The truth is that I was happy to do it. Coming from the world of publishing, I was used to working long hours, so it just felt good to be dedicating those hours to my own cause. And what an incredible position I was in to be able to do what I loved ... in my pajamas, to boot!
The pace only picked up when I went from freelance writing and editing to writing my own books a couple of years later. For years, it was go, go, go. I was either on the road interviewing and gathering information or writing until all hours. I would quite literally stay up all night writing, arriving at Starbucks as they opened to continue writing there.
After I finished my second book, I remember feeling very depleted and wondering why all I wanted to do was sleep. As I was discussing this lethargy with my friend M., I realized that it had literally been years since I'd had any time off. Of course I was experiencing a crash.
I started becoming more mindful about my work: getting in yoga in the middle of the day for a re-set and taking at least a day off every week. As the years have gone by, I've tried to pull myself more and more into a regular five-day workweek. When I do this, I'm more efficient and more present for my clients. Of course, this isn't always possible with the pressure of deadlines, but it's a good general rule to abide by.
Lately things have been busy (always a good problem to have), and I've been working with a lot of international clients, which means working late hours because of timezone differences. The other night, for the first time in several weeks, I had the opportunity to go to my favorite evening yoga class (my favorite time to do yoga) and meditation after. I was so relaxed that I decided not to check my email as I walked home around 9:45 that night. It was glorious.
I don't think it's a coincidence that I felt both physically and creatively rejuvenated the next day ... which better serves both me and my clients. So I'm getting back in the saddle with halting meetings at a normal-ish hour (for the most part), allowing myself to do the things that refresh me, whether that's meditation, yoga, or spending time with my husband and our farm of animals, and going on an electronic blackout between nighttime and morning.
This feels like an almost revolutionary, scary thing to admit in this day and age of constant connection. But the truth is, I think that we would all lead happier, more productive lives if we did this. If we gave ourselves the time to recharge and set aside time for those things that make us feel alive. And that, in turn, allows us to enjoy our work more and to be better at it.