Down Time: A Vital Investment in Your Long-Term Success

time-dudeAs self-employed writers, it’s easy to feel as though we should always be working. After all, relatively few of us are so fortunate as to have enough regular, ongoing gigs to keep us gainfully employed full-time. We know that once our current project is finished, we’re going to have to immediately bid on the next one. We feel the constant pressure to send another pitch to an editor, write our next query letter, update our portfolios. As a result, we can easily find ourselves working seven days a week.

The problem with this scenario, of course, is that it almost guarantees burnout in very short order.

Without deliberately scheduled down time, no artist or craftsman can continue doing his/her best work for long. The quality of that work is almost sure to suffer after too many seven-day work weeks go by. That’s why it’s essential to apply the same self-discipline we bring to our work to the maintenance of regularly-scheduled time away from that work. And of course, this applies not only to writers, but to freelancers of all kinds: photographers, graphic artists, and so on.

I’ve found it useful to schedule one “unplugged day” per week. Since nearly all my work is found, written, and published online, I’ve learned that a weekly, self-imposed sabbatical from the ‘net is one of the best investments I can make in my long-term success. When multiple deadlines loom, it’s often difficult to observe–indeed, it may occasionally prove impossible. But I find that, in the weeks when I do manage to pull it off, the quality of my writing increases noticeably.

I find it helpful to engage in other creative pursuits in my time off: photography, music, yoga and meditation. Sometimes, though, the best thing is to simply “veg out” in front of the TV, go for long walks, or go out for dinner and a movie. These times of rest and relaxation really do pay off; I highly recommend them to my fellow freelancers of all stripes. The work will still be there when you come back to it (I promise!), and you’ll be refreshed and renewed, ready to do your best work. If you’re anything like me, after some time away you might be surprised by how quickly you are able to finish your assignments to your satisfaction–and, more importantly, to that of your clients.

Best regards,

William K. Ferro

0 thoughts on “Down Time: A Vital Investment in Your Long-Term Success”

  1. Thank you William. Down time is exactly what I know I need right now, but have been denying myself by thinking “I just need to finish x first…”. Your advice to actually schedule down time into the diary is golden! Thanks again, J

  2. Oh man, reading this I could already feel the stress building up inside me trying to figure out which day I should take as my “unplugged” day. Should it be a day when I’m at my 9 to 5 job? But I’m already working, so why shouldn’t I utilize my down time at work to get my outside work done. Should it be a weekend day? Are you kidding? Do you realize how many hours there are and how much work I could get done?!?
    Previously, if I took a night to watch a movie, I’d consider that enough. I can’t think of the last time I took an entire day unplugged.
    Thanks for this article. I’m actually going to spend some time figuring out when to not spend time thinking about writing/commenting/designing/networking.

  3. Hey Mike,

    Maybe you should start with half a day– especially if the very thought stresses you out! I like your idea of beginning by watching a movie; doing so in a theater would be best, since you’re supposed to turn off any electronic devices there. A friend of mine also suggested going to dinner and having everyone stack their phones in the center of the table, agreeing that whoever reached for their phone first had to pick up the tip. 😉 Whatever works!

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