How good are you at listening to your own body and rhythm? Society likes to tell us what to do and how to do it. It can be hard to go against that sometimes.

How to listen to your body and create better boundaries

When I had a full-time job and did photography on the side (I did that for 9 years actually), I used to work past midnight almost daily. That meant I pretty much worked non-stop. Not healthy! But because I loved both my jobs, I didn’t mind.

It kind of happened that way because I fell into photography as a profession – like many other photographers. In 2010 I registered my photography business in order to make it legal to ask for money when I was commissioned to photograph weddings and families. Anything I did with my camera outside my full-time employment, had to be fitted into my life after a 40+hour work week. That would be evenings, sometimes nights and a lot of weekends. It had never been a plan to make this a full-time gig.

 

Fast forward to 2019, that’s exactly what happened. In August 2019 I quit my full-time job as a Senior Video Producer.

Suddenly I had all day to work on my own business. I wasn’t confined to weekends and nights anymore. With society telling us that we should work 9-5(ish), working way outside those hours always felt a bit like I was doing it wrong. So I tried to create a “healthy” working schedule.

Spoiler alert: That never really worked.

I’m a night owl, my mornings are not the most productive time of the day. Still, I tried to be at my computer by 10am and finish around 6 or 7pm. Only to return late in the evening to do a bit more creative stuff.

You can see how moving from two jobs to one didn’t actually change the amount of time I spent working. Most of my daytime wasn’t very productive though.

When I’m not on a shoot, I work from home. With no one to hold me accountable for what I get done, I get distracted easily. There’s always something to do at home, social networks and whatsapp are pinging me constantly and having the sea in front of my window keeps me wanting to go for a paddle or a swim.

However, these distractions calm down after sunset. I can’t see out the window, my facebook groups are asleep and it’s not practical to start a load of washing (cause neighbours!). Plus, working late means I have all day to do fun things like meet up with friends, spend an afternoon at a car auction (we need a new car! :D) or just catch up on my YouTube subscriptions.

I learned to accept the fact that I don’t perform well in the morning but get productive and creative way past midday. Recently I changed my calendar that clients can book in for a free call, to not show any time slots before 12pm. Obviously, there’s the odd exception. It felt scary yet so empowering to decide to set these boundaries for myself.

Now, some days I don’t start any work until 2pm. To be honest, occasionally it’s still hard to allow myself to do that because I always feel like I’m seen as lazy for not working in the mornings.

 

Over the past week, I fully embraced my old working pattern of tending to my client work late in the evening. I enjoyed the sunshine and running errands during daytime and started editing photos and videos at 7pm. That way I got through a big chunk of work that had accumulated over the past weeks when I was injured and unable to work.

I worked until 2.30am one night and I loved it.

I went to bed with my mind buzzing, feeling accomplished and excited to repeat that the next day.

 

I might not work that late every day but I’ve come to terms that, especially during summer, nights suit me best to get work done. That means clients might get an email at 11pm. So what?!

Can you hear the uproar? “This is unprofessional”. “Your clients will think that you have no boundaries and that they can contact you any time of day”.

Yes, that could happen. But it could also be that they won’t even notice the time stamp. And unless they’re working late at night, they won’t message me back at that time.

It’s absolutely my choice to reply to a message sent outside of other people’s office hours.

 

So here’s to setting boundaries, embracing how my brain likes to perform and allowing myself to work when it suits me and ignoring the worry of seeming lazy because I don’t conform to “normal working hours”.

Other people start working at 4.30am and send an email at that time. How come nobody calls that “unprofessional”? Right, because getting up early means you’re busy and a hard worker. I disagree. It just means 4.30am is a good time for an early riser to get work done so they can take their kids to school at 8am or finish their workday at lunch.

 

If you have the opportunity to really listen to your body and work with that in mind, I encourage you to do that. Don’t worry about what “others” or “the society” tell you about the correct time and length of your work day.

Start work at 5am and work for 2 hours if that’s what your body and business need to thrive. Or start work after sunset and work until 4am if that’s easier for you.

Who’s to say you’re doing it wrong if you get your work done and serve your clients well?

I feel like we can’t hear these things often enough. Society is telling us how to do things and we’re conditioned to believe them so breaking out of that, can be hard.

Whatever business you run, however you like to work and whatever works for your lifestyle… remember that being your own boss – while it can create a lot of pressure, it also gives you a lot of freedom. So be sure to make use of that!

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