No Days Off
“No days off” has become a motto for the entrepreneurial community. People put it as their Instagram captions at the gym and it can be a point of pride for entrepreneurs and people who pride themselves on overworking, myself included. You see, when I started making my own schedule as a freelance photographer, my dream was to be able to take off all the time I ever wanted, without worrying about PTO or having to submit time off to my boss just to get it denied. That was the dream. To not have to feel the guilt of leaving my coworkers hanging to clean up my slack because I wanted to come back from Coachella on a Monday or take a month off to go to Europe. And that freedom was great at first. I had the luxury to drive down to LA on a Thursday instead of flying out Friday evening for a weekend trip away. And slowly but surely, that coveted time off started to change from, “Oh I can take any day off I want,” to “I can take off any day I want but I have to work when we get there,” to, “I don’t even want to go anywhere this weekend because I worked for the last 2 weeks straight and have more work to catch up on.” Work started to take over my life and I was kind of proud of that. I was proud that my photography business that had started from nothing was doing well enough where I needed to work every day. I had the opportunity to work every day because there were that many jobs and opportunities coming in. I was doing well. And even days where I didn’t have to physically leave the house to go to a shoot or conduct business, I was still editing, sending emails, taking phone calls, pursuing new jobs and new opportunities. I was grinding and it became like second nature for me. I’d finish a whole bunch of edits at like 6pm and spend the rest of the night scouring Craigslist for anybody who needed photos that I could take. I’d put off going out to shoot for fun to finish editing and emailing and reaching out to potential clients. Business was freaking good.
Which brings us to May 2018, one of my best months thus far in my photography career, monetarily and opportunity-wise. I was banging out food photo shoots left and right, I volunteered with CAAMFest 2018 to take photos at screenings and events, I was working for both my Mom and my Grandma, and I even helped shoot an event on my birthday. I was in my fucking zone and my productivity was through the roof. I didn’t have time to procrastinate because I had so much shit to do. It was great. It was a fun and challenging month for me. Looking back at my calendar, I had 6 total days with nothing scheduled, no shoots outside of my house and I know for a fact I spent all 6 of those days catching up on edits to some degree. So yeah, I essentially worked the entire month of May and it felt good. It felt good to be that busy, good for my business and good for my ego. I was shooting new and interesting things and making some of my best work to this date. Work begets work and all that work begets creativity. That was my motto for May. Keep working and the work will keep coming. And it did.
At the end of the month, my parents went on vacation and it was my duty to watch over the house and our dog and I was looking forward to the peace and quiet an empty house can bring. I was so excited to just relax and lay around. But quickly my weekend of peace and quiet began to pile up with work and other personal tasks that I needed to take care of before another busy week ahead. My peaceful weekend quickly turned into a stressful two days. I had to blow off my Grandma to finish edits by their Monday deadline. I felt like a real asshole, which only stressed me out further. Everything was piling up but I had promised so many people I’d do this for them, or get these to them asap, and I never got to relax. I had this idea of the perfect relaxing weekend to myself and it couldn’t have been farther from the truth. I made too many commitments and had too much work to catch up on for it to be anywhere near relaxing.
So May comes and goes, ending in unmet expectations of relaxation. Isn’t the reason we work so hard so we can relax even harder? Maybe that’s just me. But I’m not one to just let a bad experience fester in my mind without doing something about it. I said fuck it, I’m going to take some time off; I’m going to take it easy for the month of June because I have that power and I deserve it. But June wasn’t relaxing either. Instead of taking it easy, I just put off the little work I did have. I thought, “I’ll relax today and do my work tomorrow.” That was my motto for the whole month, whether I liked it or not. The only real relaxation I got was on a weekend trip with my friends to Pismo Beach. I brought work and I tried to work but I just couldn’t concentrate with all my friends around so I decided to actually relax for once. It’s a whole lot easier when you switch up your surroundings and you don’t wake up every day looking at your desk and all your to-do’s.
So June ended up being a wash. I procrastinated on work all month and it felt horrible. I went from the productive high of May into the cavernous procrastination of June. I wanted nothing to do with work after working so hard last month but things kept coming in that I had to handle, albeit begrudgingly. Despite all the procrastination, June wasn’t my worst month financially or opportunity-wise. I started volunteering with Yerba Buena Gardens Festival and I’m loving the photos that I get to make. And it was only my second worst month of 2018 financially, so that’s a slight relief lol. But I couldn’t help but feel like shit the whole month. I wasn’t excited about work; it really felt like a burden every day. I couldn’t help but feel like I had burnt myself out. But how? I had so much fun throughout May, taking new and exciting photos, getting different opportunities, and really feeling like I was making progress in my career. But working every day isn’t sustainable, at least not for me. If I would have kept grinding the way I was throughout May, I could see myself imploding. I’d end up letting people down, not being able to come through how I say I would, and tarnishing my brand with bad work ethic and unfulfilled promises. Not a smart business move. When I started freelancing, I was so excited about the prospects of unlimited time off but the reality of making a living with your own business and on your own time is that you end up taking a lot less time off than a regular 9-5 job. It’s probably why the majority of the work force in America doesn’t freelance (although that may be changing).
Today is the 4th of July, a holiday that I loved as a kid. Barbeques, fireworks, popsicles, and playing with your friends and family all day will always be undefeated. But today, I’m not doing any of that. I’m taking the day off, engaging in some real relaxation. Because it’s important and because I can get away with it. All of this is to say it’s important to take time off. The no days off mantra can be toxic if you take it too literally. And working hard can turn into a drug and an addiction, especially when you see the fruits of your labor in your bank account and in the opportunities you can get. So today, I’m taking a work detox. No emails, no phone calls. And I swear only an hour or two of editing….