I'm new to freelancing, which means I'm new to the scheduling and work conflicts that inevitably happen when securing enough projects to sustain myself. Oftentimes I feel overbooked and guilty because of the time that I miss with my family. Extra work means extra money, in exchange for losing the company of my wife and children for a few days.
It used to be that if I had a project due soon, next day soon, I would stay up late to get it done and out the door. The next day would always be horrible. Sleeping in past noon, an unfocused work ethic, a much shorter work day, and a disrupted schedule that won't be back on track for a week; All symptoms of the all nighter.
Working late is no longer an option for me. I've had enough. I will no longer work past my bedtime to deliver a product. The results in the work, and my personal life are sub-par and reeks of the rheumatic decay of aging obsolescence. I will no longer sacrifice Quality and family time for any sort of deadline.
Working Late Destroys your schedule.
Mankind is a species of Habit. We operate on autopilot most of the time. Routine actions are easy to perform, and we seldom need to think about them. Our Wake and sleep cycle is doubly tied to a stringent schedule, any disruption will throw our bodies way out of habit and destroy the focus time that our schedules are meant to protect.
Working late Reduces productive hours.
The next day is a destroyed day. I only get maybe 3 good hours of work the day after working late. It takes at least a week for me to get back into a healthy sleep schedule. That week is basically shot. I end up further behind than when I began.
Working late becomes a new habit of non-productivity.
Do you know the old adage: "If we're always on Red Alert then Red Alert means nothing?", Same thing with rushing work. If we're always rushing to finish work then rushing work doesn't mean anything. If we're always working late to finish something, then that will become the new norm, a heightened state of panic and fatigue, and it will mean nothing.
What to do?
- Just say no: If something is going to be late, then postpone it. Own up to it and move onward. If you lose work for this then you probably shouldn't have scheduled the work in the first place.
- Take less work: The less work you have, the better work you'll do. This is difficult when you really need the money. Suck it up and budget for less, have months of savings. Do better work for better clients.
- Stick to your schedule: never deviate for extra work, it is a slippery and expensive slope. Don't work more time than you usually do, and always work at the same times. Habits will form and productivity will improve.
- Overestimate the time it will take: Give yourself a buffer of extra time in each project for unexpected difficulties. It's guaranteed that you'll run into them. Having that extra time will mean the difference between working late and being late. You Never want to be late.
- Schedule realistic deadlines: The most important factor is to have a realistic deadline for when you'll finish your work. Optimistic deadlines are the bane of our existence. Never be late by never promising something will be done in less than a week. Everything is at least a week out for me now.
I hope you'll practice the hard lesson that I've had to learn, and learn from my mistakes. Good Luck.