Containing Work When Working For Yourself

The transition from a 9-5 job to being self-employed had many struggles. One of these struggles was, and still is, the blurry lines between what constitutes as work, and what doesn’t.

When I was a product manager at a startup, I had to show up at the office (or on my computer) at a certain time in the morning, and mentally check out of work at a certain time in the evening. Working for myself from home, and working on things I am so much more interested in, I no longer had clear cues to indicate the beginning and end of work.

Every moment I’m staring at the wall thinking about a problem could be a moment of work. Every chat I had with a friend about their need for mindfulness could be a moment of work. Every coffee over which I discuss a business idea could be a moment of work.

My work had become my own personal passions. So it started feeling like my life was now about work. The more places I wanted to go, the more I realized how much work I had to do, the more I worked, and the more I worried that I’ve officially become a workaholic.

I wasn’t feeling fatigued or burnt out - I still remembered what that feels like. But I was confused: Am I getting enough rest? Am I working too much? I didn't know how to tell anymore. It always felt like I could work more; it always felt like I could rest more.

I started exploring how to contain my work. Below are some ways of thinking that have brought me some solace.

  1. The Language of Work
  2. Routine vs. Flexibility
  3. The Boundaries and Definitions of Work
  4. Listening To The Body
  5. Where You Come To Work From
  6. I Should Work, I Shouldn’t Work
  7. Work vs. Play
  8. Break Time