Find More Free Time This Fall

Last Updated Sep 8, 2010 11:13 AM EDT

It's Wednesday after Labor Day, and I'm reflecting back on yet another insanely busy weekend and jam-packed summer. Is life supposed to be this busy? My goals for this fall are all about time, and how to find more of it. So here are my Labor Day Resolutions:
  • No more checking e-mail in the 22 seconds while the kids are brushing their teeth.
  • Stick to my guns and limit the kids to one sport or activity per season. (For chrissakes, they're only 6 and 4.)
  • Make a carrot cake from scratch. (Because I ripped this recipe out of Food & Wine 18 months ago and it looks delicious, so why can't I find time to do this?)
Work is the primary impediment to family free time. I know, I should be thankful to have any work in this economy. And as a freelancer, I have flexibility. So much flexibility that I'm working all the time. Reading e-mail while the kids are wiggling into their pajamas, then feeling grouchy as I read Junie B., First Grader, because half of my brain is on the cryptic message from a boss that I just glanced at.

I worked on Labor Day, and I know I'm not alone. My husband worked on Labor Day. I spoke to Erin Bocherer, a mom of three and a freelance publicist for several clients including Elance, a website that matches freelancers with work. Yes, she sent e-mails on Labor Day. People lucky enough to still be employed feel like they should always be available.

Here are Bocherer's suggestions for breaking free of that mentality and saving more time for yourself and your family. I was looking for tips for people who work from home - but some of these suggestions apply to people who have fulltime jobs and feel like they have to work nights and weekends anyway.

Be truthful about when you're available: "I try to be very honest with the people I work with," Bocherer says. "I'll tell them they can't call me between 2 and 4:30. I can't say that to every client, but more and more people are finding that acceptable."
Practice self-discipline. If you don't really have to check your e-mail, don't do it. Try not to give in to some vague, unjustified sense that you should be checking. Be strict with yourself.
Manage expectations: "When I send people e-mails at 10 p.m., I've created an expectation that 'Erin Bocherer works at night,'" she says. "The more we feed into it, the worse the expectations are." If you don't want clients or your boss to expect you to be available all the time, be careful when you send your responses.
Use the out of office reply: So people won't think you're ignoring them.

Have the courage to say "no" to work: "It doesn't benefit anyone when I'm spread too thin," Bocherer says. "My standard response is, 'I'm doing a good job for you right now. I want to continue to do a good job for you. If I start taking on too much work, I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to perform at the level I'm performing now.'"

This is a work in progress for Bocherer, she concedes, and certainly one for me. Any other suggestions for freeing up time from work? Log in to share them below. And I'll let you know how the carrot cake turns out.

Photo courtesy Flickr user MrSnooks, CC 2.0

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