Work creates a structure in our lives. A steady job circumscribes our time. Instead of circadian
rhythms, we adapt to corporate rhythms, rising with the echoes of old punch clocks and factory whistles, timing our commute to the tides of our Interstate rivulet. Even our yearly cycles have the imprint of our work environment: we choose our vacations to coincide or complement the company paid holidays. We are aware of end of quarters, deadlines, big contract completions—whatever the deliverable bottom line is for our line of work.
But for those of us who are consultants, freelancers, or entrepreneurs, the rhythms change. No need to rise to beat the traffic. The Internet doesn’t have traffic jams, typically. All the usual borders and boundaries of daily, weekly, quarterly rhythms are gone. Friends and neighbors often assume you are available for anything anytime, instead of asking “is this a good time to …”
In talking with fellow un-employees transitioning to self-employment, we all agree this disorientation is a developmental stage of the transition process. It is like having been a lobster, with a shell that moves us along, and suddenly we need to grow a skeleton. Where work dictated the flows and tides, we now do. And it takes a while.
There was a study where people were voluntarily kept in darkness for several months. Given food when they requested it, the participants could eat, sleep, exercise according to their own rhythms. And the results of this study showed that our natural biological rhythms were longer than 24 hours, when left to our own devices. We have a range of between 26 to 28 hour natural body clock.
It us useful to find our cycles—but not in darkness or isolation. We find them in high relief to various and unfamiliar rhythms of clients, corporations, social media and websites. And in response to the varying schedules of our family and friends, with their expectations on our time.
The only ‘cure’ for this disorientation is to grow your own skeleton, to get very clear about what rhythms work for you. Exercise early AM or late PM? Make phone calls at 10 or 2? Write and send letters morning or afternoon?
Figure out what your creative hours are—save them for your writing. Assign tasks to your off-peak hours. And take a day for input—for replenishing