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Opinion Editorials

Why work-life balance isn’t a reality for the self employed

Freelancers lose sleep over the elusive “work-life balance” conundrum, but the entire concept is bunk, and here’s why.

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work life balance

It’s confession time…

Listening to a group of fellow freelancers discuss the illusive concept of work-life balance a few weeks made me realize just how out of control my own life had become. To be honest, the thought of work-life balance was part of the problem for me until I heard someone interrupt the conversation with the word “harmony.”

The reason work-life “balance” doesn’t work for me as a freelancer is because of the definition from Webster.

Balance: a state in which different things occur in equal or proper amounts or have an equal or proper amount of importance.

How on earth can any of us balance everything we have to do in equal portions? No wonder I felt like I was killing myself in order to achieve a concept that was pretty much only a dream.

Let’s rethink how this actually works

Even though we all understand subconsciously that it is impossible to distribute everything we have in our lives evenly, the word itself carries that meaning and is taken literally whether we admit it or not. In doing that I have seen a lot of guilt, depression, and oppression on ourselves to meet this unobtainable goal of balance.

Harmony, on the other hand, is exactly what we are actually striving for, based on this definition from good ol’ Webster.

Harmony: a combination of parts into a pleasing or orderly whole; congruity

Doesn’t a consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts; congruity feel more realistic? Freelancers typically work a lot of hours, mostly because we enjoy what we do, but we still need human interaction, hobbies, and activities to keep us rejuvenated. Some weeks we may need more of one than another to keep ourselves in harmony – but we do not have to make sure we maintain an equal amount of everything.

Imagine harmony instead of equal balance

Imagine a week where you work only 30 hours and spend some time most days riding your bike, taking a short walk/hike in a nearby park, or having a cup of coffee (or a mimosa) with a friend to catch up on life and laugh. What would it feel like to take a couple hours and read a book once or twice a week?

Close your eyes and take a moment to envision activities to ignite your fire again each week. The beauty of this is it doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking to make a dramatic difference in your overall life. It’s about integrating all the pieces of life you enjoy instead of trying to make them all balance equally. 50% fun + 50% work is not the only option, and in fact it may not be a viable option at all. You could have a week of 100% fun and the next week 100% focused work, or you could find some other combination that works even better for you.

It doesn’t have to be a major undertaking

If you need more structure to your daily work-life harmony, you can design that in as well since that is a part of harmony for you. I have a little of that myself, so I usually take my mornings to create a structured agenda for work to be done and then let my afternoons be more free-flowing to allow for a bike ride or hike.

I often forget to even look up from my computer to create harmony between work and fun; it is the curse of freelancing for many. But you must! Burnout is quite frankly one of the worst experiences freelancing has to offer – harmony is the best way to achieve your goals and enjoy being a freelancer.

If you’re a freelancer, take a more holistic approach by integrating work-life harmony and watch your happiness and productivity increase while the guilt and depression fade away.

#WorkLifeHarmony

Emily Leach is a pioneer in the world of uniquely-talented people who feel empowered to go beyond conventional jobs and create businesses from unique vantage points and perspectives. She is the founder of the Texas Freelance Association, the first statewide association of freelance workers in the country and The Freelance Conference, the only event of its kind poised to become THE conference for freelancers across the nation. Her belief that those working for themselves deserve the same respect as those working for major corporations drives her tireless fight to ensure this growing population of “genetically unemployable” solo-preneurs are represented and offered some of the same opportunities as those working for large corporations. Because of her knowledge and expertise, Emily has been a leading-edge organizer and speaker for TEDx events throughout the U.S. Southwest. Currently living in Austin, Texas, Emily’s outside interests include rowing, sailing, traveling, scuba diving, snowboarding, whitewater and cycling – basically, having adventures and living life to the fullest.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Les

    May 12, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    Forage, harvest, hunt, kill, eat, laugh, love…..laugh, forage, laugh, harvest, laugh, hunt, kill, laugh, eat, laugh, love….. Repeat as necessary. And the greatest of these is love……

  2. Nando

    May 12, 2015 at 10:40 pm

    Love Emily. I remember having a conversation about this. It originated on a reply from Chris Brogan to my same use of the word “balance”. Harmony is more powerful and conduce to happiness.

  3. Pingback: What freelancers must do when it feels like competition is holding you back - AGBeat

  4. Job at home

    June 3, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    The truth is, everyone's definition of balance is different. What works for you may not work for someone else. Finding the perfect harmony is a process of trial and errors but the good thing is that once you figure out you're preferences and what works for you, you're good to go!

  5. Pingback: France could pass a "Right to Disconnect" law letting workers ignore email after work hours - The American Genius

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Opinion Editorials

AT&T hit with age discrimination lawsuit over using the word “tenured”

(EDITORIAL) 78% of workers are victims of age discrimination. As awareness arises, lawsuits show what may constitute discrimination, including verbiage.

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Older man at cafe representing age discrimination

According to the AARP, 78% of older workers have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace. As awareness of ageism increases, lawsuits that allege age bias can help employers understand what constitutes discrimination. A recent case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Smith v. AT&T Mobility Services, L.L.C., No. 21-20366 (5th Cir. May 17, 2022), should give employers pause about using other words that could potentially be a euphemism for “older worker.”

What the lawsuit was about

Smith, a customer service representative at AT&T, alleged that he was denied a promotion because of his age. His manager told him that she was not going to hire any tenured employees. The manager wanted innovative employees in the management positions. Smith took this to mean that he was being denied the promotion because of his age. He sued under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Texas law.

The district court found that Smith failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to one claim and failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination as to the other two claims. Smith appealed. The Appellate court affirmed the district court’s decision, but they did say it was “close.” AT&T did not discriminate against Smith by using the word tenured, because there were other employees of the same age as Smith who were promoted to customer service management positions.

Be aware of the verbiage used to speak to employees

This case is another example of how careful employers need to be about age discrimination, not only in job postings. It’s imperative to train managers about the vagaries of ageism in the workplace to avoid a costly lawsuit. Even though AT&T prevailed, the company still had a pretty hefty legal tab. Don’t try to get around the ADEA by using terminology that could screen out older workers, such as “digital native,” or “recent college grad.” Remind employees and managers about ageism. Document everything. Pay attention to other cases about age discrimination, such as the iTutor case or this case about retirement-driven talk. You may not be able to prevent an employee from feeling discriminated against, but you can certainly protect your business by doing what you can to avoid ageism.

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Opinion Editorials

Writing with pen and paper may mean your smarter than your digital peers

(EDITORIAL) Can writing old fashioned make you smarter? Once considered and art form, handwriting is becoming a thing of the past, but should it be?

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Writing on paper job titles.

When I was in college, in 2002, laptops weren’t really commonplace yet. Most students took notes by writing with pen and paper. Today, most students take notes with laptops, tablets, cell phones, or other electronic devices. The days of pen and paper seem to be fading. Some students even wait until the end of class and use their cell phones to take a picture of the whiteboard, so in effect, they are not absorbing any of the information because they “can just take a picture of it and look at it later.”

Is it easier to take notes on an electronic device? I think that largely depends on preference. I type faster than I write, but I still prefer to take notes on paper.

According to researchers at Princeton University and the University of California, Los Angeles, students who take handwritten notes generally outperform students who typed them.

Writing notes help students learn better, retain information longer, and more readily grasp new ideas, according to experiments by other researchers who also compared note-taking techniques.

While most students can type faster than they write, this advantage is short-term. As the WSJ points out, “after just 24 hours, the computer note takers typically forgot material they’ve transcribed, several studies said. Nor were their copious notes much help in refreshing their memory because they were so superficial.” So while it may take a bit longer to capture the notes by hand, more likely than not, you will retain the information longer if you put pen to paper.

As I teach English Composition at the University of Oklahoma, I would also like to say that while I find this to be true for myself, every student has a different learning style. Typed notes are much better than no notes at all. Some students detest writing by hand and I understand that. Everything in our world has gone digital from phones to cable television so it makes sense, even if I don’t like it, that students gravitate more towards electronic note taking than pen and paper.

While I would like to see more students take notes by hand, I certainly won’t require it. Some students are navigating learning disabilities, anxieties, and other impediments that make taking notes digitally more advantageous.

I imagine the same is true for other areas as well: instead of typing meeting notes, what would happen if you wrote them by hand? Would you retain the information longer? Perhaps, and perhaps not; again, I think this depends on your individual learning style.

I would like to suggest that if you are one of the more “electronically-minded” writers, use a flashcard app, or other studying tool to help you review your classroom notes or meeting notes to make them “stick” a bit better. While I find this type of research intriguing, if you enjoy taking your notes electronically, I wouldn’t change my method based on this.

If it’s working for you, keep doing it. Don’t mind me, I’ll be over here, writing everything down with pen and paper.

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Opinion Editorials

5 reasons using a VPN is more important now than ever

(EDITORIAL) Virtual private networks (VPN), have always been valuable, but now, more than ever, entrepreneurs and businesses really should have them.

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VPN

Virtual private networks (VPN), have always been valuable, but some recent developments in technology, laws, and politics are making them even more important for entrepreneurs and businesses.

A VPN serves as an intermediary layer of anonymity and security between your computer and your internet connection. Your Wi-Fi signal is a radio wave that can ordinarily be intercepted, so any data you transmit back and forth could be taken and abused by interested parties. VPNs act as a kind of middleman, encrypting the data you transmit and protecting you from those prying eyes.

Top10BestVPN.com offers a selection of some of the best-reviewed VPN services on the market; there you can see the different approaches to security and anonymity that different brands take, and get a feel for the price points that are available. But why is it that VPNs are becoming even more important for business owners and entrepreneurs?

These are just five of the emerging influencers in the increasing importance of VPNs:

1. The rise of IoT. The Internet of Things (IoT) is already taking off, with a predicted 8.4 billion devices will be connected to the internet by the end of the year. All those extra connections mean extra points of vulnerability; hackers are skilled at finding tiny entry points, so every new channel you open up on your Wi-Fi connection is another opportunity they could potentially exploit. Using a VPN won’t make your network completely hack-proof—user errors, like giving your password away in a phishing scam, are still a potential threat—but VPNs will make your network more secure than it was before.

2. The popularity of ransomware. Ransomware is growing in popularity, seizing control of devices, sometimes for weeks or months before activating, then holding the device “hostage,” and demanding payment in exchange for releasing the files that are stored on it. These attacks are fast and efficient, making them ideal for hackers to use against small businesses. Again, using a VPN won’t make you immune from these types of attacks, but they will make you harder to target—and hackers tend to opt for the path of least resistance.

3. The escalation of attacks on small businesses. Speaking of small businesses, they happen to be some of the most frequent targets of cybercriminals. About 43 percent of all cyberattacks target small businesses, in part because they have fewer technological defenses but still have valuable assets. Protecting yourself from cyberattacks is a must if you want your business to survive.

4. Political attacks on net neutrality. Politicians have recently attempted to attack and eliminate net neutrality, which is the long-standing guarantee that internet providers can’t violate user privacy by collecting and/or reporting on certain types of data, and can’t create “slow lanes” that throttle certain types of traffic. If net neutrality is abolished, you could face slower internet traffic and decreased privacy on the web. A VPN could, in theory, protect you from these effects. First, your web traffic would be anonymized, so internet providers couldn’t gather as much data on you as other customers. Second, you’ll be routed through a private VPN server, which could help you get around some of the speed throttling you might otherwise see. It’s uncertain whether net neutrality will ultimately fall, but if it does, you’ll want a VPN in place to protect you.

5. The affordability and diversity of VPNs available. Finally, it’s worth considering that VPNs are more affordable and more available than ever before. There are specific VPNs for all manner of businesses and individuals, and they’re all reasonably affordable. Inexpensive options can be yours for as little as a few dollars per month, and more robust, secure options are still affordable, even for frugal businesses. If you try a VPN provider you don’t like, you can always cancel and switch to another provider. This availability makes it easier to find exactly what you need.

If you’ve never used a VPN before and you’re confused, try not to be intimidated. VPNs sound complex, but connecting to one is a simple login process you can use on practically any device. The hardest part is choosing a reliable provider that suits your business’s need. With the influx of coming changes, it’s a good idea to get your VPN in place sooner rather than later.

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