EJS logo

Don't check work email outside of work hours

Article illustration for Don't check work email outside of work hours

Derek Powazek has been blogging a lot recently about things he’s learned the hard way, and the posts are solid nuggets of wisdom as well as nice little personal stories, so I thoroughly recommend you read them. They also got me thinking: we all have our own semi-embarrassing tales to tell, and sharing them is not only a therapeutic process, but it’s also potentially beneficial for others in the same (or similar) boat; especially when it comes to work-related issues.

I was reminded of this again last night, when I did something really stupid. I read a work-related email right before going to bed. In itself, that’s not necessarily a bad thing (and largely unavoidable when personal and work emails go to the same place), but generally I try to keep work time separate from home time, as I believe it’s the only way to stay sane if you’re a freelancer working from home (and it’s also much fairer on your partner). But the trouble with this particular email was that it contained a large amount of negative feedback. My client wasn’t being unfair or unkind; he just wanted to change a lot of what I’d done in the latest design, and you know how that feels, right? Especially when you think you’ve had a particularly ‘good’ day of designing.

The result of this was that I went to bed with a bit of a downer, despite my best intentions to dismiss it. I felt stressed, tight-chested, and anxious about what I had to do the following day. Worse than all of that: my mind was rife with thoughts about the project, so although I’d managed to clear my head of work-related pondering since mentally signing off at 6pm, I’d ruined it all in one minute by looking at this email. Silly, silly boy.

So there’s something I learned the hard way: don’t check work email outside of work hours. Don’t do it, even if you want to feel prepared for the next day. Don’t do it, even if you’re anticipating good feedback and you’re excited to see what your client thinks (that’s what I was doing and look where it got me).

Achieving the work/life balance is a hard thing to do, and it’s something I thought I did fairly well. But now I know I’ve still got some way to go.

Anyone care to share their own stories or tips?