Josie on the bike

Guilt Trip

13th Nov 2015

As I pulled up outside my home office at 9.50am, I felt happy that I'd spent three hours of my morning attending my first networking meeting at Business over Breakfast (BoB) Farnborough. I'd had some very productive meetings with interesting entrepreneurs and identified three potential suppliers and two potential business partners within the room. But, technically, I was almost an hour late for "work".

As I poured myself a coffee and began checking emails, I noticed the difference in the way I felt this morning to how I'd felt two days earlier as I wheeled my mud-encrusted Cotic BFe up the path at 9.45am.

That morning I'd returned full of endorphins after a two hour ride on the local trails overlooking the North Downs. I felt energised and ready to tackle my to-do list…..but also slightly guilty that it was broad daylight, in November, and I still wasn't at my desk at nearly 10am.

I assuaged my guilt by reminding myself of an FT article on work-induced anxiety that I'd read the day before, (11th November 2015) in which Emma Jacobs reported on the benefits of exercise and mindfulness for managing stress. This contained a very interesting comment from Sara Horowitz, of the Freelancers Union in the US who said, "If you're running health programmes for mine workers, you have to be expert in black lung disease; if you're running them for freelancers, you have to specialise in anxiety."

As a freelancer, I am the number one employee of my company. I am my company's greatest asset, so I need to look after myself, physically and mentally. Getting out on the bike is the quickest, surest way of achieving that goal each week. I know all of this, so it was interesting to see how I viewed the three hours of early morning networking as being more productive and less guilt-inducing than the two hours I'd spent looking after my physical health.

So why the guilt?

Freelance journalist, Mike Jennings, hit the nail on the head with this refreshingly honest blog post that details the psychological impact of working long hours alone on creative tasks, often without any positive feedback. He describes how this has led to feelings of guilt that he should be more self-motivated, battling fatigue and doing and earning more. Judging by the number of times Mike's article has been shared and the empathetic comments from other freelancers, it's obvious that he's not alone in feeling guilt and anxiety.

Having freelanced for 8 years, my own response to fatigue and stress is to re-energise at every opportunity, whether this is through plugging in my iPod and riding my bike for an hour; reading a thought-provoking article; watching a TEDx video; or networking with intelligent, inspiring people. Good ideas from great people feed into my own work, so that my clients gain extra value.

A number of studies recognise that happy employees lead to happier customers. All that was needed yesterday was a good read of the FT to switch my thinking.