FOR most of the last five years, New Year's resolutions have been a breeze. Every January, 'get a better work life balance' or (after repeatedly failing that one) 'change job' went on the list. Every December, I gloomily realised it'd be on the next list too.
Then I actually did change my job. So what now?
The trouble is that a big one-off change of job is a bit like a crash diet: dramatic in the short term, less effective in the longterm. It's easy to stop bingeing (on either cake, or work) for a bit, but hard not to backslide, unless you tackle the ingrained habits and assumptions that made you overdo it in the first place.
Which is why a few days after Christmas I found myself at the computer well after midnight, finishing a commission I really shouldn't have accepted because I really didn't have time to do it. And then it hit me: I hated working into the small hours in my old job. Why am I still doing it?
Working at night is a classic trap into which many self-employed or freelance parents fall. You free up time for family things during the day, but end up working when the kids are in bed to catch up. It feels better than working nights for a traditional employer, because in theory you could choose not to: but for whatever reason - money worries, anxiety about doing a good enough job, inability to say no, bad time management - you don't.
Yet habitually working in the evenings squeezes out stuff that matters: sleep, conversation, a social life, time with your partner, getting organised for the next day. So this year I'm resolving to reclaim the nights.
Firstly, we've started eating together as a family rather than cooking once for the small boy, then again for two adults after he's in bed. Mealtimes are somewhat less civilised, but it claws back a good hour in the evening - and cuts down on wine consumption. Which is a good thing. I suppose.
Secondly, I resolve to go to bed earlier. This classic post on why sleep is a feminist issue puts it neatly: suffice to say: since having my son, 7am counts as an unprecedented lie-in.
And thirdly, the tricky one: from now on, if it can't get done in the three days I work it doesn't (except in an emergency) get done. I may earn less initially, but over time I suspect I'll become more productive for not being constantly knackered.
And yes, I am writing this in the evening.....Damn it.