The Most Precious Thing
Recently, a New Zealand business that specializes in Wills and Trusts, recently made news for their unconventional scheduling experiment.
For six weeks, they switched to a 4-day work week. They worked four ten-hour days, rather than five eight hours days and apparently, the experiment was so successful that they are considering making it a permanent switch. Productivity was up, while stress was down and overall, employees reported that they found that they had a better work/life balance which made going to work more pleasurable.
I've been thinking about this experiment, ever since I learned about it a week ago. What are the ways that I can make the time that I'm working more productive, and the time that I'm away from work, more pleasurable?
Some of you may already know that I am constantly reexamining and revising my work schedule. Time management is always a challenge for freelancers like myself. It's particularly difficult for me, because I have to actually be at my desk and at my computer a large number of hours each week (currently, it's approximately 21). But I also need to find time for networking and for meeting with clients. For the past several months, my schedule has been as follows:
Mondays: Work at my desk all day. Sometimes that's literally 12 hours - although the average is around 8.
Tuesdays: I try to schedule client meetings back to back starting in the morning, with a couple of hours in late afternoon back at my desk.
Wednesdays: I can schedule a meeting on Wednesday, but I try to leave this day free when possible for my side gig (an occasional travel assignment as a courier) plus I have a 4pm yoga class that I hate to miss.
Thursdays: I have my regular networking meeting every Thursday morning, usually followed by client meetings and other networking opportunities. I might get a couple of hours of desk time either mid-day or early evening.
Fridays: I don't usually schedule any client meetings this day - this is for catch-up on anything left over during the week. But I will occasionally take time for a personal appointment - a massage, or a doctor's visit, etc.
I have noticed recently that I'm not working until 8pm at night, sitting at my desk getting my work accomplished, most days. I'm usually knocking off much earlier - say, around 5 or 6 pm. And even though there are some days that seem to be jam-packed with client meetings, I am completing all of my desk work earlier.
So, why do I still feel like I'm working 60 hours a week? I think it's because I'm working a 5-day week. In fact, I often do some work on Saturdays (usually just a little social media management + some personal writing). So, how can I switch to a four-day week, like the New Zealand business did?
I think the answer lies with my Wednesday schedule. Mondays and Fridays are always very purposeful - I'm at my desk, getting work done, getting things completed and off my to-do list. On Mondays, I'm beginning my week by knocking as much out as I can and on Friday's, I'm wrapping up anything that didn't get done.
But by leaving Wednesdays open for client meetings, I'm setting the intention of this being a professional day. When really, I want to dress in yoga pants for my 4pm class, I want to leave open the possibility for local travel for my side gig and I'd like to work on my personal writing that day, rather than Saturday). Why can't Wednesday be my Saturday?
It isn't always possible - sometimes a client really wants a Wednesday meeting. But I could do with Wednesdays what I do with Fridays - tell my clients that I don't normally schedule appointments those days but if I am not already committed, I could let them know 24 hours in advance if I'm free.
There is always going to be give-and-take in business ownership, particularly when you are the (currently) sole employee. It's not just about carving out meaningful time, for relaxation and meditation. It's about not feeling overcommitted - even when those committments are creating great professional opportunities.