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One of the main reasons to quit the rat race to work for yourself is flexibility. And by that I mean the flexibility to live your life in a way that’s most productive for you, whether that means being able to pick up and drop off your kids from school every day or spending more time with your husband: it’s your life, you should build it your way.
When I first started working freelance I missed this point a bit. I saw my main motivation for self-employment as being more present as a mother, and forgot the part where I was supposed to think about what would make me happier and more productive. As someone who had spent ten years working 9-5 in an office environment, there were certain rules and routines around work that were so ingrained in me that I didn’t even think about changing them.
Looking back now with my self-employment hindsight and experience the fact I was so locked in these rigid routines makes me smile. In my opinion society’s 9-5 working hour model is completely outdated and ridiculous, and though in some work environments (call centres, shops) there are opening hours and times that work for a reason, it is completely unnecessary in others. Giving employees such specific hours that they MUST be at their desk for does nothing for productivity and trust: I’d wager that if workplaces were more flexible with their staff’s working hours they’d find more work got done and their employees were happier to be there.
The 9-5 (or, as I used to do, 9-7 or 8, yay) also neglects to consider fluctuations in workers’ body clocks. Take me, for example: I’m not a morning person, never have been, never will be. I wake up at the last possible minute, snooze my alarm longer than I should and have our morning routine down to a fine art so we’re always down to the final second before we leave for the school run. Any extra seconds snoozing are worth it. I’ve always taken a long time to wake up, getting my best and most creative work done in the evenings between the hours of 7pm and midnight.
In contrast my friend who works from home is an early riser, and gets up at 5am to squeeze in 2 hours work before her kids awake. This is my idea of hell and would never ever be a possibility: my body wouldn’t do it.
When I first started working for myself I’d come straight from years of the 9-5 and I fought my natural body clock to stick to this schedule. I sat myself down for approximate standard office hours, yawning through the morning and finishing in the afternoon. I spent my evenings as we all do: cooking and watching Netflix. It was unproductive and didn’t feel good.
Recently I have switched around the way I work and it has revolutionised my days. I’m more productive, less tired and much happier.
I still hate getting up but I get the kids ready for school and check my emails first thing, before coming back home to deal with anything urgent. After an hour or so I do a bit of pottering or errand-running before quite often taking a nap for another hour, usually from mon-wed (bear with me on this, it starts to make sense…). I’m back up in time for lunch and do between 3-5 hours work in the afternoon, depending on the children’s after-school activities. I pick them up and we spend some time together, we have dinner and carry out their bedtime routine. They’re in bed by 7.30pm which is when my night shift begins, and I work another 3-4 hours.
I go to bed about midnight having completed a workday of between 6 to 10 hours, feeling productive and accomplished.
This might sound unconventional but the routine is twofold for me: for a start, I’m useless on no sleep so if I’ve had a particularly hectic weekend I allow myself to relax a little and catch up. And secondly, I’m so much more productive and able to work post-6pm, so forcing myself to sit in front of the computer all morning when I could be focussing on my well-being or other household tasks just seems a bit silly.
Of course this is all quite situational. I’m not in a relationship at the moment so I’m able to sacrifice this evening time for work. Once a special person comes along (fingers crossed, apply within etc) I’ll probably have to re-think the strategy. It also makes days out the office slightly trickier as the rest of the world is on the 9-5.
This ability to make my own schedule really has changed my life. I’m a much happier person, noticeably better at my job and I’d wager a lot nicer to be around ;). It really works!
Would you change your working day if you were self-employed?