Over the past few months, I’ve been experimenting with various work styles that require extra work hours. The work has been extremely enjoyable to say the least. Plus, I’ve been able to experiment with a diverse set of work schedules including the traditional 5-day work week, 6-day work week, and even a 7-day all-out work schedule. I thought it would be cool to jot down my thoughts and feelings on the different scenarios and detail which one I found most enjoyable/beneficial to my psyche (it might surprise you).
First, I think it’s beneficial to outline what I refer to as “work”. Ryan Holiday outlined his definition of work alongside his own reasons for working all the time in this article on the Thought Catalog. I share similar thoughts to Ryan in that “work” for me could involve anything from brainstorming to writing to editing to the actual time I spend at “work” for the various companies that cut me a paycheck every month. It’s not necessarily chained to a desk working mindlessly on spreadsheets attempting to move the charts up and to the right. To me, work is an effort to make myself better, to put my energy into making something that will be worthwhile. For instance, this blogpost is “work” to me although I don’t dread it the same as those trying to hide under the covers from Monday mornings. Instead, I enjoy it. I look forward to it even.
The definition of work is constantly evolving as everyone looks to new career paths and various other outlets to increase their income. With several changes in the economy and the over-saturation of individuals looking for jobs, it’s hard to sit back and follow the old mantra of go to school -> do an internship -> solidify a job. I feel it’s important to branch out in your skill sets and broaden your definition of work. In my personal opinion, diversifying your work across multiple outlets will become increasingly important, and it’s something that I’ve been able to focus on quite a bit over the past year.
As folks look to deviate from the traditional norm of collecting one paycheck at the end of the month and move towards more of a diverse income set-up, it should be obvious that more hours will need to be added to the work week. Most will maintain some form of a full-time job so the extra projects will have to be slotted either before work, after work, or on weekends. Over the past few months, I’ve experimented with all three in various forms. Each had their own benefits and perks, but you’ll be surprised (perhaps you won’t) at which one I enjoyed the most.
The Five-Day Work Week
The traditional Monday-Friday work week is something I’ve actually looked forward to at different times in my career. At certain times when I’ve felt a bit overwhelmed, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be nice to work the normal 9-5 Monday through Friday and cash a paycheck at the end of the week?”
Those thoughts were fleeting at best.
Still, I’ve played with this schedule both from a standpoint of wanting to try it out and as a necessity due to having friends and family in town (turns out you can’t just ignore guests and work all day Saturday). Here was a basic outline of my weekdays on this schedule:
- 4AM-7AM Work (emails, writing, etc)
- 7AM-8AM Workout
- 8AM-9AM Breakfast, shower, etc.
- 9AM-5PM Work (A mixture of freelancing assignments and actual work at Federated)
- 5PM-10PM Relax
Obviously, on the weekends, I was mainly kicking back and relaxing. In some senses, it was nice to ignore work for two straight days. In this case, I turned off email on my phone so it didn’t even tempt me to hop back on my mobile device to clear my inbox. One thing to note, I didn’t count blogging as work in this scenario because it’s something that I do for myself and I genuinely enjoy it. It’s relaxing and helps me to collect my thoughts.
As much as I had looked forward to this type of schedule going in, I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I thought I would. First, the crunched work week put extra pressure on the five days I was working to get everything done. Often times, I would be struggling to finish projects plus get in the extras (like blogging) that I enjoy. Naturally, the first thing to get cut was blogging. That wasn’t good for my sanity nor personal enjoyment.
Second, I didn’t really enjoy it as much as I thought. I’ve long been a fan of working when I want. I like to be able to get in a groove. Limiting myself to five days a week excluded two days that could have been extra productive. I’m of the camp that believes you can’t force productivity and creativity. There are certain days where you feel it and others you don’t. Taking two days off during the week doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be extra productive Monday through Friday.
Lastly, I missed it. That’s right – you heard me correctly. I missed working. I think with anyone that enjoys their work and has expanded the definition of “work”, it’s natural to miss it after several days off.
Needless to say, I don’t think the traditional five-day work week is for me. Perhaps in the future, it will be as my family grows and my fiancee becomes less accepting of my extra work hours. But, while I’m young with abundant energy even at four in the morning (and coffee as a supplement on down days), I enjoy working more than five days a week.
The Six-Day Work Week
The natural progression to the five-day work week is to bump it up a notch and experiment with working six days a week. I’ll admit, this is the scenario that I’m most comfortable with, and it has been my default go-to schedule for the past few years. I generally incorporate Saturday into my work schedule although the hours and projects vary quite a bit since I view Saturday as a bit of a free day to work on whatever needs attention and to structure my schedule however best fits my life on that day.
The weekly schedule doesn’t differ much from the hour listed above. If anything, I’ll shorten the morning block since I know that I have an extra day to get things in. For the most part however, here is how I structure my Saturdays (when I have control over the schedule):
- 6AM-7AM Wake-up, drink coffee, figure out what needs to be done
- 7AM-11AM Work on various projects
- 11AM-10PM Relax
I generally find that I work best in the mornings, plus I enjoy getting the work “out of the way” so Charlotte and I can enjoy the weekend together.
As I mentioned before, this is the schedule that I’m most comfortable with and have been using for the longest time. I enjoy it for several reasons. First, there’s less separation between days of work. As a result, there are fewer emails in my inbox, I have less to catch-up on on Monday, and there is less of a disconnect between Friday and Monday. I can just pick up where I left off rather than having to figure out where to start. As Jim Rohn illustrated:
Work was so important, here was the original formula for labor. If you have forgotten it, remind yourself. Six days of labor, and one day of rest. Now, it’s important not to get those numbers mixed up. Why not five/two? Maybe one of the reasons for six/one: if you rest too long the weeds take the garden.
Second, it reduces the pressure of the week knowing that I have Saturday to work on additional projects that may have piled up.
Lastly, I enjoy it, plain and simple. There’s something about working on Saturdays that feels great. Perhaps it’s the fact that I have the freedom to work when I want, and my schedule is not dictated by outside forces.
On this schedule, I still hop on my computer to write, but again, I don’t view that as work – much the opposite in fact. I view writing as recovery (this blog post was written on a Sunday).
The Seven-Day Work Week
To people that absolutely hate their line of work, working seven days a week sounds like the ultimate drag. The idea has long been planted in my head, but I was encouraged to give it a try by Joel Gascoigne, founder of Buffer, when he outlined his own experiment with a seven-day work week.
Before I go any further, I know the idea of working seven days a week sounds mentally draining, emotionally exhausting, and like a train wreck waiting to happen. You probably have delusions of being chained to your desk from dawn till dusk grinding through emails. Bringing that same situation to your weekends is ludicrous at best. As I’ve described before, you have to be willing to get rid of the normal connotation of work to accept this kind of schedule.
Coming from a personal training background, I also understand the importance of rest and recovery. While I worked seven days a week, I still made time for sleep and downtime.
For the most part, my schedule for the seven-day work week was a combination of the schedules mentioned above:
- 4AM-7AM Work (emails, writing, etc)
- 7AM-8AM Workout
- 8AM-9AM Breakfast, shower, etc.
- 9AM-12PM Work
- 12PM-1:30PM Relax
- 1:30PM-4:30PM Work
- 4:30-10PM Relax
Saturday and Sunday
- 6AM-7AM Wake-up
- 7AM-10AM Work
- 10AM-10PM Relax
Despite how it may sound, the work schedule wasn’t nearly as masochistic as it sounds. For the most part, it felt rather normal to work everyday. Although I didn’t have a 24-hour reprieve from my to-do list, the schedule actually helped me to break my work schedule up into smaller chunks. Rather than racing to get things done as fast as possible, it was more like a continual work in progress.
In regards to feeling tired and rundown, I have had that feeling occasionally. Part of the benefit to working more than the traditional five days a week is having the luxury to arrange your week how you best see fit. That includes working on days you feel productive and tapering down on days that you don’t. On the seven-day work week, I was putting in hours everyday despite not “feeling it” on several occasions. I will say, however, that despite not having the initial drive, I found myself being able to get a considerable amount done once I got into the swing of things.
Similar to Joel’s story mentioned above, my hypothesis going in was that if I spent some extra time during the week (in the middle of the day and at night for instance) to recover and rejuvenate, the extended 24-hour period without work wouldn’t be necessary. I actually found that not to be true. While I enjoyed the breaks during the day, it didn’t quite measure up to having a full day off from work. I’m not entirely sure of the reason, but I can definitely say that the sum of the parts (a few hours off each day) doesn’t equal the whole (an extended 24 hour break).
Overall, I’d have to say that the six-day work week best fits my preferred schedule. It seems to be the best mix of work to rest that allows me to still be productive without burning out. The entire experiment was rather eye-opening. I noted several important things both about myself and about my perception of work in general. In no particular order:
- Perhaps the best part about this entire experiment is that I was able to dictate the rules and guidelines. The freedom of my work schedule is something that I’ve glossed over the past few years. However, it’s really something to be appreciated. The hours I worked were largely decided by me and not dictated by a larger entity. That’s something I hope to appreciate more going forward.
- It’s vital to find out how you best recover alongside how you best work. We focus more on the latter and little on the former. I found that I recovered best through reading, listening to music, and doing things outside with my friends and fiancee. You may find that you recover best by watching football all day on Sunday. The takeaway is to find what works best for you recovery-wise. It’s as important – if not more important – than thinking about your best productivity tips.
- The idea that you have to work certain hours of the day to be considered productive is utter garbage. I find that I work best in the mornings, but I know I can’t work past 9PM without literally falling asleep at my desk. However, there are certain folks that wake-up at 10AM but work until 1AM. Doing so doesn’t make them less productive or lazy. The notion that you have to wake-up early to be considered productive lacks merit.
- Your viewpoint on work largely determines your best work schedule. If you hate your line of work, a five-day work week will likely suit you best. Change your viewpoint on work, and you’ll open yourself up to a wide variety of scheduling options.
- I haven’t tried anything less than five days of work throughout the week. Several companies employ a four-day work week (like Treehouse for instance). While the idea sounds nice, I’m not sure I could stick with it. There are simply too many things to get done in my head.
For now, I’m going to stick with the six-day work week. Although I’ll occasionally go off the deep end and get in seven days, I’ve found that it leads to an eventual decrease in productivity, and there are practically unavoidable downsides (as I’m writing this, I have a lingering head cold I’ve been unable to shake). Still, the experiment taught me quite a bit about myself and how I work best.
I’d be interested to hear, have you experimented with similar work schedules? What worked best for you?
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