We’re all so hot on productivity right now. When I turned freelance, I didn’t know how this would affect my productivity, I just knew I craved more flexibility in my day to day. When I got a new contract with full time requirements, I wanted to maintain some freedom of how I spent my time but I also had a theory that reducing my output to a four day week might help boost productivity. Welcome, the four day week.
Finding productivity in the freelance world
Since freelancing, I’ve realised that clients replace line managers. While some clients only expect you to deliver within their timescales, unfussed about how and where. Other clients will require a bit more of a hands-on approach, they also become more invested in you as a person, and want to work more closely with you to make full use of your skills.
When the latter happens – my God, it’s a great working relationship to have. I love to collaborate and work side by side my clients rather than being a name that is occasionally floated through internal meetings. As special as it is, it’s taken me time to realise that my energy, time, health and wellbeing are equally valuable entities so you have to be protective about your time, no matter what.
With the UK productivity levels declining, this is a huge discussion point.
Disclaimer: I don’t take the day off on Friday, I use this time to work on different types of work which have less time constraints on them and will help my business.
Why not stick to full time?
Fridays allow me dedicated time for me to focus on admin, creativity and marketing. It’s also the perfect time to pick up smaller streams of work with other clients. I was seeing how big organisations allow for alternate off Fridays with the idea being that you work slightly longer days to account for this time. Knowing that big organisations are doing something like this, I thought I’d give it a go. I also wanted to carve out time for creative writing, marketing and boring but essential admin.
The four day week has been going strong for two whole weeks now – how has it been working out?
Set the rules upfront – verbal and non-verbal
(This applies to full time work too)
I confirmed my four day weeks at the start of the contract – when all rules are agreed. Even the non-verbal rules like checking your email outside of working office hours – if you do this early on, you’ll be expected to do it forever more. My rule is: set the rules your most tired and sleepy self will be grateful for in forthcoming months. Don’t set unsustainable rules.
Pros and cons to working a four day week
(…when you might have five days worth of work!) There are moments when I question this decision so I wanted to share a little bit of insight into how this is working out for me.
Productivity boost for Monday – Thursday
There’s no leftover practitioner work that I need to do on Friday. The four day weeks have taught me to systematically prioritise my work tasks everyday to ensure I can step away from my laptop on Thursday afternoon guilt-free – happy that I’ve ticked everything off. I think of the tasks I “must” do. I tell people when I’ll send something back so I am held accountable for these deadlines.
Shift between routine and complete freedom
Now this is going to sound like a first world problem, but the switch from routine heavy days to open days driven entirely by my own priorities took time to get used to. I realise how it’s actually much easier to be led by a manager or deadline requirements but when you have a long list of things you should, must and maybe do – the decision-making process becomes crippling.
There is always admin
Running a business is joined with a shed-load of admin. PAYE, Pension, Student Loan, keeping HMRC happy, keeping clients happy by invoicing on time, filing… the list goes on and on, but I’ll spare you any more boringness. It’s an illusion that this day off is always spent sitting back in a cafe watching the world go by – it’s actually an ideal opportunity to get the boring but essential stuff done.
Opportunity to slow it down
Then I remember how I take Friday’s off to effectively take the foot off the pedal. When I’m going into central London, I realise just how crazy fast paced the world is. My walking pace is nothing short of 5mph just because it’s London, and that’s the going rate. I’ve barely finished ordering my coffee when it turns up in my hand. Life is insane and working life is hectic so I use Friday’s to sleep in a little later and to embrace the lack of routine and the rituals that make Monday – Thursday so tightly compacted.
I will continue to keep Fridays to myself as long as it’s financially viable and not affecting the work I’ll do mainly because I’ve noticed it’s giving me more energy during the week day with heightened productivity to get everything done. While the open-endedness of how I spend this day is sometimes crippling it’s also absolutely refreshing – so once I fully embrace this extra time, it’s only a matter of time before I start bossing it.
What rules do you have in place?