Since moving to a 4-day week a few weeks ago, I’ve had to look really hard at my habits to ensure I can get my work in 4 days rather than 5. What really surprised me is the biggest challenge has been setting (and sticking to!) my own boundaries.
When I worked a 5-day week, I would sometimes dip into work at a weekend and now I found myself doing the same on a Friday. It’s become obvious that it doesn’t matter how many days a week I work, I need to be much clearer with myself about which days are work days, and when to put the laptop away.
4 day work week, or just taking Friday off?
There was a bit of an internal dilemma. Was I working a 4-day week, or just taking Friday off? It sounds silly, but if there was a bank holiday Monday, I found myself thinking I should be working that Fri to ‘make up’ for it. After some conversations with Sally and my coach, I’ve set a clear boundary – I’m no longer working Fridays. This has been a challenge if a client wanted to run a session on a Friday and couldn’t make other days but after one false start, I’m on this now! Sure, it made me feel a bit anxious to start with but I changed my focus, and now I feel far more confident in my decision.
A much-needed focus shift
I set myself rules and structure to help set and maintain the boundaries for my four-day workweek. Here’s what I do:
1) As soon as I feel myself lose focus or procrastinate, I have a word with myself: “if you want your Fridays off, you need to stop messing about!” It works every time! There’s a really great talk by Tim Urban about the “Procrastination Monkey”. Here are some screenshots below:
If you struggle with procrastination, I really recommend this talk!
2) The fewer days you work, the more you must prioritise so on that 3-day week, I had to be super strict about what HAD to be done. What I realised was that most things I’d deprioritised had already been rolling from week to week and so needed to come off the list completely.
3) Make your Fridays count: I’m still ploughing through overdue life admin but feeling better for doing it, I’m having any appointments on a Friday and this is freeing up Saturdays and Sundays to do whatever I want. I’m a lot more relaxed on a Friday evening so feel like I’ve gained even more quality time.
4) I had to stop using a dual-SIM phone for work and personal as I was finding it impossible not to look at work emails and apps on a day off – the reality is that I’ve struggled with this for a long time. When I turn off the work phone on a Thursday, it feels symbolic that the weekend has begun.
It’s taken quite a long time, but I feel like I’m finally seeing the benefits of being refreshed outweighing any anxiety. People often say that you can easily achieve a 4-day week by getting 20% more productivity out of yourself and I’m not sure I really believed this until I started sleeping better and feeling more refreshed – it turns out that it’s not healthy to think about work all the time – who knew! 😉
I’m not saying that the 4-day week is for everyone. But setting clearer boundaries, making sure you recharge when you’re not working, and thinking about your own habits and how much time you spend not being productive should be helpful for everyone. None of this is rocket science – but it put my own bad habits into sharp focus for me!
What steps will you put in place to set and keep your own boundaries? We’d love to hear them so please get in touch!