This post on the Buffer blog cropped up again a few weeks ago. It talks about the origin of the 8 hour work day, the 9-5, and why we should all be rethinking the way we use our time.
When I started Virtually Does It nearly 5 years ago, I was building it alongside my 9-5 day job, and by ‘escaping’ my day job in 2012 to give my business a real start, I convinced myself that the 9-5 would also be gone. Freedom and flexibility beckoned in running my own business!
However, about 18 months later I realised that I had recreated my 9-5 day job at home. I was running a successful business but I had fallen into the industrial age way of working and I was no longer enjoying it. I needed to shake things up a bit and get out of what felt like a daily grind all over again.
This topic often crops up in conversation with clients and fellow businesses, how can we work more flexibly without feeling disruptive, unhelpful or guilty? And how easy is it to work against the grain?
This is the most important (and hardest!) thing that I needed to change in order to feel empowered that I was running my own business, feel confident I was providing a brilliant service for my clients and get what was needed done in order to build and sustain Virtually Does It. It didn’t necessarily matter whether I was sat at my desk from 9-5, the work I would do and the value I would give could happen at any time. Of course, I don’t work in the middle of the night or at times which are just plain awkward to everyone else, but working with solo business owners as well as being one, the understanding is mostly there about how things work around time. I needed to shift my corporate mindset into a business owner mindset.
Will anything other than 9-5 work?
Absolutely it will work. Working this way was all I had known through school and work, a start time and a finish time. A routine, and on some level we all need that. I knew the 9-5, it was familiar, so that is what I had subconsciously adopted to also make my business work. And it did. But changing it made it work better.
In the early days when I was only working with one or two clients, I still felt I had to be in front of my laptop, regardless if there was any work to do, either for clients or on my business. This was so draining, my energy and enthusiasm were gone by the end of the day. I would feel guilty getting up and going out or doing something else! Anyone else get that?
What I have learnt is it’s not necessarily about time, or forcing ourselves to do things ‘because that’s when we are meant to’. It’s about managing our energy and the demands of our business and ourselves and building our time around that.
Flip it and you’ll really notice the different, I did.
How I improved my work day and how you can too
Look at your business as a whole – in any business, paid work is what makes the rest of the business tick. It can be so easy to fall in to the trap of running your business solely around your clients and not thinking about the rest of your business too. Providing the best service to my clients is the most important thing for me, but there are other aspects of my business that I need to work on in order to maintain the service that I provide and make it better. Working on your business rather than in it all the time makes for a great break from the norm if you just tend to focus on client work and then worry that everything else is slipping. You may choose to work on your business development one afternoon and then catch up with client work in the evening. Why not? Or take a designated day every other week for any business development.
Create a structure that fits – so, we don’t want the 9-5 but I believe we all need some structure around what we do, even if it’s a very loose one. The difference here is that to some degree you will have a choice around that and how you manage when you work. Whether that’s splitting your day into 90 minute blocks as is suggested in the Buffer blog post, deciding when you work on what aspects of your business depending on when you’re at your most creative, or what else is important to you. Craft your schedule.
Don’t think of your business as a job – running your own business is a choice that will not just be your work but your life too. Have fun with it, work hard, celebrate successes, always be willing to adapt to what may work better for you to keep your business evolving. Be that the hours you work or the way you work. Set your boundaries, set your schedule and enjoy it.
We’re lucky that modern technology allows us to work pretty much anywhere. So with the right mindset and structure, why let the industrial age hold you back?