As a business owner and mom of two young girls, planning is a necessity in my life. This works out well, as I’ve been a self-described ‘planner’ for my entire life. ‘Spontaneous’ is not a word that friends have ever offered during one of those ice breaker challenges in which they have to describe me in three words. It’s not a word I’ve ever used to describe myself. I prefer structure, routine, and consistency.
It’s just part of who I always thought I was.
In the world of small business and entrepreneurship, there’s a common story about ‘flexibility.’ I was happy to promote this story. I chattered on about loving the idea of having a totally open schedule that I could use any way that I wanted. I told stories about wanting to build a life that allowed me to be present for my family. About being able to work from anywhere and travel and do whatever I wanted to, whenever I wanted to.
The louder I professed my commitment to flexibility, the more I thought my brain would buy into it. But despite listing the perks of having shrugged off a traditional work week, I clung to it like crazy. I worked Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (sometimes more, seldom less), every week of every year. I even successfully planned and executed two of my own maternity leaves when I had my daughters. But the truth was, I was a slave to the workweek, and I knew it.
It was only just this year – three businesses, two children, and one pandemic later – that work finally ruined my week.
What Is a Week, Anyway?
A week seems like a fairly straightforward concept to consider. There are only a couple of options, right? There’s the classic Sunday to Saturday week (cue the nursery song about the days of the week). Our calendars and planners are usually organized this way, and we often start household planning discussions with “the week of…” Then there’s Monday to Friday, our work and school weeks. The workweek starts at 9 a.m. sharp on Mondays and happily wraps Fridays at 5 p.m.
But – now hear me out – what if it doesn’t? What if Saturdays are the same as Wednesdays, and Sundays are actually just like Thursdays? I know. It feels blasphemous to even consider this. We have to preserve our weekends, right? We have to hold space for them and protect them and relish in the freedom they provide. No work! No school! We can spend precious time with our families and friends. We can spend time on ourselves. No rules, no obligations.
Except that’s not true, is it? We fill our weekends with the tasks that we run out of time to do during the week. We get groceries, clean, do laundry. We take our kids to sporting events and birthday parties. Our weekends are packed, and then we do it all again.
Reasons to Ditch the ‘Work Week’ Mentality
I was knee-deep in my Monday-Friday routine when, suddenly, life forced me out of it. My husband started a new job that required him to be in the office two days a week. Before this, he was home to care for our two girls, and I could work like I always have. But, with his change, that life was over. Suddenly, I needed to be Mom-in-Charge two business days a week. I knew I couldn’t run my businesses in just three work days a week, but I also knew that trying to be the mom I wanted to be was impossible if I was also trying to be the boss I wanted to be. Something had to give, and with the help of my life coach, I decided to work past my stubbornness of a 9-5 routine and into a fluid week, and here’s what I’ve learned:
- Working on Saturdays and Sundays is more productive: Once I coached my way out of feeling resentful that I had to work on “the weekend,” I was shocked to find how much I liked it. A two or three-hour block of work on a Saturday or Sunday morning, before my family really gets moving, is actually significantly more productive for me than the same amount of time during the Monday-Friday week.
- It’s incredibly satisfying – and possible – to complete a to-do list: When I work on the weekends, I am able to actually make progress on my task list without adding more tasks to it. No clients are emailing me with questions, no one is calling me. To prevent any of my team members from feeling obligated to respond, I either clarify expectations with them or simply schedule emails to go out on Monday morning.
- Your days can feel more balanced: With a more fluid approach to my weeks, I feel significantly more balanced on any given day. In fact, my days look pretty similar. If you randomly checked in on a Sunday, it might look exactly the same as a Wednesday. I’ve found a routine and consistency that works everyday, not just Monday through Friday.
- Being present is easier: Because I’m okay with working a few hours on the weekends, I find myself able to be more mindful and present when I’m with my kids or partner or friends.
As it turns out, it took years and years – and a nice shove from life – to actually walk the walk when it came to creating more flexibility in my life. Even in a 9-5 job, we control the time that we have outside of the office. See if there are stories that you’re telling yourself about your time that are no longer working for you. Challenge the “rules” about days of the week, routines, and how you treat time in your life. Create a definition of a week that works for you.