Much of the working world revolves around the seven-day week: five days on, two days off (though web workers, as we’ve discussed, often work more than the traditional 40 hours). But if you’re an independent web worker, there’s no particular reason to tie your own hours to the standard Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 work week. Over the years I’ve experimented with a variety of different ways of structuring my own time, and quite often I come back to taking a “midweekend”: one or two days off in the middle of the week, with at least some work on Saturday and Sunday. Seem nuts to you? Here’s the method to my madness.
The sort of work I do – software design and development – benefits immensely from being “in the zone,” with minimal interruptions from phone calls and instant messages. This state can be difficult to get to during normal working hours when clients are in their own offices; it’s much easier to achieve on the weekends when they’re not around to bother me. Saturday and Sunday tend to be my most productive days, simply because I have fewer interruptions from those working traditional work weeks.
Of course, taking Wednesday and Thursday, or Thursday and Friday, as my weekend, doesn’t mean that I can be completely unavailable to clients on those days. But it does mean that I can take advantage of the flexibility of web workerhood to be available while keeping most of the time to myself:
- I simply avoid scheduling conference calls, online meetings, and so on for the midweekend days.
- With a good system for organizing incoming email, I can monitor for urgent messages once or twice a day and leave the rest to wait until I’m taking a full work day.
- Because I’m working to deadline and billing by the hour, it doesn’t matter when I work, only that I deliver.
In practice, I tend to work a few hours even on the midweekend days, but I’d be working a few hours on regular weekend days anyhow. So that’s a wash for me.
On the flip side, going grocery shopping or taking the kids to the museum mid-week means you get to avoid the crowds who want to do these things on their precious weekends. There are definite benefits to being out of step with the rest of the world. Of course, this doesn’t work so well if you want to go to sporting or entertainment events that only happen on the weekends – but there’s nothing to say that you have to take your recharge days on the same days every week. Flexibility is, after all, one of the best things about being a web worker. If you’re just recreating a traditional office environment on the web, you’re missing out on a lot of the fun.