Sustainable Pace

April 3rd, 2014

Four day work week

I have been working 5 day weeks for 8 years now, without a significant pause. Since then I had very little time to pursue spontaneous interests in order to satisfy my curious nature.

The plan

So, in 2012, I challenged myself to take on an experiment: Do not spend my allotted days off on weeks of free time at once, but take one day off each week. All in all, I had 7 continuous months of 4 day weeks, starting from June 2012.

I decided to take Mondays off. It had to be Monday or Friday, as I wanted a long weekend. I decided to go with Monday. On Fridays you're in a weekend mood anyway, and things are less stressful at the office. I also wanted to spend the weekend with the family, and still look forward to having some me-time ahead. Think of it as Sunday being yet another Saturday.

The first time

At first it felt really strange. I tried to cram as much into Mondays as possible. I immediately took on a Coursera course and also started attending yoga classes at a yoga school next door. I should have taken it a bit more easy, it started to feel like Freizeitstress pretty soon.

So I finished the Coursera course (Gamification, highly recommended) with minimum effort, and focused on taking it easy. This sounds silly, but relaxing is something that doesn't come easy to me. So I ditched all my plans and only started thinking about my day off on Monday morning.

Starting over

If the weather was nice I went on a bicycle trip. If the weather was lousy, I would play my guitar, watch a film or fix something in the house. I always picked my daughter up from kindergarten and took her to a gym lesson for kids. If there was no gym lesson, we would just have ice cream and hang out at playgrounds or by the riverside. We really bonded that year.

As the months passed by, Mondays stopped feeling special, but the work week itself felt so short. It was weird to leave on Friday afternoon without feeling totally drained, but having energy left to give. In the end, it stopped feeling weird, but felt just good, the way it should be. And I think I got about the same amount of work done in four days as in five.

Long term effects

By the way, I didn't stop attending yoga classes, I continued until autumn 2013 and still go there every now and then. But I have taken up running in 2013 and focus on this for now. So the four day work week has helped me develop a long-term exercise ritual, which is nothing short of amazing to me. I didn't need any willpower, just a little free time.

Going back to five day work weeks was not as hard as I expected. However, a four day work week WITHOUT a regular longer holiday is not sustainable, as I experienced in 2013. We had planned a 4 week vacation for October, and I was totally exhausted by the end of summer. It took about two and a half weeks of holidays before I could really unwind and feel totally relaxed.

It worked

I would love to experience having a four day work week plus a month off in summer. This would be just awesome.

If you have worked in four day weeks (or non five day work weeks), please take a few moments to comment, I'm so curious if this is something other people have experienced as well.