Shifting Away From Shift Work: Forgetting the Life of a 9-5er

cat sleeping deskI realized I’ve now spent more of my career as an entrepreneur, building my own business and setting my own schedule, than I have as a 9 to 5 employee to someone else. It’s a milestone I’ve proudly earned by taking many other risks and sacrifices, but I still can’t help but a feel little spoiled for the life this has provided. When my friends or family encounter a restriction because of their work schedule, I’m oddly aloof as to what this feels like. I’m unable to recall what it’s like to have to report to a desk every day at a specific time and stay there regardless of what, if any work needs accomplished during those exact hours. Work doesn’t always come in between 9am and 5pm and it certainly doesn’t stop coming in at all other hours of the day. This raises the question of why, with all of the technology that allows us to work from virtually anywhere, do we still chain ourselves to a desk for a block period of time?

I don’t know who I should credit for its original quotation, but this following thought often weaves itself into my conversations with people who ask me about entrepreneurship. “As an entrepreneur, you get to choose the 80 hours a week you work.” The hours of work per week will change, but the message remains the same. Entrepreneurs may put in long hours, but at least we get to choose these hours. This allows us to weave work around life, travel and important events that we may otherwise have to choose between. I jokingly say that if I worked a 9 to 5 job, I would max out my vacation days before February of each year and with every passing year this joke becomes more of a reality. I’m grateful that the length of my vacations, holiday breaks and time spent with family are at my discretion. With a husband who also runs his own non-profit, I’m quite certain that without our flexible work schedules we would be like two ships passing in the night. Instead, I’ll join him on a business trip and work from hotels and coffee shops. Or we’ll both choose to work from home for a day to spend a little more time together.

When you’re an insomniac they say that you’re never really asleep and never really awake. As an entrepreneur, I feel quite similar with my work schedule. At any given time I never have to be working, but I’m also never not working. Email and cell phones connect me at all times with my clients, so whether I’m sitting in front of my computer or out grocery shopping, I’m just as accessible. This allows me to do anything at any hour of the day and so I try to be strategic with when I do what. For example, entrepreneurship has allowed me to visit the doctor or hair salon at times when most people have to be at the office. I can do my grocery shopping when the store is dead rather than fighting with the weekend traffic. I also schedule my meetings to avoid rush hour so I can easily sail down the highway and spend more time than absolutely necessary in transit. These may seem like small perks, but I couldn’t imagine life without them.

I’m barely able to remember what life was like when I had the same exact routine every morning and a set time to be out the door. Every so often these clouded memories come back when I find myself scheduled for an early morning meeting or poor planning has left me stuck in commuter traffic. My immediate reaction is “How do people do this every day?” After the moment passes and I re-enter my entrepreneurial world of constant change and variable schedules, I realize this is also a reasonable question that anyone else may choose to ask me…

15 thoughts on “Shifting Away From Shift Work: Forgetting the Life of a 9-5er

  1. Thanks for your insight, spot on, as always! But then again, I too live a non-traditional work schedule by choice and design, and don’t envy anyone the 9-5 grind at all. Love the “80 hours a week” quote, that feels so true!

  2. I can definitely see the benefits of creating your own schedule. My question to you is: Where do you personally draw the line? If your work can find you any where (including the grocery store) how do you make sure work doesn’t over run your personal life?

    1. Really good questions – and ones that I may always be working to figure, out I think. I try and establish “normal” hours with my clients in which they can expect to receive a response from me within 10 minutes (even if it’s just an acknowledgement). Outside of these hours, it is at my discretion as to how quickly I answer a request. This helps provide me with weekends and evenings where I ca fully step away from my work if I choose, but if I want to respond, I can also do that as well. It’s more of a bonus than an expected immediate response when I do. I think it all comes down to communicating clear boundaries and managing expectations from the start.

  3. All that you say makes a lot of sense, Stephanie! I work full time. While I do manage to get flexibility some times, it’s not easy to change mindsets and make people understand all the time that being flexible does not mean doing less work. Instead, it’s a skill that one needs to learn. Not everybody can be “flexible” and yet meet timelines and produce quality work.

    1. That’s definitely the world I live in! I am much more productive when I can be flexible with my time and work when I’m most inspired. I understand it’s not the lifestyle for everyone, but for those it works for we should be allowed to use it to the fullest!

  4. Hello Stephanie! Great article,

    I made my decision never work from 9-5 workday after reading “4 hour work week” by Timothy Ferris . I found out that you can accomplished same from 10 to 3 or from 9 till 2 and then you can live your life or develop new projects to en reach life…. I own two business a retail store and e commerce company but still made a firm decision to follow the work less live more rule….

    1. I’ve also read that book! It reminded me that it’s OK to be efficient with your time and then enjoy the life you make for yourself. So often, we work hard to create an entrepreneurial life, but don’t take time to enjoy all the benefits (along with the sacrifices) this brings. Thanks for commenting.

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