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In search of harmony


In June I read an interesting book by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang about how to make a 4-day working week become a reality. The book makes a compelling case for how companies can implement a 4-day working week, benefiting employees immensely (who don't have to take a pay cut) as well as having a positive impact on productivity. I was drawn to it having listened to a podcast by Amy Porterfield who runs a $multi-million digital business (albeit with around 20 employees) and has made the 4-day work week a success in her business.

Well, given that one of my Values is "harmony" (read work-life harmony) I used one of my favourite energising strengths - "Action-taking" and decided to reduce my working week to 4 days during July and August. I figured that this was usually a quiet time with clients and that, as my husband has Fridays off, that this would be a good day to also take time off and spend some days with him. I would activate my out-of-office every Friday and move all my Friday "end of week" tasks to complete on Thursday.

Sounds like a plan, right?

What actually happened

The first Friday in July was perfect with beautiful weather. I spent the morning at a workshop making a willow obelisk for the garden and the afternoon going for a run and practising guitar. This was living the dream and it felt amazing.

In the second week, I swapped my "day off" to Tuesday as I had a scheduled supervision session on Friday for most of the day. The Tuesday also had clement weather and I completed an 18-mile hike with a friend. Feeling good!

Week 3 was pretty great too. I had a coaching meet-up on the Friday which was semi-social followed by lunch with a friend.

However, by week 4 things had started to unravel a little bit. For some reason I decided to have two half days off instead of a full day. This was OK and I did manage a sea swim with a friend on Thursday morning plus some paddle boarding on Friday afternoon.
But it didn't feel as relaxing as the first two weeks.

By the end of July and for all of August, the experiment was pretty much in failure mode. I had forgotten that Friday is normally a "turnaround" day for our holiday let cottage (a side hustle) and I was on August duty with the gardening there. Although this wasn't exactly "work", it also didn't feel spontaneous enough to count as leisure. Added to this that the weather was cold and wet and my motivation to be frolicking in the great outdoors was also dwindling. I had also failed to take into account that I was launching a new product in September which required a lot of work in August...

So, out of the 9 Fridays that I was going to have off, I managed a pure "day off" on only one :-/

Fail and learn

The reason for sharing this anecdote, of course, is to derive some learning from this failed experiment - so that I can do it better next time (oh yes, there will be a next time) and so that you can maybe learn from my failure too. So, what did I learn?

  • That embarking on a 20% reduction in your working hours takes some planning (I blame my pesky "action-taking" strength for deciding then implementing with no planning time). Next time I will plan:
    • Which month(s) to do a 4-day week based upon my workload
    • To not have any work-related items in my calendar on those days off
    • To pre-book some activities on those days to make sure that "logging in" is not a possibility
    • To make sure clients know that I'm not available on those days off and put on my Out-of-Office
  • That my business is not ready for a 4-day work week but that, with planning, this is something I can implement for short periods and work towards a full-time version in the future.
  • That I need to be clearer with my boundaries between work and leisure - something that I believe has blurred for many of us during the pandemic.
  • That I need to widen my activity ideas to incorporate some that are indoors (in case of British summer-time weather).
  • That I shouldn't make wild promises to my husband about spending Fridays with him - this didn't happen once!

What you can do

Even if experimenting with a 4-day week isn't realistic for you right now, I wonder if there are small changes you could make to get a more melodic work-life harmony (or balance, fit, integration, whichever works for you)? Here are some questions to help you figure that out:

  • On a scale of 1 - 10, where is your work-life harmony right now?
  • Where would you like it to be?
  • What is life like when you have perfect harmony?
  • What are you seeing, hearing and feeling when you have perfect harmony?
  • What would make it even better?
  • What changes do you need to make? By when, how and what support do you need?
  • What one change can you make right now to improve your harmony?

I'd love to hear your commitment if you want to share and create accountability. I am committing to one Friday off a month and spending (at least part of it) with my husband, starting on October (15th). I will report back to you at the end of the year and let you know how I got on!

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