Recently, I went back to working a 9 to 5.
After 20 years of setting my own hours while working as a tennis coach, hypnotherapist and writer, I decided I needed more structure and certainty in my life.
I was fed up with not knowing when the next lesson, client or book sale was coming. It bothered me that I could end up working at 11 o’clock at night or on Sunday’s.
So, I took the plunge and made a decision to . . . . . .
block out an entire week and work 9 to 5 on finishing my fourth book, The Rebel Code.
Ok, so I wasn’t entirely truthful with the title of this blog post. I haven’t gone and got myself a regular job or revisited my days of working in a sports retail store.
I’m still self-employed and working as a writer. However, the way in which I work changed and I learned a lot from the experience.
For an entire week (Monday to Sunday), I worked from 9am until 5.30pm. I took small, 5-minute mini breaks throughout the day, had 30 minutes at lunch and, other than that, worked consistently for 7 hours.
I now want to share my experiences with you, hoping you might benefit from my unique perspective.
Remember, the last time I worked this way was 20 years ago. As a result, I approached my 9 to 5 with fresh eyes.
Whereas there might be something you’ve overlooked, become blinded to or taken for granted, I was made acutely aware of the impact of working this way during my one-week experiment.
Furthermore, there’s just as much to learn if you’re self-employed.
It would be arrogant to assume working a 9 to 5 is an inferior and less desirable way to work just because, on the surface, it appears to offer less freedom and flexibility. There could be hidden benefits you’ve overlooked.
So, without further ado, here are the discoveries I made from one week of working a 9 to 5.
The first good thing about working a 9 to 5 is that it forces you to get to bed early the night before. I was working from home, so I didn’t have to worry about getting up early for a commute. However, I made sure I was getting ready for bed by 11pm and was asleep before midnight.
Prior to working a 9 to 5, it wasn’t unusual for me to be working (or, more often, wasting time watching YouTube videos) at around midnight and not falling asleep until 1am. Afterall, if my first tennis lesson, or hypnotherapy appointment, wasn’t until 11am the next day, I had no reason to be up early.
This isn’t an efficient way to work. Typically, the time between 11pm and 12am was wasted and, because I was going to bed so late, I wouldn’t start work on my writing until 10am.
I was losing an hour of productivity per day. However, when I started working a 9 to 5, that all changed.
Any delay to my bedtime would mean a delay to my 9am start and a subsequent delay to my 5.30pm finish. Because I faced this time pressure, I became much more efficient with my day. Instead of waking up, taking my time making breakfast, relaxing for a bit, checking my phone and scrolling through social media, I would eat my food and get straight down to work.
Likewise, when evening came, there was no prolonged period of time relaxing on the sofa and checking my phone. I allowed myself an hour for my favourite tv series or a movie and that was it (I kept my phone in the other room to eliminate distractions).
Ironically, although I worked longer than usual (50 hours a week), in some respects, I felt I had more time at my disposal because I wasn’t wasting any of it.
Another benefit to working a 9 to 5 is that it helped me prioritise my most important work.
While working a 9 to 5, my writing came first. Before, I might schedule a game of tennis in the middle of the day and lose two and a half hours (including travel) of productive time. Now, if I wanted to play tennis, or go to the gym, or do anything else, it had to be done after 5.30pm.
This meant that writing got my undivided attention and nothing interrupted this focus.
The results were noticeable.
Although I could have written more, I completed 11,000 words over the course of the week. Compare this to my usual output of around 2000 words per week (although I have the added distractions of teaching tennis lessons and seeing hypnotherapy clients), and you can see the difference this makes.
Mid-way through the afternoon on the Monday, my head started to ache. I’d never spent more than 6 hours writing in a day and, when I did work for longer periods of time, there were always lengthy breaks in between.
Spending close to 7 hours straight staring at a computer screen isn’t healthy.
By the afternoon, I noticed my thought process slowing down. I wasn’t as sharp. The words that I did write (my writing speed also declined) didn’t always make sense and I lost all ability to assess the quality of my work. As a result, although I’d spent 7 hours writing, only 4 to 5 hours represented work of true quality.
Perhaps there’s still value in completing those additional 2 to 3 hours. Afterall, I was getting work done, albeit slowly, and every word written got me one step closer to completing the book. However, I couldn’t help but notice I was a far more inspired writer when following my old way of working.
This led me to the conclusion that working for 7 hours straight (regardless of the work you do), isn’t the best way to be creative and productive.
I’m a more efficient writer when I work for a couple of hours, have a substantial break and then work for another two. This way I’m refreshed and actually looking forward to the writing process.
While working a 9 to 5, I was getting to 3pm and then counting down the remaining two and a half hours until the end of the day. I needed some variety to ignite the creative flow and do my best work.
As already mentioned, I didn’t have to make a commute. From bedroom to writing desk (which you can see in the photo below), takes me 10 seconds. For this reason, I had an additional one to two hours a day at my disposal.
Some people aren’t so fortunate. For them, a 9 to 5 is more like an 8 to 6 (or much worse).
I think if I’d been working such a schedule, it would have soon become intolerable.
Part of what made my experiment enjoyable was that I had the entire evening free. It was great knowing I could shut down my laptop at 5.30pm and then lose myself for at least 5 hours with whatever I wanted to do. However, had I been returning home at 6.30pm, and knowing I needed to be getting ready for bed at 10pm, the novelty of having a free evening would have very quickly worn off.
What does 3 hours a night really give you the time to do?
You might be able to get to the gym, prepare and eat your evening meal and then relax for a little, but that’s it. There’s no time for anything else (especially so if you have children to look after) and this is depressing.
Not just that, though, it’s incredibly unhealthy.
Most office jobs are sedentary. If you don’t walk to work, it’s unlikely you’d be reaching even 1000 steps in a day (let alone the recommended 10,000). This represents a total lack of exercise in your life which, long-term, can be disastrous for your health (Peter Attia, a Canadian Doctor who specialises in longevity, revealed on The Joe Rogan Experience that having very high cardiovascular fitness gives you a 5 fold reduction in all-cause mortality compared with someone of below average fitness).
You NEED to make time for exercise.
This is a non-negotiable. However, if you only get 3 free hours per night, it can be very difficult to do this consistently.
What if you want to meet your boyfriend or girlfriend, go to an event, have something important to take care of or, like many people, need to work overtime? It won’t be possible to do these things and exercise. A sacrifice must be made and, for most people, its often their health.
For your health alone, working a 9 to 5, consistently, for years and decades of your life, is not a feasible way to live.
It’s physically, emotionally and spiritually damaging.
One fundamental ingredient to living a good life is to feel alive.
This is hard to achieve when, every day, you have to be at the same place, at the same time, often doing the same thing.
Although my experiment taught me it’s great to prioritise the work that’s most important to you, and eliminate distractions, this can’t be done at the expense of enjoying your life.
No amount of money would convince me to forgo the variety in my life and work 50 to 80 hours a week at just one thing (even if I loved that thing).
Money is not worth feeling miserable and unhealthy for. Instead, consider taking what’s best about a 9 to 5 schedule (the focus and prioritisation it provides), and adapt it to a working life where you negotiate flexible working hours with your boss or are completely in charge of your time.
Personally, I’ll be doing more 9 to 5 weeks in the future. However, I’ll NEVER work a 9 to 5!!
If you want to discover a passion you can make a living from and overcome the fears that are holding you back, check out my free course 30 Days to Escape The System. Click here to get the course right now! (You’ll find the tips on developing belief and self-confidence fascinating!)
(image taken courtesy of Steve Koukoulas photostream on flickr.com)