The Traditional Working Day: Why 9-5 Just Isn’t Possible
So you’ve just started out and you want to discipline yourself with some structure in your working day. You turn to the comfy familiarity of sitting at your desk 9 to 5. Safe in the knowledge that this works, you know what it entails and you've been doing it successfully for the last however many years.
Except things are different now. Very different actually.
A number of things have changed.
You don’t work in an office anymore, nor do you work for someone else. Yes, you have clients who do and will expect you to be available in office hours but there are plenty of other aspects to a business that you won’t be able to focus on while you are serving clients.
Businesses, particularly in the tech industry, have been poking the 9-5 bear for a while now. And since the pandemic, all businesses are reviewing it. Our personal and professional lives are so intertwined now that flexibility needs application in the 21st Century. The businesses you might be helping, may well have shift patterns or indeed offer flexible hours and you’ll need to follow suit.
It’s just you now. You don’t have colleagues and your support network is depleted. Sometimes motivation or inspiration just won’t come. This is a hot topic particularly, in the creative industries. Frustratingly, creativity doesn’t follow a timetable so you can't either. Even if you’re not in that sector, you’ll have days where you work non stop and days where you don’t (or can’t). And now that you have your own business this is going to be even more true.
It’s hard to shake off this routine. After all, this method has been drilled into us seemingly since the dawn of time (or since school anyway.) For the most part is does work, we humans like patterns and schedules and this is one that suits the majority.
So when we're presented with many unknowns, such as embarking on a new venture, we look for something familiar to give us comfort. However, sticking rigidly to office hours may not be beneficial to your business or mental health and here’s why.
Learning On The Job
There’ll be a lot of the business you’ll be developing as you go. Things that you haven't had to consider before. Worries that weren't your concern previously. Unexpected hurdles that you need to work out how to overcome.
All of this takes time.
That time will also be needed to service your clients and there are only so many hours in a day. So you’re going to need to divide and prioritise.
If you’re sticking rigidly to your 9-5 routine, there could be priorities and opportunities that you’re missing, or ignoring, because you think you don’t have time.
You might also want to read The Startup Journey: A Bit of an Obsession
You’ll be trying to work out how much things should cost, how much you should charge, how much people are willing to pay and the biggest challenge of all, how long things actually take!
Getting Timings Right
You will grossly over and underestimate how long you think a task will take. You'll get excited and want to get something over the line quickly. You'll want to impress a client so you'll over promise but find out that suddenly everything is due at the same time or the project is bigger than first scoped. All very common rights of passage for startups.
If you’re working a 9-5 routine, the work will start mounting and you’ll begin to get frustrated very quickly. Plus, seemingly not being able to get things done or having too much to do can be very demotivating and stressful.
The Inspiration-Ideas Whack in the Face
Creativity and problem solving don't come with an on off switch. Unless you're lucky or a complete genius, some workings out take more mulling over, more time to think, more angles to consider before a conclusion, drawing or campaign comes to you.
Sometimes it hits you like a cricket bat and you better make sure you take advantage of that time when it arrives.
Finding the Balance
So don’t beat yourself up about not working in the morning or afternoon or all hours of the day. You will just stress yourself out and the whole point of starting up on your own was so that you could do something you loved.
The biggest pressure we have is from ourselves so make sure you’re as kind as you possibly can be to yourself. Don’t take your foot off the pedal and do make sure that you’re keeping motivated but recognise that you worked solidly over the weekend so not doing anything on Monday morning is okay.
Take a break if your work is becoming blurry or the ideas aren't flowing. Perhaps that article you’re trying to write just isn’t happening right now, walk away from it. Do something else and come back to it.
You might also be interested in 10,000 Reasons We Procrastinate
Under Promise, Over Deliver
Of course, set yourself deadlines but don’t set out the parameters of how you hit those deadlines. That’s the bit that will restrict yourself from achieving what you want to. Manage your clients expectations on timing. Give yourself enough time to do a great job and explain to your customers where they stand. Everyone is always far more comfortable and giving in a situation when expectations are managed effectively.
Enjoy the freedom of being the master of your own destiny. Embrace the control. You are free to work when you want and when you need to - not because someone has told you that is when the office is open.
Learn the confidence to set parameters effectively with clients and the respect will follow. You’ll find you’ll get a lot more done and are way more happy.
What are your tips for managing expectations and giving your creativity the best chance? Perhaps you swear by the 9 to 5 routine. Let us know in the comments.