Taking the day off

photo-86I’ve been reviewing a number of time logs lately as part of the Mosaic project (want to participate? See here for details). I’m doing a workshop next month for a group of financial planners, who all kept track of their time for me. I’ve been intrigued to see that a few members of this high-earning crew have intentionally scheduled their lives to take one weekday mostly — or fully — off.

Some of this is the nature of the job. As a financial planner, much of your job involves meeting regularly with clients and reviewing asset allocation and goals. If you elect not to open Friday up to meetings, then you can simply not be available then. If you wind up with enough clients that they fully fill your available hours, you can not take on new clients. There is an income trade off, of course, but it’s a relatively straightforward income trade off. These planners can work fewer hours, and still make good money, so they do.

So is this a strategy to recommend broadly in the interest of work-life balance? I have a few thoughts and caveats. While a day off sounds nice, it can be hard to use well, just like weekends are hard to use well. A few years ago, my childcare schedule was such that my sitter left at 1pm on Friday. My 3-year-old was in full day school, so I just had a baby with me. I thought we’d go do all sorts of fun things like museums and walks, but inevitably he’d be fussy or tired, or I’d be fussy and tired or (just as often) not actually done with my work, so I’d try to get it done while he napped.

Today, my usual sitter was off and I had a sub for a few hours (during which I ran and submitted a column). Then I had the kids from 11:30-4:30. While it would have been fun to do something, there was so much back and forth with the plumbers being there to fix a sewage system issue in our basement that I couldn’t really leave. We baked popovers (see photo, above) but didn’t make it to the zoo. Life maintenance often expands to fill the available space, and if you’re the party with a day “off” you often wind up dealing with it.

Pondering the day off concept, though, I realize that if I made it a priority, I could probably officially take a day off regularly. But here’s the issue: because of the nature of my job, I consider things that I do for the love of it, like blogging and writing fiction, to be “work.” I read books as part of my job, too. Since these are all things I’d be doing as leisure if I had a different day job, I find I’m not that interested in taking time off. If anything, I’m interested in finding more hours to do these things.

I probably should get out more regularly. I do need things to write about, and that requires filling the pot. But work life balance means different things to different people. And that’s why our schedules tend to look the way they do.

13 thoughts on “Taking the day off

  1. I think this will look different for different families. A financial planner married to a physician with long hours or a teacher with fixed ones may well be dealing with “stuff” on the day off much of the time. I love having a day off to deal with “stuff” because I don’t have the sort of marriage where “stuff” is dealt with 50/50- I deal with nearly all the “stuff”.

    My mother was recently diagnosed with early stage pancreatic cancer, which is a likely-terminal diagnosis. Her cancer is treatable but not curable. Since my husband and I have already spent 8 years helping to deal with his fathers terminal diagnosis a few years ago, we have some idea what to expect. (My mom likely doesn’t have 8 years.)

    The appointment was inflexible, so I’m very grateful to have a job that is flexible. I only wish flight schedules were more flexible, because my brother (the engineering manager) is doing the 12 hr roundtrip drives to help her with complex appts.

    1. @TG – I’m sorry to hear about your mother’s illness.
      In some cases the days off are dependent on family situation but in others, not. People just want the time off. In my case since I’d do a lot of the same stuff on my day “off” — and since I work at home and can meet a plumber — there’s not that same reasoning.

  2. I’ve started scheduling myself for days off during the week. Sometimes I “do something” (schedule a massage, have lunch with a far-away friend). Sometimes I do household stuff because I will feel better when it’s completed and it’s easier to do when I’m alone in the house. Sometimes I actually do work (paperwork). Being scheduled off means I don’t get paged, and that’s the psychic break I need.

  3. I consider things that I do for the love of it, like blogging and writing fiction, to be “work.”

    I’ve been wondering: In your time logs, do you count your fiction writing as part of your 50-ish hours per week of work, or do you give it its own category? I ask as a freelance writer and editor whose work is a motley patchwork of stuff done for love, stuff done for money, stuff done for love and money, and stuff done for love from which I am striving to earn money. What is work, what is not work? For me, the question does not have a clear-cut answer, so I’m curious how others answer the question.

    1. @Rachael- good question. For me, if it’s things that are advancing me toward my professional priorities, it’s work. So just because I don’t have an immediate paycheck for something doesn’t mean it isn’t work. After all, if I worked for, say, a consulting company, I’d spend some chunk of time pitching projects that would never happen. Just because no revenue was booked doesn’t mean it isn’t work.

  4. I really think you have the answer to life satisfaction when you talk about how, if your work is your passion, you’ll never want days off and you’ll never want to retire. That’s how I know I want to be a writer: I do it every possible minute I have, every single day, and almost all of that (at this beginning point) is still unpaid. On the other hand, the idea of going back to teaching in a school, though it’s for a quite comfortable income and summers off, fills me with dread. I want work that doesn’t feel like work, something I love so much I’d do it for free every day. (Still need the money though… hoping that old adage is true, that if you do what you love, the money will come.)

    1. @Leanne – I don’t know if the old adage is true! I think a version of it is true, though — if you don’t like your work, you may need to spend more to make yourself happy. Whereas if you do, you might do work during your leisure time. So even if you’re not earning much, you’re not spending during those hours…

  5. I really like being able to take a day to work from home each week. This semester I haven’t been able to, but it’s nice to take little breaks to change the laundry etc. It’s a bit more productive than me walking down the hall to get another glass of water or tea that I don’t really need, and it allows me to recover from talking to so many dang people and getting so many interruptions.

    1. @nicoleandmaggie – I generally like working from home, too, for the lack of distractions, and the option of home-based things during my breaks. Though sometimes I think I spend too much time in there — I should get out more.

    1. @Arden – they are very good warm! Somewhat less than spectacular a few hours later, and definitely worse for wear by day 2. It’s a lot of air in bread and the visual appeal is a big part of it.

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