Thursday is the real ‘Hump Day’

We’ve got a few new readers here, which is great! If you’ve just found me through publicity I’ve been doing for Juliet’s School of Possibilities and the Before Breakfast podcast, I hope you’ll stick around.

I post here most days. At some point I was telling people I blog “daily” but that isn’t true. I generally blog Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday, and, it turns out, that’s only half the week.

Wednesday may be known as “hump day,” as in being the middle of the work week. But Thursday is the “hump day” of the whole week in the way most of us experience it, and this mindset shift can make all the difference in how we view life.

First, to explain. Many years ago, when I first had people start tracking their time, I needed to design a workable spreadsheet. I elected to put the days of the week across the top, Monday to Sunday, and then half-hour blocks down the left hand side. In honor of the American Time Use Survey, I decided to do 5 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. (though I later learned that the ATUS actually starts at 4 a.m. Nonetheless! That doesn’t really change the point I’m about to make, it just shifts it by an hour).

This means that, per my spreadsheet, the week starts Monday at 5 a.m., which I think is a fairly defensible starting point for the week.

Anyway, this 336-cell spreadsheet represents the 168 hours of a week. And I soon noticed something. When I’d filled out several days representing what seemed like a lot of time, up to Thursday at 5 p.m., half the spreadsheet was still blank.

In other words, Thursday at 5 p.m. is the midpoint of the week. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d always thought of close-of-business Thursday as sounding like the end of the week. But it isn’t. It’s the exact halfway mark. If I put a pin in my time log at  around 5 p.m. Thursday, it would balance. There is just as much time after as there is before. For most people, there are a few more hours devoted to sleep in the second half of the week, but it’s not a huge difference.

The reason this matters is we have a tendency to discount time that doesn’t happen Monday-Thursday. Somebody who takes off for a client site Monday morning and flies home Thursday afternoon might speak of traveling all the time. But this is not all the time; it is about half of the time. Your work/life balance might be pretty work-heavy Monday through end of day Thursday. But it’s probably very “life” heavy the second half of the week. Indeed, it’s possible these two balances start to balance each other out.

This mindset also helps us honor the weekend. It’s not tacked on at the end, an after thought to the real days. It represents (especially with the addition of Friday) a big chunk of our time.

I know this shift has helped me take my weekends more seriously. It’s encouraged me to think through what I’d like to do and at least attempt to deal with the logistics. This weekend my husband and I will be going to one of our favorite restaurants. I’ll do some runs, we’ll have neighbors over, and I plan to finish reading Pnin (it’s been an eclectic month on the reading front).

Knowing where the mid-point lies helps us appreciate time in all its fullness. I’ve been writing this thinking, ok, I’ve posted my target number of blog posts to finish out the week…and look how much space we still have left to go!

Photo: Spreadsheet, more than half blank. 

8 thoughts on “Thursday is the real ‘Hump Day’

  1. Laura, I guess the big difference is how people look at the week. If you work from Monday to Friday, then Wednesday looks at the middle of the week. Here in Germany Wednesday is called “Mittwoch” which literally says “middle of the week”. But if you organize your whole week and not only the paid part, then it is clear that the middle is on thursday. Being an old man means that I have to take some pills every day. The pill box has 7 small compartments label “Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun” and you clearly see that Thursday is in the center. For me the work is like you said 168 hours from Monday to Sunday. The only difference is that during Monday to Friday the focus is more on the “paid work” while on Saturday and Sunday the focus is on the “unpaid work” and leisure things. But life is both. And so I always put not only the “to do” items on my daily plan but also the “love and fun” items so that they don’t get lost in the daily struggle.

    1. @Rainer – Thanks for your comment! Yes, it depends on how people look at the week – but I’m trying to encourage people to see the whole of the week, and not just the work part. I think when we only look at the work part, it limits us a lot in our stories.

  2. I love this revelation! Because my scheduled work hours are Monday to Thursday 10 hour shifts, my work week literally ends at 6 pm on Thursday. I always feel bad that I don’t do much on weeknights because I’m exhausted. This point of view shows me that I still have half the week left for exercise, social events and projects. It’s fine if I just want to sit and read on a Tuesday night because I can do my projects that require more energy in the second half of the week.

    1. @Linda M – Yes, your week is completely split! One half is very work heavy. The second half is not devoted to work. So it makes a lot of sense to keep expectations for non-work activities low during the first half of the week. There will be time (indeed, half your time!) for these things later.

  3. OK! I have thoughts about this. My husband used to travel the typical consultant schedule M-Thu. We had a lot of trouble with it. This was when we had a baby and realistically most of the required stuff happened during the week. Daycare pickup/dropoff, bottle management, pump part management, doctors appointments. Weekends were basically hanging out and I was breastfeeding her so no bottles/pumps/etc. So even though the time was even, the effort was not. I made 99% of decisions about her because so many things had to be done during the week. Need to go to the doctor, get ear tubes in, pick a new daycare? All me. Maybe the effort would now more evenly distributed because the kids are older and doing activities on Saturday. In hindsight I’m sure I could have handled it better but….it was still a lot.

  4. Ok, so this has bugged me intuitively from a numbers perspective since I first read it because it doesn’t feel right. I’m a data person so I wanted to investigate. I worked out the reason that it doesn’t feel right is because even though 5pm Thursday might technically be the midpoint of the week, you have significantly fewer waking hours post Thursday 5pm than you do before.

    Here’s how I worked it out. I assumed that people had a 6am wake time to 10:30pm sleep time schedule. I color coded each square in your time tracking sheet as either blue (asleep time) or yellow (awake time) according to that schedule. Pre-5pm Thursday, you have 120 wake squares (each square is a 30 min block as per your spreadsheet), and 44 sleep squares. Post-5pm Thursday you have 110 wake squares, and 54 sleep squares. This means that in the ‘half’ of the week after Thursday 5pm, you actually have 5 hours less waking time even if you keep the same sleep/wake schedule over the weekend.

    1. @Megan – thanks for your comment! I noted that there was more sleep time in the second half of the week, though it’s not significantly more. With the 6 a.m. wake and 10:30 p.m. sleep you suggest I count 47 sleep cells before 5 p.m. Thursday and 121 waking; there are 58 sleep cells after and 110 waking (both have to equal to 168 to get us to 336 cells representing a 168 hour week). So if we moved in to equalize, we’d have to go to 115.5 waking cells to find the midpoint. With the 6 a.m. wake up and 10:30 bedtime, by my calculation that occurs at 2:15 p.m. on Thursday. So it’s still Thursday afternoon. Maybe not quitting time, but after lunch. It’s not Wednesday, which many people think of as the mid-point of the week.

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