Ivonne Senn

I’ve done it again. I had a totally normal week–working five days, having the weekend off. And now it’s Sunday at noon I am ... cranky. Because the 5-Day-Week does not suit me well. It took me some time to figure this out. Sure, in the beginning it was good to work like I had for decades. That’s five years ago when I became a real freelancer. Before I was what we call a “steady freelancer”, I worked as a freelancer in my client’s companies, including eight hours of presence and half an hour lunch break. And so, in the beginning, you could find me on my desk at home from 9 to 5 every day. It helped to get into my new job and to see if I could do what I had planned – translating 10 books a year without going insane.

After the first year I realized, that a) I could not translate for more than five hours a day, until my fingers stopped working and started to produces more typos than useful sentences. And b) that I did not need to work longer, because mainly I was done with my work around 2 p.m., even if I had only started at 10 a.m.

The First Step to Independence

That was the first step to real independence. I noticed that I translated much better and faster in the morning, so I set up a rule:

The mornings are for translations only, and there will be max. one appointment in the morning during the week. Which was perfect, because parallel I started to build my coaching practice, and all creative and coachy work is much easier for me in the afternoons and evenings.

This change of my schedule helped me tremendously to work more structured and relaxed – and thus be more structured and relaxed. The only thing that still bothered me were the weekends. Two full days off, and I did not know what to do with myself. I was uneasy, restless, could not relax. Started reading a book, only to realize ten pages in that I did not get a single word. Which mostly lead to me grabbing my laptop Sunday around lunch and starting to work. Which then again led to a 6-day-week and finally to kind of a burn out in my fourth year as a freelancer, because my mind and body could not keep up this pace any longer.

The 3-Day-Week

That I found my perfect rhythm shortly after was pure luck. On a Thursday in December, what should have been a short stint to the Christmas market turned into half a night of drinking, laughing and fun. You can probably imagine how I felt when the alarm clock went off the next morning. I was definitely in no shape to get up, let alone get to work. The only thought my throbbing head could articulate was: “I will catch up on Saturday.” Thought, done. A one time slip. No problem. The following week I had booked an afternoon at the spa with my mum. In the morning I was lying in bed, thinking: “Wouldn’t it be nice to arrive at the spa totally relaxed, instead of hurrying there directly from my desk? I could again work one day at the weekend ...”

And so the one time slip became a system. My 3-day-week was born. Three day of work, one day off. No matter, what weekday it is. For me, at the moment this is the perfect combination. Right, I work more in a week than before, but it does not feel this way. The luxury, to sleep in on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and do whatever I feel like – talking a walk at the desert beach of the Elbe with the dogs, meet with my stay-at-home mom friends for coffee, stroll all by myself through an exhibition. And the relaxation to sit at my desk on a Saturday or Sunday and work undisturbed, since nobody calls or sends an e-mail. To have the time to let the thoughts flow a little more gently, because of the special weekend silence that spreads over the city.

If you are thinking now that I am pretty privileged (right) and this is not possible in every life (wrong), here are some examples from other people for your inspiration:

  • A colleague of mine at my publishers makes use of the flextime by being in the office at 7 a.m., so she can leave at 3 p.m. and has the whole afternoon and evening to cater to her hobbies. Another colleague comes in around 10 a.m. because she likes to get her girl ready for school and work out before she comes to the office.
  • For years my very good friend and web designer used to work at night – a habit from the early times of the internet when you had to dial in via a modem, which was cheaper at night. He slept during the day when everybody else worked.
  • Even if you are in retail you can take some liberties. The owners of the shops at the Karoviertel in Hamburg don’t give a sh*t about business hours. They open their shops during the week from 12-7.30 p.m., from 3-5 p.m. , from 2-7 p.m. ... and on Saturdays nobody turns his “Yes, we’re open” sign before 11 a.m.
  • Or take the woman behind the cheese counter in my local supermarket. On a very full and hectic Saturday I pitied her for having to work. But she said, she always volunteers for the Saturday shift. She hates to buy groceries, even more so on busy days. So she works on Saturday and do her own shopping on a quieter day. Plus, “On Saturdays there is so much more to do I don’t get bored.”

Your Freedom

Which liberties can you take in your job to produce the best possible work? Where can you start earlier or later, shift the time of the day, have your own personal weekend? How can you use your time most effectively to reach an optimal balance of your work and your private life? I would love to hear from you, so please tell me about your ideas, suggestions or even difficulties in the comments section below.

The whole topic of time and time management is too much for you? You cannot relax anymore – or you are constantly procrastinating? Then maybe it is time that we get to know eachother in person. For instance through my Test Coaching. Just drop me an e-mail.