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Working without 9-to-5

I think what depressed me most about working full-time was the 9-to-5 grind. Most of the jobs I’ve had have been very good ones, in which I got paid a good good salary to do something I found interesting, had a great deal of autonomy, and worked with people who I’ve respected and made friends with. Yet at around 3pm every Sunday afternoon, when my Sunday walk was coming towards its end, I’d often be thinking bugger, I have to go to work tomorrow.

Without a 9-to-5 job now, I’m greatly appreciating the freedom to leave the house or stay at home as it suits me. I even have near-complete freedom to choose the hours that I’m on campus for my part-time work. I’m more relaxed, I can avoid peak hour traffic and peak hour shopping, and I’m not grouching to myself as the weekend comes to a close.

All of this might be in contradiction to what I wrote about productivity and discipline a couple of weeks ago. Probably, I was getting more work done when I was in my office from 8am until 4pm every day than I what am getting done now, though that could be as much because I was given more work to do in a full-time job than I am currently doing in a part-time job plus whatever personal projects I can dream up as much as my regularity in doing it. I’m also attending to items around the house that I either didn’t need to do (like renovations) or might have neglected (like cleaning) when working full-time.

When I have been working full-time I’ve greatly appreciated moments during which I’ve been able to break from routine, usually because work took me off-campus such that I could see and do something other than be in the office, or because there was no work at all and I could take half a day off, or create a long weekend. This broke down a little when I worked in Singapore because even when I could create some time out of the office, I often had little idea what to do with it: there was no beach to go; the local bakeries and caf├ęs didn’t much appeal to me; and I didn’t have so many projects at home as I do in Australia. Still, I could go to the museum or the library or find a short walk, and for long weekends I could go to Indonesia or Malaysia.

Of course, to have a break from routine, one needs to have a routine. And in fact I keep to quite a bit of routine even now that no office is imposing one on me: I get up at the same time every morning (even on weekends), I set aside certain days for certain chores, I mostly keep the same office hours when I do go to work, and I set aside blocks of time to work on specific projects.

The last is probably the main way I have of ensuring discipline and productivity in the sense that I wrote about in my earlier entry: I look to start each week and each day with a good idea of what I want to achieve, and the time in which I am going to achieve it. By and large I do achieve it, albeit sometimes with variable quality, as when I set myself to write but the words don’t flow. Yet, unlike the 9-to-5 approach, I feel that I am doing what best serves me at each time of the day, whether it’s working towards a project or taking time out to see the world outside my desk.

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