As you might now the last couple of years have taken quite a toll on my personal life. It was work and my work situation that wore me (and my wife) down.
Before we moved back to Sweden Elin and I decided to try to do something about it, so that we didn’t fall back into a work-life-situation that wore us down again. Therefor we decided to not work full time when we get back.
Wednesdays are my day off. I wanted to share some initial reactions and … eeeeh … symptoms.
Just to be clear - I’m ok. I don’t feel bad, stressed or depressed now. But I don’t want to go there again. This is my ways of protection.
The first thing that have strike me is that I need to explain the reasons for me taking Wednesdays off to people around me:
Oh, you're working for another client?
Why? Are you sick?
What?! Every Wednesday? How come?
Now, I fully realize that this is normal since I’m deviating from the norm here, but I hadn’t prepare a response to those questions.
I’m going for perfectly transparent with a twist of humor, that have worked for me in the past:
Well, I have a "problem" ... I feel bad when I work too much - so I've taken time off
That usually triggers some further questions and I can explain further.
After I got back to Sweden, I’ve noticed is that working 100%, of course, the norm. Meaning that if you’re not there all the time you miss out. That can be reflected in missed meetings, hard time to get hold of people or simply miss out on important discussions.
Much of the work that I’m pushing is around collaboration; pair programming, mob programming, daily sync meetings, continuous feedback etc. That doesn’t really sit good when some people (like me for example) is not there all the time.
Right now my approach to this is very pragmatic:
well it will have to work like this - because Wednesdays are my free time. I'm not available then. It's for me.
When Elin and I got married the Salvation Army that performed the ceremony had a few session with us before the marriage. We asked him if we could do one on Thursday evening. I will never forget his answer:
No - I'm busy then. It's my free time.
And he was not joking. That was already booked. Booked with free time. Slack - in the schedule.
I want to mimic that approach because I found it very professional and sensible.
What is free time, for Marcus?
Now that I have a job situation which requires my full attention and is quite stressful it’s clear to me how much “other things” I had the time to do on work hours1. I blogged, I did some courses for PluralSight, I read a lot, even learned new programming languages.
There’s a little guy in my head that thinks that I need to keep this level up. I’m not too sure about who he is, but he is in a hurry - I can tell you that. And he’s not happy if I cannot get blogging, learning and writing books up on the level I used to.
I’ve tried to ignore that voice. Doesn’t work - just gives me more guilt. Now I try to train him by some discipline.
Someone asked me: “What is free time for Marcus?” And I had no good answer. Looking straight into a wall is not it. I know that.
I’m now using my free days as Slack time - to handle the pressure from “the little man in a hurry” inside of me. For example; when I get an idea for a blog post, I used to get guilty if that is not published. Soon. Now I add it to a short list of ideas that I can blog on my free Wednesday. Often the idea is not good enough to last until that, but at least I have some ideas that I can write about.
Writing this (on a Wednesday mind you well), makes me realize that I actually have a problem with the pressure I put on myself.
My free Wednesdays are a way to handle this. It’s not fixing them - it’s just handling the problem for me. Sometime in the future I want to be able to get beyond this. But not now.
Now I’m signing off for the day - taking care of me. It’s Wednesday, you know.
Basically I was cut out of the loop in my previous work place, with nothing next to nothing to do. And no one that cared about it too. ↩