The 9-5 Myth

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know that I wear several hats around Hectic Manor. First and foremost, I’m Dad to 8 kids and Papa to one grandkid. When it gets right down to it, that’s the role that I take the most seriously and will drop everything else if I’m called upon to “be a Dad/Papa” at any time…day or night.

I’m also our household manager. I run everything around here from the finances to the meals, from errands to repairs. If you ever saw Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom…I’m pretty much his twin when he first started running the house. Not the smooth operator who had it under control at the end, but the guy covered in flour just trying to make cookies for tomorrow’s bake sale.

I’m a businessman. I run several websites with varying degrees of success. Most of that has to do with varying degrees of time that I either can or will put into running them. Since I don’t have an office outside the home anymore, I’m a Stay-At-Home-___ or Work-At-Home-___ where you fill in the blank with whatever floats your boat: Dad, Parent, or Grandparent.

The important point is that my work consists of lots and lots of different activities.

9-to-5On the one hand, I don’t drive to a place of work, put in my eight hours, and then drive back home…leaving work behind. On the other hand, I do have the luxury of structuring my days exactly how I want. If I really want to sleep in, I can do that. I can loaf on the couch and get nothing done. I can pull out our Lego bricks, Lincoln Logs, cars, train set, and Rokenbok system and have a grand old time just playing away with Hectic Grandson.

The thing to note is I’ve got the ability to plan my days how I see fit. No direct boss to report to. No board of directors. Nobody knocking on my door asking “Got a minute?”. Of course, if an emergency arises my daily plan is shot to heck. And trust me, with so many in one family there are lots of emergencies. Lots and lots of emergencies.

But that’s life, you make a plan and then you have to adjust to what life throws at you.

Whether you spend most of your time working from home or working in an office, the world has changed from our parents’ era, not to mention our grandparents’. With the increase in constant connectivity…whether by computer, tablet, or mobile phone…it’s pretty hard to just “leave work behind”.

Trust me, I’d love to. I’ve heard several podcasters talking about how they have a shutdown time for their work. They have a ritual they go through when they leave their office. It doesn’t matter if that office is in an outside building or just a desk in their bedroom. They go through this ritual and then boom the workday is done. They’ve configured things so that there are no intrusions from work after that point.

coins-1015125_640But when you’re running a household and managing a family the work doesn’t just go away. Kids fail to adhere to a schedule. The toilets overflow at the worst possible times. And life just seems to go awry on it’s own schedule. Even if there aren’t that many things to do around your house (maybe you’ve successfully implemented a minimalist lifestyle, have no kids nor pets, and are pretty much living like a hermit…I don’t know) you’ve probably got other things pressing on you. In my case, my Mom manages to have a disaster arise invariably when I’m knee deep in something here. Or there’s a work project that just has to get done in a compressed, emergent timeframe.

All this adds up to the fact that working from 9-5 or any other variation of a structured schedule seems like a distant dream. For years I’ve fretted over that. I’ve forced myself to get up to be ready to start my day no later than 8:00am, usually shooting for 7:30am. Sure, some of that revolves around having to get the kids to school and helping them fit into the schedule of the outside world. But a huge part of it comes from my upbringing: You work from 9:00-5:00 every Monday through Friday. At 5:00 you pack up your “work” stuff and do your “life” stuff. Weekends are a totally different animal, where you get great big, heaping servings of “life” without work intruding. Basically, you work “inside the lines” and live your life “outside the lines“.

Then one day I had an epiphany.

There’s really no need for me to try and conform to a 9:00 – 5:00 schedule. That’s just not my life. In fact, my weekdays and weekends aren’t really all that different either. So the whole “weekday” vs “weekend” dichotomy doesn’t even apply. Every day is just a part of a continuum.

I can structure my days in a myriad of ways. Each day could be different. Or each week could vary. Maybe I’d be better off trying to do my business work from 6am to 9am and then have another session from 8pm to 10pm. Or maybe I’d be better off doing housework first thing in the morning. Or working out from 2:00-3:00 when my energy is at it’s lowest.

The point is, my work is going to fill up all the time I will let it. My kids will fill up all the time I will let them. And my laziness will fill up all the time I will let it. That’s Parkinson’s Law at it’s finest:

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Why not admit that my life doesn’t completely conform to some arbitrary time configuration and do something about it? Sure, the kids have to be at school at a particular time. They’re going to have sports practices after school, events on the weekends, and the like. But those are just data points. If I need to make an appointment with a repair person, it’s going to have to be during their work hours, but that doesn’t mean that those have to be my work hours. I don’t think the world would fall off it’s axis if I was relaxing while the repair guy was here. I always feel guilty if I’m not working when somebody else is here working…but frankly that’s just dumb.

This realization hit me like a ton of bricks. My days don’t have to conform to anybody else’s idea of what a day should look like. I can do things whenever and it’ll be fine. If I decide that Tuesday is a great day to have a day of rest…why not? I work enough on weekends with household, business, and kid things that it’s not unreasonable to take that time. If I get to spend it with one of the kids or Hectic Grandson all the better. Or if I just use it to recharge my batteries…why not?

No matter where you work…or how you define work…the world of today is going to try and suck you dry.  Whether it’s a report for a client or washing the dishes, there’s always going to be enough work to fill all your time…and then some. So why let stuff do that?

From this point forwards, I’m going to do things that make sense for me. Not things that make sense in some ideal work schedule. I’m not going to beat myself up for not clocking in and clocking out on a 9-5 schedule. I’m going to recognize that work is fluid. Some days I’m going to put in more hours. And those hours may be weirdly distributed. No more guilty feelings for going to one of the kids sporting events at 3:00pm. Trust me, I’ll be doing some sort of work after 5:00…so the guilt that I’m not working during working hours is now a thing of the past.

And isn’t that what it’s all about? We weren’t put on this Earth just to do work and then die. There’s got to be something more.

So don’t let the arbitrary schedule that somebody else decided was right years ago rule everything that you do. If you can control your time and activities, do it. And do it in a way that will be best for you!

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