“When you work for yourself, every day is Wednesday.”
I can no longer recall where I read or heard that, but it resonates more strongly these days. Since leaving my office job, every day can indeed seem like Wednesday. I don’t have coworkers in the next cube over asking if I want to go to happy hour. I don’t have a bus to catch. I also don’t have the guarantee of a paycheck unless I actually get something done. Yes, it’s true that in more traditional employment a paycheck is not guaranteed merely because you can fog a mirror, but the connection between doing your work and receiving money is much clearer and stronger when you’re a business of one.
There is a flip side to this that can also be true. If every day is Wednesday, isn’t every day Saturday also? I would say, yes, that’s mostly accurate too. The primary caveat is that it’s probably not Saturday for everyone you know, but when you’re self-employed the decision to work each day is yours and, ultimately, yours alone. Again, if we’re picking nits, it’s true that you have to decide to go into an office each day as well. It’s also true that when you’re self-employed you will likely have deadlines that feel every bit as pressing as any you experienced as an office worker.
But there is a huge and fundamental difference, and it comes down to you. People choose self-employment for myriad reasons, but I suspect that control is a key contributor for most. We want a path that gives us more say over our time than we feel an employer-employee relationship typically can. This is a great and powerful thing! But it can be challenging as well. There is a danger in allowing every day to be Wednesday. Obsessive work habits tend to be unkind to us in the end, though we tend to weirdly fetishize them in the U.S. We pretend they are indicative of a good, hard-working person, but the negatives far outweigh anything positive. They introduce stress into our interpersonal relationships. They can encourage bad eating and exercise habits.
Perhaps most dangerous of all, engaging in workaholic behaviors can and will negatively impact the very thing you’re obsessing about: your work. The brain craves and requires time to recharge. If your work involves any level of creativity, and I can all but guarantee that it does if you’re self-employed, it’s critical to take time to allow yourself to disconnect from the primary focus of your work. There are limitless ways you can accomplish this. Whether it’s leisure reading, exercise, going for a walk or just taking a nap, almost anything you do that separates you from your work can have a recharging impact on your performance.
And the best part? When you’re working for yourself, YOU get to decide when you do that. The caveat above about how office workers also have to choose when to engage and disengage? Yes, that’s still true, but what they don’t control nearly as much is how other people react to it. Although office cultures are starting to change and treat employees more like, well, adults, it’s still not broadly true that the average cube drone could just decide to knock off at 11am and play some video games. Or catch an afternoon baseball game. Or simply lie on the floor in only his underwear (hypothetical, you know). This is a powerful thing.
So embrace it. Remember that while your Saturday may occasionally have to dress up like Wednesday. Your Wednesday can just as easily get down like it’s Saturday sometimes, too.