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Updated: Apr 24, 2023

Do you wish you could escape the 9-5?

This is a desire I hear from so many people, whether they are coaching clients or not. Since the pandemic took hold in 2020, more and more people have been wanting to quit their 9 – 5 jobs. It seems to be the dream of many to be free from a weekday routine where they have to show up and be productive, and instead working for themselves so that they have more time to pursue hobbies and interests or spend time with family and friends.

I recently listened to ‘The 4 Hour Work Week’ by Timothy Ferriss on Audible. The author himself has achieved what many of us would like to. It’s a great read for people who want to be their own boss, or who dream of a life away from their office desk. And it is full of advice on how to ensure that you no longer feel shackled to your work.

There were a few standout moments, notably the story of a fisherman who fished in the morning and spent the afternoons and evenings with family and friends and had more than enough money to live. And how a man from corporate America tried to persuade the fisherman he could have more time to spend with his family and friends if only he worked exceptionally hard for the next 10 to 15 years in order to sell his fishing company so that he had more time to spend with his friends and family, only to realise by the end of his conversation that the fisherman was already living the life he wanted to!

There was something about this book that didn’t ‘sit right’ with me though. I’m all for working less, I’m in the process of creating my dream life where I do just that. But in order to be able to make that transition so you don’t end up having to go back to your 9 – 5, there is other work that needs to be done that isn’t covered in this book.

And that work is about getting YOURSELF ready.

The book mentions how you can propose remote working to your employer (somewhat redundant for a lot of us right now as we are working from home), and prove how productive you are so that your employer is more willing to meet your demands for even less time in the office. It goes on to talk about how you can then spend the extra time you have at home (because you have got all your work completed in just a few hours), building your own business until such time that you can escape the 9 – 5. Granted, this is an over simplified review of that part of the book, but what Timothy Ferriss doesn’t go into, is that in order to approach your manager/employer in the first place, you have to have the confidence and authority to make the proposal. And that doesn’t happen overnight. It can take people months, if not years to gain confidence to do this kind of thing.

Boundary setting is something many people don’t achieve in the workplace. We are conditioned to be available at a moments notice. We strive to do the best we can. We try to be as productive as possible. All so that at the end of the year we may be afforded a salary increase and/or bonus.

Work settings doesn’t usually help to foster strong boundaries, instead fostering the culture of doing more and more so we look good to our peers and employers. In order to make proposals to your manager regarding work hours and also your place of work, you need to be able to set solid boundaries in your work. If your manager agrees to you working at home twice a week, but then starts requesting your presence in the office on one of those days, do you have the confidence and strength to refuse or compromise on that request?

Tim's book does talk about subjects such as autonomy for your employees or hiring virtual assistants, which are covered well and definitely something to look at if you are work in industries that could benefit from this. However, there were a few suggestions such as setting out of office email messages to let colleagues know that you would not be answering emails as soon as they arrived in your inbox. The same with phone calls, the book suggested setting up voicemail to alert callers that you would not be answering or returning calls until you were ready to. I understand how you can do this when running your own business (and it also depends on the type of business you have), but I know that this wouldn’t go down well in the office environment I currently work in. Like many, it’s an environment where you have to be ‘switched on’ from the moment you log in to the moment you log off.

There are ways you can work around this, by logging into instant messaging when you are ready to so you don’t have an immediate influx of requests, or shutting down instant messaging services an hour before you’re due to log off so that you don’t get any last minute requests. Emails you can choose to answer at certain intervals during the day, but putting a return message on these so it gives you more space may not be felt appropriate.

Working for myself is something I’ve always thought about. But, it’s not an easy road. Whereas in employment, we are given tasks to do, there is usually autonomy, but not much. When you work for yourself, you are the one creating the list of tasks. You are the one who has to deal with invoicing, payments, payroll etc. And that’s before you are even providing your service or product.

There is an element of self-motivation needed, because you may be working alone and there will be no one else who is going to push you to meet deadlines. Organisation is another key skill that can come in handy when you’re trying to set up your day.

Even though I didn’t resonate with everything contained in this book, it hasn’t put me off escaping the 9-5 and working for myself. And there are certain pieces of advice that I will definitely be using. I have the mindset to succeed. I know what systems I need to put in place to ensure I run my business smoothly. I know that I’m open and willing to learn from others who have walked the path before me. And most importantly I also know that at some point I will be able to quit my 9 – 5 role.

If you are looking to escape the 9 – 5 to work for yourself, this book may give you a few pointers. But I would also encourage you to look at your drive, your passions and your personality and your mindset. These can always be improved to ensure that the transition to self-employment doesn’t become a stressful journey or having you going back to your employer at the slightest challenge.

If you would like support in pursuing a 9-5 free life, or guidance in how to set yourself up for success, book a discovery call with me.

Harmesch x

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