In Why I Choose to be Underemployed, I talked about my decision to pick a job that even my employer believed was “beneath” me. He was of the opinion that I should use my educational qualifications and prior work experience to land something in corporate.
In spite of shock and downright discouragement from many close to me, I stuck with my decision. My reasons were simple, and can be summed up in a quote from that article:
If I give 40 hours or more per week to build someone else’s company, and someone else’s dream, what will I be left with to build my own?
Since then, my career path took some interesting turns. For starters, a few weeks into my job, the supervisors and the director on site offered me a 40-hour shift.
It had just become vacant and no-one wanted it. But they knew it would be perfect for me if they made a few compromises to entice me into it. So now, I do work a 40-hour shift in three days, and have four days off to do as I please.
That’s four days off to laze about and do nothing. Four days off to take short trips out of town without needing to touch my vacation time. Or four days off to work on my business.
Usually I manage a good combination of all of the above, since I’m allowed to bring my laptop to work and do PR assignments in my downtime.
The added bonus of hitting 40 hours per week in a regular job is that I no longer need to pay myself from my PR work anymore. So after launching Alexis Chateau PR in November of 2016, I’ve put the money right back into the business. I haven’t taken a cent for myself. I don’t need to.
No matter how we spend it though, working 70 hours per week is no walk in the park. It takes discipline to make it through those 40 hours stuffed into three days, and a driving passion to want to work for another 30 during the week.
And there are cons. My 3 work days fall on the weekends, so I’m usually free when everyone else is stuck at work. Thankfully, my family and many of my friends have flexible schedules like me, so in practice that isn’t really true.
The next downside is that on Monday I usually crash and burn like a space ship that ran out of fuel on the way back to Earth. Hello gravity! But again, this isn’t entirely true. I’m usually at my desk by 4PM pounding away at the keys on and off throughout the evening and night, until as late as 10AM the next morning.
What can I say? There is no cure for workaholism…
How I Pull It Off
So knowing that I work 70 hours in 7 days, and why, the obvious question I often get is how I pull it off.
Let me begin by saying that this is definitely not a lifestyle for everyone, but if you have a business you want to invest in, then finding a job that requires very little of you is probably a great place to start.
Not surprisingly, stuffing 40 hours into 3 days does not leave a lot of time for sleep between shifts. I combat this by having a pretty rigid sleep schedule.
I know exactly what time I should be home and in bed. What time to get up, and shower, be dressed and in the car, or waiting on the train. I have it all down to a science, and have alarms set up on my phone so I never have to stop and think and wonder:
What do I do now?
When you’ve just completed a 16 hour shift on 5 hours sleep and have another 16 hours ahead of you to look forward to, thinking isn’t something you should trust yourself to do.
I make all my meals for my 5 shifts, a day or two before the first one starts. I buy all the ingredients and spend about two or three hours slaving away at the stove to make every last meal for the weekend – start to finish.
I have my appetizers, main course, and dessert. I also buy sodas and nutritional shakes in bulk so I never have to worry about drinks either. That saves me a lot of time and money at work, and when I’m at home in-between my shifts.
TV dinners come in pretty handy for those days when I just don’t feel like cooking 5 meals in one go; and when I get hungry before my shift starts and need to eat.
In my home office, I have double-monitors, a beast of a PC, a nice big desk, and everything else I need to be as productive as possible. When I leave home, even when heading to my job, I pack a mobile and miniature version of my office into a bag and take it with me.
So what tags along? Usually I bring a notebook and pen, my laptop, my tablet, and my smartphone. The smartphone also doubles as a hot spot. This is important since I can’t always find open WiFi everywhere I go – even at work. It’s a pretty big building.
I also recently added a BlackBerry Passport to the mix as a business phone. It has the legendary physical QWERTY keyboard BlackBerry has always been known for, and a nice display.
Much as I love my Samsung Note 4 with its larger display and stylus, as a writer it’s beyond annoying to edit 1000+ word documents on a touch screen device.
It’s also really hard to take time off when your clients’ social media pages are all wrapped up with your own. If I sign into Instagram, for instance, I can count on getting not just my notifications but everyone else’s.
That brings me to my next point…
To be honest, I never take a day off. There is always work to do and I get anxious at the thought of leaving emails unchecked and websites unsupervised for too long. However, I do take time off.
I take several hours off in those four days to travel, play video games, watch British TV shows, play with my kitten, go hiking, work out at the gym, do (read: suck at) yoga, and spend time with the people I love.
Without time off, I would definitely hit my limit and start suffering from burnout. It helps that I make my own hours and work with clients that have always been very flexible about time, as long as we don’t have deadlines approaching.
Low Maintenance Pets
If you’re an animal lover, spending up to 16 hours away from home at a time isn’t really conducive to owning pets. Even with a spouse or parents to chip in, it can put a damper on things.
My solution was to get a cat. A cat never has to be let out, and doesn’t require attention the way dogs do. Like me, they are pretty well self-entertained and typically enjoy their own company for long enough before they seek out affection.
As an added bonus, when cats become bored or anxious they don’t turn to destructive habits. So you never have to worry about them chewing up your shoes, or making a meal of the furniture.
Other low maintenance animals include snakes, fish, guinea pigs, hamsters, turtles, and rats.
You don’t choose luck. Luck finds you. Even so, without luck I probably wouldn’t be able to pull this off as easily as I do. I’m glad to have been in the right place at the right time, and to have made the right connections to be offered the opportunities I now have.
I’m also happy no one else miraculously wanted to stuff their shift into three days so they could have the rest of the week off. Imagine what I would miss out on!
Have you ever had to balance two different jobs or professions before? Or tried to run a business while working for someone else? How did you make it work for you?