breaking up the work week

Recently I have been thinking about how better to balance the different things I have to and want to do in my life. This includes balancing work and free time, but also balancing the different responsibilities within my job. I have come up with a small, simple plan, that I will share here. Maybe someone else will find it useful, or have some good feedback for me. At least it will hold me accountable a little. The main reason is that I have trouble keeping work and play separate, and that I am therefore half working all the time and never really relaxing. This has been stressing me out lately, to the point where I had a breakdown and had to work half days for a while. This is part of my strategy for not letting this happen again.

I work for 40 hours each week. This is a normal full time work week here in The Netherlands. This means 8 hours each day. Of these 8 hours, I want to leave one hour free for random upcoming things, like returning phone calls, helping a colleague with some problem and unexpectedly longer traveling times. This leaves me with 35 hours to fill.

The main tasks I have are client work (billable hours), marketing and acquisition activities, internal business (product development, meetings) and research. I have divided up the 35 hours among these tasks in the following way: I need 15 hours a week of billable hours to reach my target at the end of the year. We have one meeting every four weeks to discuss progress on projects and discuss new ideas, so on average internal stuff takes up one hour per week or less. Marketing and acquisition are the last activities on my list mostly, so devoting 2 hours each week to that will be an increase, especially if I plan them. For research I have 2 days a week available, so with some slack this gets 15 hours. That leaves me 2 hours per week to do some planning for the upcoming week and reviewing the past week.

  • client work: 15 hours
  • acquisition/marketing: 2 hours
  • internal business: 1 hour
  • research: 15 hours
  • planning: 2 hours

Now that I have this, I will take up a blank weekly sheet with the days split in half-hour intervals, and block of the times that I will dedicate to each activity. For example, Monday through Wednesday each get 5 hours of client work, with planning added on Monday morning (to plan for the new week), acquisition/marketing on Tuesday (most people at client organisations are at work on this day) and internal stuff on Wednesday (because this day I am always at the office). Thursday and Friday are for research, because I am at the university on those days.

Of course, I will have to be flexible with it. If there is an important meeting on Monday, I could do the planning the Friday before and do some extra research on Wednesday for example. And if there is an important deadline or a colleague falls ill and my help is needed, I can shift the hours. But I am hoping that this will at least give me something to strive for, and makes me think about where my time is going. And then I can relax at other non-designated work times, because I know I am working enough. Next, I will think about structuring my free time, but let’s see how this goes first.

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