The Quiet Tyranny Of The Workweek Schedule
Thank goodness it’s Friday, right?! Well, maybe not. Our culture has created a veritable mythology around each day of the week, all geared towards reaching the almighty weekend. The underlying message is that none of us enjoys what we do Monday through Friday and so of course we all have the Monday blues and are thankful that Wednesday is hump day and are ecstatic by the time old Friday finally rolls around. And then we repeat that cycle ad infinitum. Or at least, until we retire.
The Point Of Life Isn’t For Time To Pass
But what’s the point of just hoping for time to pass? Where’s the joy in angling for the weekend and dreading the week? Seems to me like wishing one’s life away. And yet, this is the model Mr. Frugalwoods and I have followed for all nine of our years in the traditional workforce.
It probably comes as no shock that we’re a highly routinized household with specific rituals for each day of the week. We find ourselves counting down to 5pm every day (I know this because we like to gchat each other little reminders of the time throughout the day–“it’s almost 4pm!”–as if the other person can’t tell time). And we’re certainly guilty of working for the weekend. Every single week. We’ve even orchestrated the food we eat according to the calendar with our tastiest vittles consumed on the weekends.
Mondays really are the worst and we both get into a funk about it. And by Friday, we’re elated and super jazzed for our customary at-home pizza and movie date night (which is pretty great, I can’t lie).
While we love our weekends, they’re often packed to the gills with projects and household maintenance. All fine and all stuff we enjoy doing, but there really is something of a grind to our current lifestyle. It doesn’t allow us to exert creativity when we feel creative or read when we feel contemplative or do physical work when we have excess energy to burn. Rather, we have to squeeze those activities into whatever space we have, regardless of what our bodies and minds feel like doing.
Although Mr. FW and I are lovers of routine (and Frugal Hound is a stickler for keeping time–I swear that dog knows when it’s 6am every day), we’re not fans of our current mode of existence. I hate that I so desperately want time to pass so that I can rush home to the life I want to be living.
And once I get home, sometimes I’m so exhausted that I no longer have the inspiration to pursue the 10 random projects I thought of during the day. I pull all of these little post-it’s out of my bag with ridiculously optimistic to-do lists containing missives like “re-organize entire basement” “start writing book” “further research Vermont seasonal gardening”–all to be done on a Tuesday night, of course. What seems like an awesome idea at 11am often feels beyond daunting at 8pm.
Making Time Our Own
But what if I could start one of those projects right then and there at 11am as soon as inspiration struck? That to me would be true freedom and it’s exactly what I envision once we’re on the homestead. The ability to pursue what we want when we feel motivated will bring a clarity of purpose to our lives. If Mr. FW wakes up on a random Monday his head brimming with concepts for building a chair, I want him to be able to go out in the barn and start building a chair.
Likewise, if I find myself on a Thursday afternoon struck with an idea I feel compelled to write about, I’ll drop what I’m doing and go start writing. And if we both decide on a given Wednesday that we’re feeling a bit drained, we’ll put another log on the woodstove, brew some tea, and settle in with a few good books. We both have a strong work ethic and a tireless inclination to get things done (especially when working for ourselves), so I don’t worry that projects won’t get done. They’ll just get done on our own personal timeframe.
“Won’t You Miss Work?”
A question people pose to us quite often after they learn of our radical frugality and plans for early retirement is “won’t you get bored on the homestead when you don’t have jobs?” Our answer is always a resounding “nope.” And to be perfectly honest, the only time Mr. Frugalwoods or I ever feels boredom is when we’re at our jobs…
I get the sense from these conversations that some people fear that absent the structure of a job, they’ll be bored, disconnected, or aimless. We all operate in different ways and I know that what’s right for me isn’t right for other people. And, I’m certainly not saying that retiring to a homestead is for everyone either. But for us, that sentiment couldn’t be farther from the truth.
We’d rather execute tasks when it feels opportune, not when someone else tells us to. We don’t enjoy, or need, the imposed framework of going to work on set days for prescribed hours. For us, that schedule is discomfiting and not at all a reflection of when we feel most productive or capable. Not to mention that we don’t find our office work particularly inspiring or fulfilling.
I’m not sure if this makes us disorganized, free-spirited, rebellious, creative, or perhaps a mixture of all of the above. Mr. FW and I both have endless ideas for projects we want to tackle on the homestead and mastering our own schedules is key to their success.
The Efficiency of A Reverse Schedule
Another drawback of the work week for us is that it would be so much more efficient not to cram everything into weekends and evenings. If we could go to Home Depot at 1pm on a Monday as opposed to on Saturday morning with the rest of the humanity, it would be a vastly more efficient use of our time. By avoiding the schedule that everyone else follows, we’ll be able to optimize our time and do stuff when it makes the most sense. So much of what we do now is ruled by a format we didn’t create or even have a say in!
We already bend over backwards to avoid crowds by going to Costco on Friday nights and the grocery store early on Sunday mornings. But that’ll be nothing compared to the efficiencies we can realize once we’re outside the chains of 9-5. We practically salivate when we consider how incredibly efficient it’ll be to do those things mid-day on a weekday. Think of the time and stress saved!
Living, Not Passing Time
What I wonder is how we’ll perceive the days of the week once we’ve quit our 9-5’s and are homesteading it up. Our lives will be ruled by the natural world–the weather, the seasons, and any pressing concerns or dangers on our property that require attention.
Our current work structure impedes seasonal optimization. Namely, we’re inside on computers during the best daylight hours! Plus, the summer is when you want to be in New England, and in the winter, you should travel. There’s no homestead work to be done in January, so why not, say, visit family in California… We already follow this reverse vacation pattern, which saves us terrific sums of money on airfare.
I do realize that once we have kids in school, we’ll have the natural pattern of that calendar to follow. But society won’t dictate that we have grumpy Mondays, sleepy afternoons, or coffee-fueled meetings of drudgery. What I hope most of all is that we’ll no longer find ourselves simply wishing for time to pass.
I want to approach each day with a relaxed eagerness–excited to address whichever projects are at the fore and relaxed in the feeling that my time isn’t tightly controlled and dictated to me. Of course we’ll still have deadlines and goals and tasks we need to complete on certain days, but my hope is that we’ll experience fulfillment and not stress in working towards our objectives. I never want to feel the heavy dread that weighs on me now as Monday approaches.
Mr. Frugalwoods and I have fallen prey to this prescribed weekly monotony, but I’m confident we can reform ourselves. For us, retiring early is a way to reclaim our lives and create a mode of existence that relishes the present moment. Sure, we’ll still look forward to big occasions and milestone dates, but we want to feel that what we’re doing every single day is actually living, not just marking time.