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Should You Keep Regular Hours When You Work For Yourself?

Topics: Work Culture
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One of the awesome benefits of working for yourself is that you get to set your own hours. Now the only question is, should you?

There are two different schools of thought when it comes to setting regular hours when you work for yourself. One says that working a steady 9-to-5, even when you don’t have to, is the only way to go. However, others feel that it’s better to be more flexible than that.

There are a few things to consider about scheduling your days if you work yourself.

It’s a matter of personal preference

You should take the time to really get to know how you work best when you work for yourself. Are you a morning person? Can you get work done at night? Do you need absolute silence in order to focus, or is it better to get out to a coffee shop or a co-working space once in a while? Asking yourself these questions, and discovering the answers, will help you work smarter rather than harder.

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Similarly, whether or not to keep regular hours is a matter of personal preference. Just because setting a regular schedule has worked for your friend who’s been working for herself for years, that doesn’t mean it’s what’s best for you.

There is no right or wrong answer here. Instead, there are points to consider and weigh against your own knowledge of yourself and your business.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of the pros and cons of setting a regular schedule when you work for yourself.

The pros:

  • Discipline – You have to be disciplined when you work for yourself. If you’re too free and easy about your schedule, you won’t get your work done. Setting regular hours ensures you’ll put in the time.
  • Routine – Routines save time because they cut down on decision-making. You won’t have to think about when you’ll get to work if you have a regular schedule. That will help you to be more efficient.
  • A hard stop – It can be difficult to know when to call it a day when you work for yourself. Keeping regular hours gives you a hard stop at the end of the day. This should help you to put work aside, not just physically but psychologically, too.
  • Time off – It might be easier to schedule time away from work if you keep regular hours. Taking time off, even for holidays, is particularly difficult for people who work for themselves. Scheduling your work in a more traditional way could help you to pencil in more vacations.
  • Clients will learn your routine – If you keep a set schedule, your clients will come to learn when they can expect to be able to reach you and when they can’t. This should help to facilitate better communication. Also, having regular hours keeps you on course with the rest of the working world. You’re at your desk when everyone else is at work, which could allow aspects of your business to flow a little more smoothly.
  • Others will get it – One of the hard things about working for yourself is that your loved ones won’t always know how best to support you. Keeping regular hours allows others to know when you’re available and when you’re not. That should help to preserve the sanctity of your working hours and let you to be more productive and supported.

The cons:

  • Inflexibility – One of the advantages or working for yourself is that you can be a little flexible here and there when you want to be. Maybe you want to meet a friend who’s in from out of town for lunch on a weekday. If you’re too rigid about sticking to a regular schedule, you’ll be depriving yourself of these options.
  • Limiting creativity – Creativity sometimes hits in bursts. We don’t always have access to a steady stream of innovative ideas. Some days are just better than others. Why cut yourself off when you’re making progress with an idea or project? Setting regular hours can limit your ability to go on a creative tear and get carried away by your work in the moment.
  • Missing time off – Some days, believe it or not, you might just find that you finish your work a little early. But, if you keep regular hours, you can’t enjoy the benefits of this. Instead, you have to tell yourself to keep working until the official workday ends.
  • Risk of monotony – A diverse schedule can help to hold your interest. Doing the same thing day after day, week after week can get a little boring. Why paint yourself into that corner if you don’t have to? Changing things up once in awhile might help to keep things a little more interesting.

It doesn’t have to last forever

No matter what you decide to do in terms of scheduling — keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be that way forever.

You have the freedom to change things up whenever you choose. So, why not exercise it? Try sticking to a regular schedule for a couple of weeks, or better yet a couple of months, and see how it goes. Then, try something different. Exploring your options will help you learn what works best for you.

You may even find that it makes sense for you to alternate between the two systems a bit. Some weeks you’ll feel like keeping regular hours, and other weeks you won’t.

Maybe it will depend on the kinds of projects you have going on. Or, maybe you’ll set your schedule up differently depending on what time of the year it is and what’s going on with your family and kids. Whatever the case may be, the decision you make about how to organize your workday doesn’t have to last forever. You work for yourself. You can always make a change.

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