Friday, June 25, 2010

Weekends and Unemployment/Self Employment: Parkinson's Law and the Weekend

When you are working full time, you look forward to the weekends. Ah, TGIF, we say to each other with a grin. Weekends are our time to get caught up on tasks at home, pursue hobbies, spend time with family, go out and have fun, etc. It's the only real "me time" you might get during the week.

I've been unemployed for three months now and mostly doing volunteer work and event planning for little to no pay. However, what I have discovered (or rediscovered from the last time I worked from home) is that weekends are no different than weekdays if you are working from home, working for yourself, or unemployed.

I work on projects all day long. I continue to work on projects on my computer after dinner. I will work on projects on Saturday and Sunday too. The days of the week don't matter. The only thing that matters is getting the work done.

When you don't have defined work hours, it is easy for your work to expand to all of the hours you have. This is sometimes referred to as "Parkinson's Law." I find it to be very true.

What is funny is that I don't mind when it is something I care about. If you are passionate about your cause, working at weird times feels natural. After all, you WANT to be doing this task.

I didn't care about my last job. It was a paycheck, nothing more. I went into work at 8am and left at 4pm. I ate lunch at my desk so that I could leave promptly at 4pm and still charge my eight hours. I was a clock watcher.

I had taken the job because I had been unemployed (and my husband was too) and in debt and I needed work. My husband and I accepted job offers the same week and went back to work. It was the first job in an office cubicle in years. I had been a teacher. As a college teacher, my schedule was quite flexible, varied by semester, and was partly self-dictated.

I had forgotten what it was like to be chained to working at certain hours of the day. It felt unnatural, especially in a windowless room in a building set in a park next to the water. Every morning I would see this beautiful setting and then go through a door and enter BEIGE. I had some decorations in my cube, but the rest of the office was essentially undecorated beige.

It was the most depressing place I've ever worked. Add to that the horrible coworkers and the work subject matter, and I was unhappy for the whole year I was there. I stayed for the paycheck and because I was applying for other jobs with absolutely no luck.

I applied for another job today but I've had only one interview in three months. Tough times out there. So I continue to work on my passions--at odd hours of the day.

Parkinson's Law isn't so bad when it is work you like. If you are being paid for your work, the work is unpleasant, or you need to increase your efficiency, then being conscious of Parkinson's Law becomes important--so that you decrease the amount of time you give yourself for your work and don't let it creep up on you. Deadlines are our friend. I found that out with my dissertation. I could have worked on that for the rest of my life, had I not had deadlines imposed on me from the outside.

Do you long for the weekend? Is there a difference between your workday and weekend schedule (if you are in charge of your hours)? Any tips for using Parkinson's Law to our advantage? Let me know in the comments.

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