Some of you may be aware that I’ve been on an alternative ‘Weekend Wednesday’ schedule. This schedule was based on an intriguing video released by CGP Gray, a popular YouTuber and Podcast host who is known for breaking down interesting topics into easy to digest videos with cute stick figure characters.
I’ve been running on this schedule for the last few months-- almost as long as I’ve been back at OpenCraft. I wanted to write up what motivated adopting it, what I’ve found to be especially great about it and what I’ve found to be frustrating. I’m hoping that this writeup may give you an idea of whether this work schedule is right for you, or at least worth trying.
A bit over two years ago I launched my business, Artconomy.com in order to make it easier to commission an artist to draw your personal characters-- your DnD Paladin, your WoW avatar, or your fursona. It’s been a particularly challenging journey because I’ve found that when running a business, your lowest competency is the bottleneck of your progress.
That means that your skill in sales, your skill in accounting, your skill in software development, in UX, in marketing-- all of these must be at a point where you can get them up and running well enough to perform as a competant employee would in a larger company. Worse, you have to do them all at the same time until you’ve gained enough skill (and enough capital) to be able to hand off the systems you’ve built to an employee you can train to continue using them.
Some of this you can sidestep with additional capital and good connections. But I’ve bankrolled the company myself, so even for people I would like to hire, I cannot. So, I’ve had to learn. This has meant occasionally ‘winterizing’ Artconomy’s codebase to go contract out, and then doing customer service/maintenance work outside of normal hours. I’ve done this successfully on a few occasions, but this time around there were a few new wrinkles.
The first was that my wife and I determined that we needed to buy a house, and fast, because we had reason to believe that the economic policy choices being made in our country would put them out of our reach if we waited much longer. The second was that I had two other side projects-- as the Art Assets lead for Texas Furry Fiesta, and as the Director of Public Outreach for StratosFur, a new startup con that will have its debut event in my hometown, Houston, this coming year. I’d taken these projects on to better build connections within the communities Artconomy cators to, and because I’ve always wanted my city to have its own convention.
Having Artconomy alongside a contracting job is difficult enough, but with all of these items I knew I would have to either find a way to get them all done much more efficiently, drop something, or burn out. Burning out wasn’t an option. So I began looking at dropping one or two roles. But I had made commitments and wanted to avoid breaking them if at all possible. That’s when I came upon the Weekend Wednesday video. I realized that it might allow me to have sufficient rest that I could continue all of the projects on my plate. If it didn’t work, I’d have to resign from one or two of the side gigs, but it was worth a shot.
After several months of running this experiment, I have been able to meet all of my obligations, and have managed to avoid burning out. We’ve bought the house and moved in. I did have to take breaks for the move-- the stress and time requirements for it would have been too great otherwise. This speaks to just how much the recovery interval of having a mid-week break can add.
Having a day off in the middle of the week has also allowed me to perform tasks that would be incredibly difficult to do on the weekend. The ability to meet with realtors and run errands on a weekday without having to take time off made things much easier.
While Weekend Wednesday’s prescribed interval has Saturday off, I found that I could, on weeks that it was needed, flip Saturday and Sunday. This was especially true for work at OpenCraft since almost no one is working on the weekend, so whether I complete a task on Saturday or Sunday, it won’t be seen by a reviewer until Monday. Also with fewer people working, there are fewer distractions-- Mattermost was relatively quiet. As someone who has ADHD tendencies, not having little notifications come up was helpful in keeping focus on my tasks.
If a handful of other team members switched to this schedule, it might be easier to handle Firefighting on the weekends without having to call someone in from their break-- at least, for smaller items. We wouldn’t expect someone to ‘always be firefighter’ for having taken the weekend schedule, but they would be able to, say, reboot a server quickly and then contact whoever is on call if further work needs to be done.
The biggest issue with this work schedule is the same as one of its greatest strengths: You’re not off at the same time other people are. My wife would, on multiple occasions, accidentally schedule something on the weekend for both of us only to remember I would not be able to make it.
While social events in general were less frequent due to the Pandemic, they could be even more frustrating to schedule due to the fact that there was only one day to work with. If a friend was not available that day, it might mean waiting until the next week to schedule something.
Another downside is that my wife isn’t on the same schedule I am. If your partner can’t do the same schedule then you may only have one day off a week together. You also have the other day off without them. Sometimes having a day off when your partner is not off is good-- solitude is refreshing at times and gives you a chance to read or experiment or do other things. However I’m not sure I’d pick solitude over time with my partner this frequently otherwise. I enjoy my time with her immensely.
Activities which require two days, or a day plus recovery, are difficult or impossible to do without taking extra time off. If you blend up Margaritas Tuesday night, you can expect to spend most of Wednesday feeling crummy from the hangover, and then the day after you have work instead of another day of rest. Any weekend project that requires you and your partner is now a two weekend project.
Being out on Wednesday caused me some problems with async sprint planning in the beginning. As I got used to the schedule and the process more refined, this became less of an issue. But it is worth noting that having a different schedule to the rest of the team can impact your sprint in unfortunate ways.
Thankfully I can think of only one time where I can point to this schedule as a contributing factor to spillover (and it was not the only reason). In most cases it has not been a problem.
I’ve got a lot of projects and a lot of work to do. I don’t think most people should take on the workload I have, and I don’t expect that I’ll be keeping it forever-- in fact I plan to complete my terms for the convention projects and then hand them off. The fact that this schedule lets you get a great deal more done is nice, but since I’ve used it to increase my work capacity, I’m not getting what is, potentially, the greatest benefit: The feeling of being overall rested and acheiving greater balance.
Not to say I expect I’ll be burning out any time soon, just that if you’re going to switch to this schedule, you need to know why you’re doing it. If you plan to keep your current workload, you’ll be better rested, and it will likely improve the quality of work that you do, and those are always good things. However, you can also use it to increase your total workload, which might not be a good thing if you already have too much to do. If I didn’t have the internal backstop of knowing that I was willing to resign from my other positions if it came down to it, this experiment could have just delayed burnout.
I do not think that everyone on the team should switch to a schedule like this, but some should. It’s up to those reading to decide if it’s worth it to them. If everyone did switch to this schedule, some of the benefit would be nullified, since there wouldn’t be quieter days on Mattermost. :)
If you’re feeling overworked, give this schedule a try and see if it helps. A vacation may also help, but where this schedule shines is in its ability to create a more sustainable work pace.
I expect I will continue on this schedule for the forseeable future. I feel like on the rare occasions where I really need two weekend days in a row, I’m better off taking vacation. Overall, I’m quite happy with it.