I get a lot of requests for follow-ups to reader stories and reader questions. People want to hear how things turned out. Because I want to know how things turned out, too, I've started a semi-regular feature at Get Rich Slowly. Whenever I hear back from a previous poster, I'll share an update so that we can all know what happened.
Tim Stobbs wrote in September of 2010 to explain why he loved his 20% pay cut. He had a decent job, a wife, two young kids, and mortgage. But although his work paid well, he didn't find it meaningful. After being elected to the local school board, Tim asked his boss if he could work four days a week instead of five. Here's what happened:
Last September, I shared a reader story about my 20% pay cut at work and how I loved it. That was written back when the entire experience of dropping down to 80% working week was new and exciting. Now, after nine months of arrangement, how am I doing?
I still have every Friday off from my day job, and at the start of 2011 this became permanent — at least until I decide otherwise. The initial agreement with my employer included a six-month trial period in order to assure both of us that this was going to work. As of the end of last year, we decided to make it permanent.
I have to admit that not working on Fridays is addictive. Why? Life becomes so much easier when you always have a three-day weekend. No, really. Think about adding an extra weekday to your life, so that you can run all of your errands and attend all of your appointments. This is what I've done. It leaves weekends free to spend time with my family or work on other projects.
What about the costs of only working part time? Isn't that going to have a negative impact on my career? Well, to be honest, it could potentially, but so far the response has been the opposite. I'm actually finding my work as a Trustee at the School Board directly transferable to my day job. After all, there are very few people inside the company who can think about information from the other side of the Board table.
So far, I've been able to provide feedback to follow employees and my own work to keep Executive or Board information summaries to the point. Board members have full plates and limited time to review material, so I've learned to keep it brief. I don't care if the decision is from $1000 to $1 billion — you can always summarize it in three pages or less.
I also took it upon myself to use some of the “Friday time” to work on what I love to do: writing. During 2010, I managed to finish a book project that I'd been working on for two years! Free at 45: How to Retire Early & Happy was published last month. I've also managed to do some freelance writing for the Toronto Star, which provided some unexpected income. So, rather than having less money from working less, I actually ended making more than I expected in 2010.
I have no regrets about giving up that 20% of my paycheck. It brought balance back to my life. Granted, I'm still busy a lot of the time, but when you're working on what you love, it doesn't seem to matter.
Although Kris works full time at her job, she has Fridays off, too. She works four ten-hour days. She loves it. We have less time together during the week, but we have more time together on the weekends. (I try to work Sunday through Thursday, giving us a weekday and a weekend day together. Sunday is by far my most productive day; I get more done on Sunday than the rest of the week combined.)
Not everyone has the option to rearrange their schedule. But if it's a possibility for you, it may be worth exploring. Whether you work four ten-hour days like Kris or four eight-hour days like Tim, unearthing an extra day in your week can make a huge difference to your productivity.