Many sole traders go into business for themselves in order to gain more flexibility and the chance to work less days per week than the regular nine-to-five. But how do you make sure you actually achieve that much-needed time off? Business coach and author, Belinda Morgan, shares her best advice for maintaining your part-time hours.
Whether you’re running your own show or working for someone else, working less hours per week is something many people would like to achieve. One way to go about this is to work less than five days per week.
But once you’ve made the decision to work part-time, do you go about actually implementing it? How do you make sure that work doesn’t start creeping into your days off and land you right back where you started?
How to stick to your part-time hours
A lot of people will tell you that it’s all about boundaries. Get clear on what you will and won’t do, then communicate this to others and, voila, problem solved.
If you’ve ever tried working part-time, you’ll know it’s rarely that simple.
Here are three steps you can take to make sure your part-time role is truly part-time.
Identify your ‘why’
This is about getting crystal clear on why you value part-time work. Once you’re clear on this it’s much easier to say no to working hours well beyond the scope of your part-time plan, as you know what the trade-off is.
To build your conviction, sit down with a coffee and take ten minutes to write down all the reasons that working part-time is important to you. Once you’ve got your list, keep it handy so that you can refer back to it and ask yourself, ‘If I say yes to doing this work on my day off, what am I saying no to?’.
Most people have more than one ‘why’ on their list and it’s important to identify them all. For example, I started working part-time after returning from my first parental leave, and spending time with my kids is still one of my primary whys. But it’s certainly not my only one. I also place a really high value on having more time for friends, spending time outdoors, and role-modelling successful part-time work for others.
Scope your role
This is about reducing your workload in line with your reduced hours. Many people don’t even think to do this, and instead just try to squash the same amount of work into less hours. To borrow an old English metaphor, this is akin to trying to put a quart into a pint pot. It’s simply not possible and can only end in a big mess!
If you’re currently in a full-time role and are looking to make the same role part-time, the best way to re-scope your role is to analyse how you currently spend your time, and then identify what you can do less of or stop doing altogether.
You might find that some of the things you spend your time on really don’t need to be done at all and so don’t need a new home.
For the work that does still need to happen, you can work out how to outsource it or reallocate it to existing team members. Or you could even consider hiring a new team member on a part-time basis to take on this work.
Optimise your time
Parkinson’s law states, ‘It is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion’.
If this is true (and most of us have plenty of personal experience that proves it is!), then the opposite must also be true. Work must also contract to fit the time available.
People working successfully in part-time roles tend to focus on two aspects of time optimisation: maximising their impact while they are working; and putting in systems for protecting time outside work. The latter is where boundary-setting plays a role.
A great starting place for maximising your impact during your working hours is getting really clear on your top priorities. To do this, consider what success in your business or role looks like one year from now, and identify no more than three things that you need to focus on to achieve this success. Then, plan your week around making progress on each of these things and remove the distractions that take you away from this work.
The rewards of working part-time and making time for other pursuits are well and truly worth it, and if you take the time to implement your role well, these rewards can be yours for the taking.
Source: Flying Solo October 2022
This article by Belinda Morgan is reproduced with the permission of Flying Solo – Australia’s micro business community. Find out more and join over 100K others https://www.flyingsolo.com.au/join.
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