In a few weeks, our spring semester will end, and we’ll begin our summer work schedule. Just like last year, for ten weeks the entire college will close at noon on Fridays and be closed until 8:00 am Monday. My boss, being an agreeable type, has let us choose whether we want to work four nine-hour days and then the four hour day on Friday, or work ten-hour days Monday through Thursday and have Friday off every week. Obviously someone has to be here Friday, but one of our librarians chose to work every Friday last year (because he didn’t want to do ten hour days), and he is doing the same this year. My boss also works on Fridays, because she feels she should be here every day. So Friday is well covered, and the rest of us can work four ten-hour days if we want. And we do want.
Last year, my conclusion at the end of the summer was that it was nice to be done with the longer days, but also that it was worth it to have Fridays off. Three day weekends every week are awesome, frankly. But ten-hour workdays are long, for sure. My usual schedule is 9:30 to 6:00; in the summer I’ll work 8:00 to 6:30. Staying an extra half hour is no big deal. Getting here at 8:00 is the hard part.
So, what are my “best practices” for surviving a ten-hour workday, when you’re not used to it?
- First, pace yourself. It’s a long day. Don’t burn yourself out, either mentally or physically, in the first four hours and then be wiped out for the next six.
- Second, stay hydrated. Drink lots of water. I tend to forget to drink in the afternoons, and then get headaches. Also, having to get up to use the restroom more often keeps the blood moving.
- Third, graze throughout the day. It works better for me that way. I don’t have time for my usual big breakfast in the morning, so I eat light and then eat again not long after I get to work. Lunch is as usual, and then I have a snack or two on through the afternoon. Not eating a big lunch makes it easier to stay awake during the long, long afternoon. And you really don’t want big blood sugar swings during a ten-hour day.
- Fourth, if you can, take on a couple of projects that you’ve been meaning to get to. Those two extra hours can be a good time to work on something that takes some extended attention, that you haven’t seemed to be able to fit into a normal eight-hour day. Summers are slower for us anyway, since there aren’t as many students around, so we always plan summer projects, but it seems easier to work on them while on the four-day schedule. I don’t know exactly why that is.
- Fifth, don’t fill up your Friday with a lot of planned activities if you’re not a very high-energy person. I find that after finishing my four ten-hour days, I’m kind of tired once Friday rolls around. So I usually take it kind of easy and use that as my day to read and do stuff around the house. I might go to a movie if one of my other teacher friends wants to, or drag my chair down to the beach to read in the morning. Of course, if you’re a high energy person, you may not need that down day. I find that when I use Friday that way, though, then I have plenty of energy for Saturday and Sunday to either go somewhere or get the more heavy duty yard work done.
- Finally, dress as comfortably as you can. I can’t wear jeans, or shorts and a tee shirt to work, but I can wear tennis shoes with my dockers and a comfortable shirt. If you’re comfortable in hose and heels, then go for it, and I know a lot of people don’t have a choice. (Although in Florida no one wears hose. Ever.) But if you can, go comfy.
And if you’re stuck with your five-day work week, that’s too bad…