How to (actually) escape 9 to 5 job

by Jake Smolarek
Wall clock

Joshua Hoehne / Unsplash

The 9-5 grind. For generations getting a stable job working from Monday to Friday was the epitome of a stable, successful life. It provided a structure around which you could flourish. But that lifestyle just doesn’t fit the modern world.

Nowadays, remote working, flexible hours, travel, and the internet have made the traditional working routine an old-fashioned relic. More and more studies show that the old 9 to 5 routine is actually a hindrance rather than a help.

But why is the traditional working day so draining? Why is it so hard to maintain that routine? How can you break the cycle? If you feel drained, tired unmotivated, and stuck in your career, escaping the 9 to 5 routine could be the best thing you do.

If you've ever wondered how to escape 9 to 5 working, here's what you need to know.

Why do we work from 9 to 5?

To understand why the traditional routine is so draining, you need to know where it comes from. It actually came from trade unions in Britain during the industrial revolution. Wealthy factory owners exploited the poor by making them work long hours for little pay. So unions formed and demanded a limit on the number of hours workers were expected to work in a day.

At the time, it was actually over a 10-hour day.

Over the years, this has decreased as the quality of life improved and people demanded leisure time and other rights. In 1915, Uruguay became the first country to enshrine the eight-hour working day in law. Thus, the 9 to 5 was born.

The modern eight-hour day

But things have changed since 1915, and what worked then just doesn’t work now. The most significant change is, of course, technology. Technology introduced the world to the idea of being constantly available. Even if you don’t work from home, you can check emails, connect to work servers and finish off presentations at any time from your laptop.

This idea was pushed further by international travel. Business and trade suddenly became global, not local. Which means someone somewhere is always awake and working. Arguably, the eight-hour day gave way to the 24-hour working day where people are constantly available and tied to their phones.

With technology and travel pushing a new lifestyle, the 9 to 5 working day has become outdated. Not only can it feel draining, but it is actually counterproductive.

Why the 9 to 5 grind is killing you

There are many aspects of life in which a solid routine is an excellent thing. For example, having a regular exercise plan, visiting your family often, and making time for something you love can be built into a super productive and positive routine.

So why isn’t it the same for the 9 to 5?

The answer lies in the monotony of the eight-hour day. There is a fine line between a productive routine and a boring one. Most routines still allow for a certain amount of flexibility. For example, if you want to exercise regularly, you still need rest days to pick which days you work out. You can also choose what time you workout, how and who you are with. A gym workout alone is very different from a hike with a mate. The result is a level of variation and flexibility that caters to your individual needs. You still have plenty of choices.

The daily work routine doesn’t offer the same flexibility. You can’t choose when you do your 8-hour day; you can’t change how you work or who you work with. This stifles creativity and individuality, which can be very damaging for motivation and mental health.

Furthermore, you may find yourself wasting time waiting for colleagues to follow up on something. Time is precious, so knowing that no matter how hard you work, you can’t save any time is endlessly frustrating.

The flexible lifestyle

What do you do if you hate the 9 to 5? This is where a flexible lifestyle can be incredibly beneficial. It can save you time. Flexible working means choosing when to work. You can work on your own schedule. This can lead to a boost in productivity which means working smarter, not harder.

This can literally save time.

Studies show that having a flexible working life can boost productivity, meaning you get more done, tasks are accomplished faster, and you can spend more time on things you love. When you’ve got the time to do the things you love, life gets better. People who have adequate free time tend to be better, more efficient workers, and happier overall.

Moving away from the structured day and gaining a flexible work-life balance benefits everyone. It promotes individuality, creativity, and motivation. You work when you want and when you are needed rather than wasting time.

Not to mention, people who don’t work the typical 9 to 5 days tend to save money—no more daily commute or buying your lunch in a local supermarket. You can choose when you work and from where—remote working only becoming more popular. When you can call the shots, you may question if the 9 to 5 job is worth it.

Top tips to escape the 9 to 5

A woman in an office laying her head on a laptop

Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

Recognising that you need to quit 9 to 5 working and actually doing it are two separate things. First, it can be tough to break a cycle that is supposedly for your benefit. Second, a steady job feels safe and stable for many people, so breaking it can feel uncomfortable and daunting.

These tips for breaking your work routine can help transition from 9 to 5 to flexible working, more comfortable, and realistic.

Ask your boss

If you love your job but don’t want to do the standard hours, one thing you can do instantly is asking your boss to change it up. In some cases, depending on your job, this might not be possible. However, over the last year, more people than ever have taken to remote working. The result is more flexibility. If you want to play tennis in the middle of the day, communicate that to your boss and ensure that you’re still meeting targets.

Flexible working is more popular than ever, and more and more people can hit targets while staying at their own

Find your productivity cycle

Are you a morning person? Or are you super productive at night? Can you focus for a full day but will then need a day off, or does taking a break every half hour keep you focussed all week? Everyone is different.

We are conditioned to work from morning till night, but sometimes this just doesn’t suit your style. Once you break out of this cycle and work during your productive periods and find ways to work effectively, everything becomes easier. So if you want to escape the 9 to 5 life, it really is a case of working smarter, not harder.

Speak to a life coach or someone who can help identify what works for you and advise you on staying productive.

Make a realistic plan

Everyone has a dream life. What does yours look like? How much will it cost? Is it realistic? Who will be impacted by a significant change in your life? Breaking tradition needs a real plan. You need to think about the practicalities of switching up your career and doing something new. If you have children or a partner, you need to consider them. What does this mean for you financially?

Before you make a huge decision, you should consider the realities of following your dream. It can feel overwhelming to suddenly quit your job. To help deal with a big change, make a plan and look at the possible impact of your decision. It’ll help you with the mental challenges of getting used to a new flexible lifestyle.

Start saving

If you really want to quit your day job to become an entrepreneur or take your side hustle full time, you need a bit of breathing room. Having a bit of cash for an emergency to keep you afloat or invest in your future is crucial. Start saving now. If you want to live your dream life, you might need to make some sacrifices now.

If you need help, speak to an expert about setting a budget or download an app to help track where you spend money and where you could save. Create a little nest egg. When you first quit your job, you’ll need something to fall back on if things don’t go to plan.

Even if you don’t end up using it because everything goes to plan, it’ll be a good start for long-term investment, or you can blow it on a holiday when you’ve met all your goals.

Find a side hustle

It might sound counterproductive. A successful side hustle will take up what little free time you have left. You’ll end up doing your normal job, coming home, and then doing more work. But you need to see it as an investment. Putting in the working now means eventually breaking free of the standard working cycle.

Having a successful side hustle, particularly if it can run itself, can be a great way to prepare for ditching your day job. It’ll help you save up some extra cash, and if it’s something you love, it could support your finances for the foreseeable future without being too stressful.

It’s easier than you think!

Some people think that they are only capable of working in a standard job and that the fantasy life of flexible working isn’t something they are capable of. But, in reality, everyone has the ability to leave the 9 to 5 behind. Usually, it’s just a question of being brave enough to make the first move.

This doesn’t mean you have to hand in your notice tomorrow. But starting to make realistic plans can help with some of the fear of breaking out into the unknown. From saving money to asking your boss for flexible hours to starting a productive side hustle, moving away from the traditional working day is easier than you think.

You just have to decide…. Is the 9 to 5 day part of the life you really want? If the answer is no, you have the power to start making changes and breaking free.

All you need to do is start.

About the Author

Jake Smolarek

Life and Business Coach & Entrepreneur

For over 10 years I have been helping people achieve their personal, professional, and financial goals faster and easier than they've ever imagined.

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