The French are frequently cited as among the most productive workers in the world, despite having a 35-hour work week, a minimum of five weeks of annual leave, and a dozen federal holidays. They also have interesting laws, such as a prohibition on overtime, and a prohibition on employees being required to check or respond to work-related emails outside of working hours.
The thinking seems to be not only, “work hard/play hard,” but also, “Never the twain shall meet.” In July and August, many French shops are simply closed–for weeks at a time. When the family is on vacation, they are on vacation. Of course, if health care doesn’t come out of your paycheck, if higher education is all but free, if the minimum wage is about $11.25/hour for all adults, if owning a car really is optional, then taking some vacay rather than keeping the old proboscis ad carborundum becomes possible.
French culture makes clear, bright distinctions between work and not-work, and the result is, apparently, more productivity and more leisure. That strikes me as a win-win, so I’ve been thinking about how to punctuate my day, when I work and live in the same space. How can I have bright lines between”Go for it, Grace Ann!” and “Chillax, Madam Author. Ya done enough for one day.”
One way to make a bright line is to work someplace other than home (duh). Many writers go to a third place to write–a coffee shop, a library, a co-op. I’m not built to do that. I don’t want the carbon footprint (the nearest Starbuck’s is 25 miles away), and I can’t write where there’s ambient noise (much less music).
Another way to make these bright, clear lines is with the clock. Write like a demon until, say, 2 pm, then pack it in until evening. I have better luck with this one, because I wake up knowing my best writing hours are immediately upon rising. I also have a firm, no-slip rule that I am forbidden to be on social media before noon. And I have days when I’m off to the barn to ride rather than jamming out the words.
I no longer have a commute to make a clear distinction between work and home, no longer have a landline that’s “personal” versus office phone numbers that are for business. The court schedule doesn’t result in weekends “off,” and my office is my kitchen.
The result is that weekends are frequently my most productive writing time–when nobody working a regular 40 hours is likely to bother me–and Tuesday and Friday are my errands and fresh air days. It’s working for me, but finding my balance is still very much a work in progress. I do OK with the work end of the continuum–the word counts are piling up!–but the play end of the equation will take more thought.
How do you divide your energy between roles? Between work and play, between hobbies and housework? Is there any significant change to the schedule or work allocation you’d like to make some day? To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of The Heir, which re-released this past week, and a $50 Amazon gift card.