Every morning you get up, get ready for work, and then spend 8 hours working—and however much you enjoy your job, it still takes up a lot of energy. Eventually it’s time to leave, and then it’s time for chores: cooking, cleaning the kitchen, folding laundry. By the time you’re done you’re too tired to do anything but watch TV for an hour or two and then collapse into bed.
And the next morning—you have to do it all over again.
Eventually it’s the weekend, and you spend more time on chores, buying groceries, paying bills. You barely have time to breath, relax, and focus on your own interests.
But every once in a while, things are better. Every once in a while there’s a holiday, and you have a 3-day weekend.
And for once, you have enough time to relax, to get everything you need done and then spend a few hours doing whatever it is you want to do: a hobby, reading a book, writing code for fun.
And then it’s back to the daily grind: work/chores/TV/sleep, repeat forever until you’re dead.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Some programmers don’t have to wait for a holiday to get an extra free day. Some programmers have a 3-day weekend every week.
For example, since 2013 I’ve worked between 28 and 35 hours per week, at three different startups. And I’ve talked to many other programmers who have a 3-day weekend—here’s how some of them spend their extra time:
What would you spend your time on if you had a whole extra day to yourself, every single week?
But how can you find a job with a 3-day weekend? After all, at many software companies you’ll be lucky to get the weekend off.
You can get a 3-day weekend by negotiating:
Now, you may never have negotiated before, or negotiating may make you nervous or uncomfortable: that’s normal! Just like you learned how to write software, you can also learn how to negotiate.
Take me, for example: while I’ve negotiated a shorter workweek at multiple jobs, when I started out I was a terrible negotiator. In fact, I was so bad I didn’t even try to negotiate.
Like many programmers, I started out not knowing how to negotiate. To give just one instance of many: years ago a manager apologetically told me I was underpaid, given my experience and skills. I did nothing, I asked for nothing—and when the next review period came around, I once again did nothing. It never even occurred to me to ask for more money, so I spent years making less money and I should have.
Eventually I realized I needed to do better. So I read books, and observed other people; I negotiated higher salaries, and negotiated consulting contracts.
And then one day I found myself negotiating a shorter workweek—and it worked!
And then I did it again at another job.
And then again, at a third job.
Just like I did, you too could learn how to negotiate a 3-day weekend. But unlike me, you don’t have to figure this all out on your own.
Instead, you can benefit from my research, my experience, and the experiences of many other programmers I’ve interviewed who have also negotiated a 3-day weekend.
To help you get the free time you need, I’ve written a book: You Can Negotiate a 3-Day Weekend.
Based on my personal negotiating experience, real-world stories of other programmers who negotiated reduced hours, and extensive research, you’ll learn:
You don’t need negotiation experience to get started: you’ll build your negotiation skills and strength up step by step, starting with small exercises.
Here’s what a reader of an earlier iteration of the book did:
For the first time ever I negotiated my salary! I also set my boundaries clearly and said upfront I won’t be working overtime.
After 6 months I had a recurring health issue, and I felt the need to reduce my working hours, which I wanted to do anyways. I negotiated to work ¾ time and that was honestly amazing. I was pretty much as productive as previously.”
And another reader who read the same version:
I GOT IT!!! I GOT A 4 DAY WORK WEEK!!!
I have to thank you. Without your blog and book I might have given up, thinking it wasn’t possible.” —Alex K
It took Alex a while to get what he wanted—this isn’t always an easy process. But he worked at it, he followed the process, and he didn’t give up, and now he has an extra day off every single week.
Ready to get your own personal 3-day weekend, every single week?
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Negotiation can be pretty nerve-wracking, it’s true. The first time I negotiated a shorter workweek with a new employer I spent the whole conversation with a massive, unhelpful adrenaline rush.
But here’s the thing: employment is a negotiated relationship, since you’re trading work for time and money. You don’t get to opt out of negotiating, you just have to choose between being a good negotiator or a bad negotiator.
Luckily, a lot of negotiation happens long before that nerve-wracking conversation: from your resume to how you present yourself in a job interview, to making sure your current boss know all the good work you’re doing, to making sure you save money.
But still, you will have to have that conversation. You will need to ask for what you want, and it will be scary—and the way you work up to that is by practicing.
So the book provides small negotiation exercises you can do on the job that will free up a little time, while still not being as anxiety provoking as the big negotiation you will need to at the end.
A 3-day weekend sounds great, until you realize you’ll be paid less. But here’s the thing—if you’re learning how to negotiate, you’ll also be able to negotiate a better salary. What matters in the end is the amount of money you make in absolute terms: 80% of a much higher salary is better than 100% of a lower salary.
Nonetheless, it’s true that you might make less money than you could have otherwise. But once you’re past the threshold of making enough money, would you rather have more time or more money?
Your boss won’t be happy when you ask for a shorter workweek, it’s true. In fact, they have every incentive to just say “no” immediately, even if they will eventually give in. This is why the book talks about:
If you live in the US, health insurance can be a big worry.
But there’s good news. Under the Affordable Care Act, employers with >50 employees are required to provide health insurance to all full-time employees (if they don’t, they have to pay additional taxes). “Full-time” is defined as employees working at least 30 hours a week or 130 hours a month.
So as long as you’re working for a company with >50 employees, for at least 30 hours a week, you’re not any different than a regular full-time employee; at worst your company may require you pay a bit more employee contribution.
More broadly, just like you can negotiate for hours and salary, you can also negotiate to ensure you have health insurance.
It’s possible, yes, though in practice it doesn’t seem to happen much.
If you’re working 4 days a week, chances are you’re going to be paid a pro-rated 80% of your salary. So if your coworkers ask, you just can tell them that.
They might be inspired to emulate you, or they might decide lower take home pay is not for them. Either way it’ll be clear you’ve chosen your own particular tradeoff.
You’re going to need to do some work to get a 3-day weekend, and the earlier you start the better.
Here’s what another reader of the earlier iteration of the book had to say:
Inspired by your book I actually negotiated an offer from a new company to work 32 hours per week, my first part-time job ever… I’m so looking forward to those free Fridays!”
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By reading this book you’ll get expert advice, detailed processes, training exercises, and real-world inspiration to help you negotiate for more free time: focused and actionable.
Here’s the book’s table of contents:
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Hi! I’m Itamar. I’ve been writing software since 1995 or so. As an employee I’ve worked for companies small and big, ranging from 8-person startups to a year at Google as a product manager (my previous employer got acquired). And as a consultant I’ve written software for a similarly broad range of companies.
I wrote this book in the hopes of helping you and other programmers get a shorter workweek, just like I have.
Want to learn more about me? I write a weekly newsletter sharing my past programming and career mistakes, and how you can avoid them.