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Unhappy for years, until I switched to working 3 days a week

August 2021

The other day I posted a twitter thread about how my quality of life massively improved after I started working only 3 days per week, but twitter is a poor medium and I feel like I still have a couple of things to say.

You can find the original thread here:

First some context, I started working around 10 years ago with a off-shoring software company in Bolivia, pay was good(ish) but the attitude of the people running the company was so terrible, some were americans but the CEO was US-born/Bolivian, and they basically saw the local developers as cheap nerds but nothing else. Lasted 6 months in the company.

Then I freelanced for some years, there I earned a bunch of money (due to Bolivia being so cheap and salary in USD) and was actually a very entertaining time for me, learned a lot and had a lot of freedom. After some time I got bored of working alone and wanted to try something new and decided to move to Germany.

Here is where the wild ride starts. Unlike in Bolivia where I was a gun for hire, this time I got to see the software industry close and personal. The dreams of money and success, the buzz of silicon valley reaching its tendrils all the way to Europe. Work is work, but the tech industry (currently) attracts every hustler on the scale.

I basically ended up working for a bunch of start ups, each progressively worst for my physical and mental health, and I wasn’t alone, co-workers ended up doing therapy or we still talk/get together to process what happened to us during this times. The constant push, combined with the lack of basic human decency is soul-crushing.

So around the beginning of 2020 I had the nose full, I quit the last start-up and spend some months recovering, I was planning on going back to freelancing, but the pandemic made me uncertain if I could achieve it… so I decided to join a small bootstrapped company with a single app as a revenue source.

There are many good things about small-bootstrapped; no impossible and imaginary deadlines, very little planning overhead or planning at all (can be both bad and good), there are also some bad things; work is sometimes chaotic and tedious, and very little room for making your own decisions. And around half a year ago I was wondering if I should start looking for a new position, since I was started to feel stuck and bored.

But given my previous experiences, were could I go? Everyone and their grandma is aiming for the unicorn start-up dream, almost exclusively a loosing bet (since 95% die after a couple of years anyways), I didn’t want to go back to the stress and no-life of working in a high-pressure environment, so I came up with an idea: Even though current work was not the most exciting, it was completely manageable and paid well enough for me not to complain, the problem is that I could not bring myself to doing it 5 days of the week.

The owners of the company like me, so we agreed to reduce the working hours to 60%, three work days a week… and let me tell you, my quality of life SKYROCKETED, I haven’t feel this satisfied with life since I left college and I felt the world is filled with possibilities.

Here is the run down of how my week works:

  • Mon to Wed: Normal work, when work is good/entertaining actually quite enjoyable, because for a few days a week I get to work on a team, also not responsible for high-level decisions, just come do some work, get paid for it. If work is bad, it’s almost over immediately, I only need to push through for a couple of days and then it’s over for 4 days, by next week either some situations have resolved themselves or I feel energized again to tackle the problems
  • Thu to Fri: I get to focus on my own projects, I write blog posts, I do open source, I explore ideas for bootstrapping my own company, but it’s super flexible, I sometimes go surfing, running, hiking, everything is super empty because most people are stuck at work. And even though I work, it does not feel like work!
  • Sat: Sometimes I work a bit more but try not to do the same time of work… usually stop around noon and meet with friends to other stuff on the evening
  • Sun: For the first time since I was 20… I do nothing, by the time Sunday comes around, I have already done so much of the stuff I wanted to get done, that I for once get to do NOTHING, I watch so movies, go do some sport, meet with friends without the guilt I would usually feel of not hustling, and it feels SO liberating, it’s really hard to put into words

There are some very real downsides: I took a significant pay cut. A company reached out to me a few weeks ago, they offered me a salary bump and stocks over my current position, but I had to go back to full time job… I couldn’t bring myself to do it. If you live in the developed world maybe you understand my position. A 10/20k salary increase does not change my life at all, buying an apartment/house is still hopelessly impossible, I don’t have a car (nor I want to) and my free time consists of almost free activities (being outdoors is IMHO is the best thing you can do for your life).

Turns out, the secret to my happiness was not to chase money down the beaten path whilst enduring a work-life that made me miserable, but rather to get rid of this way (or at least reduce it to it’s minimum while still reaping most/some of the benefits).