What Would You Learn In a Year Of Free Fridays?
Imagine you could use each Friday to work on your personal development, learn new skills and tinker on your passion projects. At your job, supported by your boss. Sounds like a dream? To me this is reality.
For the past year I have been enjoying the pleasure of a 4+1 work week. In celebrations of this anniversary I decided to share what I made of it.
First, let’s make a plan.
There are many things to learn and many toys to play with. For not ending up like a kid trapped in a Chocolate Factory, my manager and I created a development plan which mapped out the skills I had to work on. I then pinned these skills on a rough timeline which allowed me to prioritize one topic per month. On the left side you can see my personal To Do List for the year and the areas I wanted to cover. I also used one of my Fridays to run through Joel Califas ‘Full Stack Anxiety’ exercise which allowed me to further define the skills I wanted to develop.
Settle in and buckle up.
You probably know for yourself how to best get into ‘the zone’. To use my Friday time most efficiently it helped me to know what to work on in advance. Sometimes I needed more focus so I worked from home. To really use my time to learn I also tend to switch off Slack for a couple of hours so that I won’t get distracted. Create a shell around you and be that selfish Turtle. 🐢
Studying, Building and Teaching.
For the past year I was able to use 67% of all Fridays for Friday projects. 7% of my Fridays I had to spend on client projects and the rest fall under public holidays, vacations or sick leave. After analysing my projects I can say that they fall into one of these three categories: Studying, Building or Teaching. We can also see a pretty interesting transition between Building and Teaching over time.
What did I actually do?
Time to crunch some numbers and see what I’ve been up to. 🕵🏻 Below you can see the share of Fridays I spent per category.
Building & Studying
When starting as Junior Developer a year ago I felt like a dummy 24/7 so that at first there were many basics I wanted to catch up with. I learnt these by studying (mostly through video tutorials) and by building web-applications where I could bring my learnings into action. Topics I studied were e.g. Web Application Architecture, ES6, Node.JS, GraphQL or Testing with Mocha.
Following my To Do List, my focus was around learning ‘the best’ way to set up an application architecture with database and API-integrations and how to write cleaner code. One project I built was a web app called ‘Rocket Machine’ where you could shoot your New Years Resolutions into Space. This project allowed me to build a Boiler-Plate with all technologies we use for most projects, which came in handy later down the line. It also helped me to understand how the different parts of an application connect and how to set them up.
Almost like a creepy clockwork I transitioned my Friday efforts towards teaching after half of the year. I was planning to do more public speaking but never consciously planned this switch. I assume I felt more confident in my job and thus had the drive to start sharing my new knowledge with others.
The biggest teaching-related Friday project I worked on was a three day workshop about the basics of web-technology for Digital School Hyper Island. As I go into deep-dive mode before turning any material into something entertaining and accessible, I learnt tons of things for myself while preparing the workshop. Most of them were about how a browser turns your code into a website and what a programming language actually is. It was also incredible to see how much I learnt by explaining things during the workshop.
Did I use my year of free Fridays well enough?
I don’t recall ever feeling like ‘wasting’ a Friday and would consider all of them as well invested. I am genuinely proud of how hard I worked and how my efforts helped me to feel more accomplished in my job (and less like an idiot), and I hope my journey can inspire some of you too.
Challenges & Learnings
Let’t talk about the elephant in the room. A functioning 4 + 1 work week stands and falls with the commitment of your employer. At my work our producers generally plan client projects with 4 days a week but you sometimes just can’t avoid tight deadlines or ad-hoc requests. I count myself very lucky that I had almost all of my Fridays at my own disposal and I am genuinely super-duper grateful towards Your Majesty for making this happen.
I also think it’s important to mention that for the past year I invested a lot of time outside of work in growing my skill-set as Web Developer. Many of my Friday projects spilled over into weekends or after work hours, which was fine to me as it gave me a lot of energy. So I am also super-duper grateful to my boyfriend for supporting this ‘sponge mode’ behaviour.
If people asked me about my Spirit Animal I would say it’s a Sponge. Learning new things makes me happy and teaching these things to others gives me even more energy. Next to my job as Web Developer at Your Majesty I run my own community ‘Cafe Robot’ which is aimed at Newbie-Developers and Code-Hobbyists in Amsterdam.
Other Blog-Posts written by me:
The Patchwork Mentor — Finding the perfect ‘Mentor’ seems to be the new Tinder for Professionals.