Sunday afternoon sun lays low in the sky, ushering in what should be a mellow evening hanging out with your favourite people, eating good food by a crackling fire, and feeling sated and satisfied by a weekend well spent.

Except there’s a cold pit in your belly and a hollow buzzing in your head as Monday worries crow in.

You’re self-employed. Those Sunday night blues should have gone away. But taking the leap to freedom has instead bound you tighter, as you’ve swapping one boss for many, and feel chained to keeping work happening and your clients happy.

What went wrong? Why is this a scenario common? How come the freedom, flexibility, and as-you-like-it lifestyle remains so elusive?

If you approach Mondays with icy anticipation and a yearning for things to be different, it’s time to reclaim them as your own.

And the more radical this idea seems, the more relevant this is to you and, perhaps, the more you need to do it.

Radical acts

After the Industrial Revolution, 80-100 hour work weeks were common. In 1869, eight-hour workdays in the US for government employees were guaranteed, which pressured private-sector workers to push for the same.

In 1926, Henry Ford popularised the 40-hour work week after he discovered through his research that working more yielded only a small increase in productivity that lasted a short period of time. In 1940, the 40-hour work week became US law – in Australia, this happening in 1936 with the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Act.

When self-employed, if you don’t want to work Mondays, you don’t have to. If you want to start the working week on a Tuesday, you can. If Mondays are to commence with a leisurely dog walk by the beach, followed by brunch, then exercise, you can. You don’t want to work school holidays. If you want to take off to the forest to celebrate the eight seasonal festivals of the pagan year, knock yourself out.

It’s your business. It’s your rules. And the more radical this sounds, the more you may need it.

Divorcing time from money

One old idea which has continued to endure, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary that it’s a myth, is that time equals money. In other words, if you want to earn more, you need to work more hours.

Unhooking your hours from your pay is a key step towards earning more. The more you wish to grow, the more charging by the hour makes no sense.

Understanding leverage and creating assets for sale is central. As a professional service provider, consultant or freelancer, that might look like books, courses, memberships, certification, franchising. The busier you become, with more clients wanting more from you, the more urgent this becomes.

Science shows that it’s not the hours you invest that produce fabulous work; it’s the quality of energy you apply to your work. And energy requires many things, starting with a good night’s sleep.

Show me your priorities

There’s an adage, “Show me your calendar and I’ll show you your priorities”, and while this may be simplistic, it does point to something important: if you keep telling yourself and others that something is important to you, but failing to do it, it’s probably not true.

Time to clear the decks, get on the no train, and reprioritise your time so that it reflects your values, beliefs and (real) priorities.

Forget motivation – create structure instead

When I talk to people about being self-employed, the most common response I hear is, “I’d love to start my own business, but I don’t think I could because I’m not very motivated.”

We frequently misunderstand how actions, emotions and outside circumstances work in motivation, instead pressuring our poor addled brains to magic up emotion. It doesn’t work like that.

Let’s pretend there’s a woman named Georgie. Georgie is 45, with young kids, elderly parents, and a husband who works full-time. During Covid, things became far more intense for Georgie and, as a consequence, her business suffered.

Her time is being pulled in many more directions, and she’s required to help her children navigate online learning, provide endless snacks, and act as the intermediary between her elderly mother, her father who was in an aged care home, the home staff, and her siblings. She frequently goes to bed late and wakes early with anxiety. Is it any wonder that her business suffers?

Now let’s paint a different picture: Georgie creates different structures. She has the structure of her children’s school reopening, where they’re now ensconced six hours a day, with an extra hour outside the house, as they take the bus there and back. She has the structure of a new arrangement with her family, whereby another sibling takes responsibility for dealing with the aged care home, and the care of her parents are more evenly distributed amongst her siblings.

She has the structure of a regular night-time routine, whereby she’s winding down at least an hour before she turns the lights out, far earlier than before. She has the structure of regular exercise, which works to lift her mood and give her more energy and emotional regulation.

She has the structure of a clear client onboarding process, which means less time spent communicating with the client, and a better outcome for all parties. She has the structure of better website forms, which means fewer one-to-one emails. She has the structure of a book she’s written, and the structure of a publicist, and the structure of a distribution network, which means that more people are able to reach Georgie and experience her work.

When we focus on creating, and participating in, productive structures, positive emotions are far more likely to result. Stop placing unnecessary and unrealistic expectations on yourself to feel motivated (otherwise known as push motivation) and start focusing on structures instead (pull motivation).

Start a new chapter

If you’ve got the Sunday night blues, and you’re working over-time for a side-gig salary, it’s time. Starts by getting angry. We overthrow oppression (both external and internalised) by refusing to tolerate conditions any longer.

Dismantling the oppression of the industrial revolution continues today, in the information age. Technology has made it far more possible for work to bleed into leisure time. And for self-employed folk, it can seem like a smart move because the more we work, the better our business will be, right? Until the cold pit in your belly becomes a regular Sunday evening routine.

Dismantling internalised oppression is not a quick fix. It takes time to evict bad habits, to embrace “selfish” as a compliment, and to steer your business away from hourly gigs towards assets and leverage.

It starts by reclaiming Mondays.