Time is the new money
My friend recently sent me an article proclaiming that I don’t need to work so much. Two months ago, such a title would have had me hooked before you could say “billable unit”. As it happens, I currently live in hope that my time at work in fact far exceeds my time off work. But I expect I shall return to the real world at some point, so the correlation between work and overload remains somewhat of interest to me.
Eighty five years ago, America was bracing itself for a three-hour workday (and how to deal with the subsequent excess leisure time – just imagine!). Today, young professionals are rising in protest about the 33 hour workday (note: not a typo; I can personally attest that those small hours in the morning are worth at least triple the time of ‘day minutes’). What the heck went wrong?!
I have a theory or two about this dire situation. The first relates to self. The second relates to systems. Let’s first look at self. The straight-backed office chair I used to plop onto every day was the chair that I chose for myself. Whenever time started piling up with me still stuck in that chair, I would invariably have this internal rant about how I was working so much. But it was my decision to stay sitting there. How I spent my time came down to self.
What about systems? Well, technology these days is just great. Now, it doesn’t matter if you walk out the door seconds before the highly-urgent-deal-changing-must-not-be-ignored email arrives in your inbox. All you have to do is glance down at your phone once you’re out of the elevator and the little mail notification will be enough to push you right back in again. With the rise of technology, the boundaries have been broken. Systems that used to keep the office at the office no longer play by the rules.
As that article points out, the absence of such structural limits means that work has become a bit like a football game where the whistle is never blown. (As an aside, the legal world’s total disregard for perfectly legitimate rules like a decent home time always blows my mind, but I digress.)
The first point is the easier one to solve. Work feels less like work and more like an enjoyable money-making activity when you make the right choice about what form your office chair takes. This description isn’t foolproof of course. For instance, what if you just don’t know what model of office chair suits you best?
My advice is hardly original, but it's been effective for me so far. Go out and try before you buy. I love people and I love the outdoors. Therefore, I am currently trying out an office chair that features those two very things. As a result, I don’t feel like I am working too much because of the simple fact that I love it, and (importantly) I am also given enough time off to recharge and reflect.
The second point is more of an issue. Ever tried to change the System? I can advise against turning to George Oswell for any uplifting words of encouragement on the matter. After that, well I’m still stuck too. Perhaps getting creative is one way (going for a walk is apparently a great way to boost creativity; definitely winning on that front). Taking some time away from that office chair to set out some life priorities is another. Having the self-confidence to lead a discussion with your supervisors about a healthy work/life balance is a bigger ask, but nothing tried nothing gained, right?!
I’m definitely going to keep mulling this one over. But in the meantime, I think that age-old adage is true; time is money. I have chosen time as my currency of choice for the moment. The dollars might not be mounting up in my bank account, but my work experience is proving to be invaluable life experience.