The 6-Hour Work Day

The SlackerIs it just me, or is there a groundswell of support these days for shortening the work day? Perhaps I suffer from confirmation bias (seeing what you want to see; gathering and using information only insofar as it supports your beliefs).

At any rate, the Swedes appear to be doing something about the problem of work, with the city of Gothenburg conducting an experiment in work-day reduction, from 8 to 6 hours.

Reducing workers’ hours without impacting productivity is theoretically feasible: people working for shorter periods would need fewer breaks, and would be less inclined to screw the pooch. In reality, some employees might simply reduce the amount of work they do, and continue checking social media at the office. This has more to do with the nature of their job, I suspect.

Of course, all of this workday reduction business is fine, provided workers are paid the same as they were when they worked “full” shifts…

Decisions, Decisions…Opportunity Cost

From the field of microeconomics:

The opportunity cost of a choice is the value of the best alternative forgone, in a situation in which a choice needs to be made between several mutually exclusive alternatives given limited resources. Assuming the best choice is made, it is the “cost” incurred by not enjoying the benefit that would be had by taking the second best choice available.

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Bad Religion

Real estate: the cult-like obsession of the middle class. In the article, author Leah Mclaren discusses how our housing choices define us. Having witnessed this dance for many years, and indeed having been part of it, I can attest to the way people obsess about their homes and adopt them as a symbol of who they are.

[Read more...]

Autopilot

My friend Brett, who has an extra large brain but is a leisure hound at heart, tipped me off to a book by Andrew Smart called Autopilot: The Art And Science of Doing Nothing.

The premise of Autopilot is that we are better served by doing less, not more. On his website, Smart rightfully asks whether work is as dangerous as smoking…I think we know the answer to that.

Being idle is one of the most important activities in life.

In the short term, busyness destroys creativity, self-knowledge, emotional well-being, your ability to be social— and it can damage your cardiovascular health.

Smart stuff indeed! Thanks, Brett.

Add Autopilot to your summer reading list.

 

On Not Working

A couple of articles that you might find interesting.

The first is written by a woman who quit her job as a lawyer to travel. She’s blunt about the fact that she didn’t do it because she wanted to “find herself”. Rather, she did it because she wanted to travel instead of practicing law.

It is important to let go of the external pressure to “find your passion”…Instead, that energy can be focused on getting better at the skills you already have, or learning new ones that apply to the life you want.

This aligns with the basic premise here: a) figure out the lifestyle you want; and then b) figure out how to achieve that lifestyle. As for passion, the only things I’m even close to being passionate about are hiking, cycling, and coffee. Could I make a living at hiking? No. Cycling? The author chuckles. Coffee? Probably. It’s definitely something that I’ll explore. But a coffee-oriented business may also prove to be a royal pain in my lifestyle ass. I might be better served doing something easier, and then sitting around in great cafes to enjoy coffee.

Another article, brought to my attention by New Escapologist, hilariously describes how a court stenographer in NY spent entire days typing “I hate my job, I hate my job” instead of actually recording the court proceedings. The author ponders why we can’t be honest when applying for jobs:

Reason for leaving last job: hated it.

Reason for applying for this post: I like money.

Let’s face it, the person on the other side of a job interview is just an employee themselves…they’ll get it. And they’ll wish they had the balls to give those answers. If I were interviewing candidates, I’d absolutely hire the person who answered so honestly.

The second article caused me to reflect on the reasons for leaving my former career. I was previously a helicopter pilot, first in the military and later in the private sector. Ambivalence toward flying itself left me feeling bored, and I ended up in management roles. But the ambivalence prevailed, the product of an innate laziness and a hidden cynicism about organizational objectives.

If you were to ask my former supervisors, they would probably say “he had lots of potential, but wasn’t quite on board with the programme”. In retrospect, I operated in an unhappy space between the “horses” who were content to plug away at it for the paycheque, and the “tigers” who gulped the organizational Kool-Aid.

And in the back of my mind, there was a persistent, nagging little voice that said:

I wish I were doing something else.

In my case, it wasn’t a case of hating my work.

I think what I hated was work itself.

Work, The Montaigne Way

From How To Live:

In truth he did work hard sometimes, but only when he thought the labour was worth while.

…no doubt he did abandon whatever bored him: that was how he had been brought up, after all. [His father] taught him that everything should be approached in ‘gentleness and freedom, without rigour and constraint’. Of this, Montaigne made a whole principle of living.

Overwhelmed?

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, author Brigid Schulte discusses her new book Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time.

I haven’t read the book yet – it’s still on order at the library – but it looks to be a good one. Schulte asks the million dollar (million minute?) question:

Are our brains, our partners, our culture, and our bosses making it impossible for us to experience anything but “contaminated time”?

We don’t need scientific evidence to answer that one. Just look around you, or perhaps in the mirror.

I particularly like her use of “contaminated time”, which speaks to the insidious evil of social media and other psychological-technological tethers. She also makes reference to the act of “humble bragging”, or talking about how overworked you are, in an ass-backwards way of demonstrating status.

Apparently Denmark is one of the few places to have figured out the whole leisure prioritization thing.

*Note to self: learn Danish asap.

Schulte’s description of leisure will be familiar to my half-dozen dedicated readers:

The idea is to do something for its own sake, without obligation. It is meaningful human experience.

Oh, Brigid…you had me at “without obligation”.

Overwhelmed. Add it to your summer book list, and read it instead of social-media-ing from the cottage.

Absurdity Everywhere

Shop @ New EscapologistJust a friendly reminder that Issue 10 of New Escapologist is now on the street and available for purchase (physical magazine or pdf).

The theme of this issue is absurdity. Or: why we should relax and have a good time, because nothing we do really matters in the end.

Buy your copy of NE10. Have a laugh. Learn something. Spread the word.

Don’t End Up Like This Guy…

A Pioneer of Leisure

Montaigne

Michel Eyquem de Montaigne: retired young, lived well.

Here’s an excerpt from How To Live: A Life Of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer”, by Sarah Bakewell.

He marked the decision…by having a Latin inscription painted on the wall:

“In the year of Christ 1571, at the age of thirty-eight, on the last day of February, anniversary of his birth, Michel de Montaigne, long weary of the servitude of the court and of public employments, while still entire, retired to the bosom of the learned Virgins [the Muses], where in calm and freedom from all cares he will spend what little remains of his life now more than half run out. If the fates permit he will complete this abode, this sweet ancestral retreat; and he has consecrated it to his freedom, tranquility, and leisure.”

From now on, Montaigne would live for himself rather than for duty.

Thanks, Rob, for the recommendation.

 

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