This morning I saw a post on LinkedIn where a young woman posted a video complaining that because of her work schedule, she had little to no time to live her life. The comments were scathing. People called her entitled. Others pointed out that she was young and likely hadn’t experienced the additional strain that having a family can create.
I have a slightly different take. I wanted to share it with you today because I’ve seen this come up multiple times in conversations this week.
Here’s my stance on that young lady’s rant.
Yes, we all have the same amount of time in a day. Yes, it's about the choices you make around what you do with your free time.
Everyone is missing the real point.
She isn’t wrong. We are all overworked. Full stop. There is no arguing that.
Here are a few things to consider:
- We’ve promoted the hustle culture where it is a badge of honor to “grind” away at our businesses and careers.
- The economy is starting to sputter and companies have picked up layoffs. The same amount of work is being spread across fewer people.
- There is a labor shortage in the U.S. This is due to multiple factors including that the Baby Boomer generation was so large and many are now entering retirement.
- Technology was meant to create efficiencies in the workplace. But the work that technology has taken off of employees has just been replaced with new work.
- The U.S. has no federal law mandating paid sick days.
- The U.S. has no federal law mandating paid vacation days.
I saw a Whim Hoff interview once where he said that humans weren’t meant to “run around like monkeys.” I can’t find it now, but my sense is that he is saying that humans weren’t meant to be so busy all the time.
That applies to how we work.
From the time we were in kindergarten, we spend 8-10 hours in a highly structured schedule. For many kids and parents, it's more time than that when you add in after-school sports and activities, homework, and chores.
I look at my own schedule. My day starts at around 5 a.m. when I wake up and walk into my home office to get ahead of my work to-dos. At 7 am I drive our daughter to school. That commute is about an hour and fifteen minutes. I think start my normal work day. I usually finish up between 6-7 pm.
That schedule gives me about three hours a night of free time to spend with family and enjoy my hobbies.
Here’s the challenge. It’s not a matter of no free time for myself. It's a matter of not having enough energy left over to enjoy that free time.
Remember the young lady’s rant I opened with?
This isn’t about working too much. It’s about a misalignment in our lives.
If she was truly passionate about the work she did do you think she’d care that she works so much? Nope.
If we were all willing to stop chasing after the all-mighty dollar would we be able to work less? Yep.
So, what do we do about it?
It’s really hard to get off the hamster wheel once it’s spinning fast. But there are a few things you can do to reduce how much you work.
- Get better at recognizing what is and isn’t a priority. That email you are convinced you have to answer at 7 pm at night? You don’t. It will still be there in the morning.
- Block off time on your calendar to get work done. Since I am in so many meetings it is hard to find time to do real work. So, I block off time on my calendar and I don’t release that time to someone for a meeting unless it is a clear priority.
- Learn to say no. I’m not suggesting you become hard to work with because you press back on everything. However, there is nothing wrong with saying you are too busy to work on something. This is especially true when that thing is really someone else’s responsibility.
- Find work that energizes you. Things, and people, either add energy to you or take it away. Spend the time to figure out the type of work that you draw energy from and put yourself in a position to do that type of work. I know this is scary. But it is also the one suggestion I’m making that will make the biggest difference in your life. I’ve evolved my professional career many times in my life. Every single time it has worked out for the best.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. Spend any time on social media and you will see posts that are selling you the dream. The bigger house, the fancier car, the business that is “passive.” That’s their dream. Not yours. Stay focused on what you want, not what people or society tell you that you should want.
- Find ways to recharge. I’ve played video games my entire life. Most days, playing a game reinvigorates me. That’s why I unabashedly make sure I find time most days to play for a little while. Find something that you are crazy passionate about and spend as much time as possible doing that thing.
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