You wanna do the minimum amount of work to afford the maximum amount of time doing the thing that you love.
That’s the way I wanna live. – Will Smith
This week I read a blog post – Read Here – that featured a video of Will Smith visiting Australia and in it he says the above quote. While some may argue it’s easy for him to say that given his “minimum amount of work” equates to a lot more money than most of us will ever see in a lifetime, it doesn’t take away from the fact that most of us would rather be spending our time doing something other than working.
I remember when I graduated college in 2009 being so anxious to obtain a full time job. Of course I had the unicorns and rainbows fantasy that I would land my dream job or something close to it, and that I would love getting up every morning excited to go to work. While that never came to be I was still relieved in 2011 to at least gain full time employment. Back then Obamacare didn’t exist so I wasn’t able to stay on my dad’s health insurance plan and sufficed with one of the “basically saves you from a life of debt in case something major happens” individual health care plans. I was finally part of the “real” working world.
Since then I have come to realize that even working jobs that I’ve enjoyed for the most part, being on the research team at Bank of America and now my current position as a workforce specialist at a health care organization, I loathe the 40 hour work week. Many would argue I have no room to complain. I work from home thus eliminating the daily commute (though I’ve recently been asked to be in the office most of the day every other Wednesday), I am allowed to work through my lunch so I work a straight 8 hours vs the stereotypical 8.5, and I have some flexibility in my hours which is what allows me to coach track each spring. I know I am very fortunate and those reasons are why I likely won’t look to change jobs anytime soon unless it’s a position I deem very worthwhile.
That being said, my disdain for the 40 hour work week is twofold.
One – most weeks I don’t require the full 40 hours to complete my work. I could likely fit it into 30-35 hours a week. There are some days when I’m struggling to find more to do to keep myself occupied. I’ve often stretched out work just to fill an extra hour of the day. Sure, I’m guilty as anyone for browsing the web during my downtime but even that gets dull after a period of time. I have talked to people in other lines of work who have the same issue.
Two – I firmly believe the 40 hour work week is purposely designed to keep people from having more time to enjoy life, but even more so to keep them occupied and usually stressed to the point where they no longer have the time or energy to deeply think on topics. The average person puts in his/her 40 hours and lives for the weekends when he or she can indulge in consumerism and/or vegging out. The former feeds the corporations and greedy CEOs’ wallets where as the later stifles creativity and intellectual growth.
If my second reason sounds a little conspiracy driven, it is. Jason and I recently watched an episode of Adam Ruins Everything related to the 40 hour work week. Not only do most people not need 40 hours to complete their work tasks, but in the 1930s when work weeks started decreasing it was predicted that by 2030 the work week would only be 15 hours. While I don’t foresee a future in which we could get away with only working 15 hours a week, the advances in technology and automation of services should certainly have resulted in many of us needing to work less than 40 hours a week by now.
The underlying problem of course is money. Well, money and health insurance. Many people need to work 40+ hours to afford their bills. I know at my company we’re required to work at least 35 hours a week to be considered full time. If we work fewer than 35 hours a week then we’re considered part time, and the portion we pay for our health insurance sky rockets. That means even if I am in a financial position that affords me the ability to work less than 35 hours I’m basically stuck working at least that so that my paycheck doesn’t completely go to paying for health insurance.
Dropping to 35 hours a week is an ultimate goal of mine, and Jason hopes to eventually work fewer hours as well. We bought our house in the summer of 2015 and have put a significant dent in the amount owed on the mortgage. We’ve scaled back a lot which can sometimes be hard when you aren’t people who regularly spend money anyway, and anything extra goes towards paying off the house.
Both of us like the work we do well enough, but we like our free time a lot more. Just this morning I had a really awesome blog idea come to my mind, but because I was working I couldn’t just stop and start writing. It irritated me. I did write the idea down, but until I finished work, worked out, cleaned out the fridge and went for groceries I no longer had the inspiration/creative juices going to write about that particular topic.
If I can someday get back from work even 5 more hours a week I will consider it an accomplishment. Less work means more time to write, read, work out, advocate for the environment and explore new hobbies. That to me is what makes life worthwhile.