Back whenever it was that I first decided that I needed to reclaim my work / life balance, I heard of the idea of splitting the day in to 8 hours – 8 hours work, 8 hours “me-time” and 8 hours sleep.
Of course, it’s not quite that straight forward because part of the me-time is taken up by commuting to the 8 hours of work but, nonetheless, it was quite a good ratio. Certainly it was far better than the one that was 19 hours work (meaning most of the day had gone), 1 hour “me-time” largely focussed on being clean and 4 hours of stress-induced, really poor sleep.
I was listening to a TED Talk in the car on the way to work this morning by someone who specialises in time management. Laura Vanderkam raised a great and somewhat obvious point – there are 168 hours in a week. For a lot of people the average working week will be around the 35 – 50 hour mark (apparently those who think they work 75 hours plus per week have exaggerated by, on average, 25 hours when they actually accurately record their time) which, when you think about it, gives you a helluva lot of time to do other things that you want to do.
While in the office today, Desmond (the fictional female, or is it?) who sits opposite me proclaimed that (s)he had hit the wall after 10 days of being able to do what (s)he wanted. That was about 3pm. It struck me that during my ten days of being able to do what I wanted, 3pm was either the time for a coffee while out or having a nap while in.
Yet here we were, in the office, obliged to work between 8.30ish and 17.00ish. We’ll work longer hours, but they’re usually added to the end of the day and we never seem to want to work less.
It got me thinking about the TED talk again. Yes, we have a lot of free time if we look for it and use it, but why do we have to use it in neat little blocks? Why can’t I have a nap at 3pm and carry on working later in to the evening? The answer, I guess, is that it’s the convention. We’re put in to a routine where we have the daily grind and get home when shattered and stressed and don’t want to do a lot.
A rather moot question to pose then… What if we best organised our time to suit us? So, if someone sent me a meeting invitation for 11am, I could decline and say, “Actually, I’ve planned for a PlayStation session at 11, how about 20.30?” What if that wasn’t odd or frowned upon? What if work was simply something else that we did with our time around what we actually want to do rather than it being seen as taking up a chunk of our most useful waking hours?
I can’t help but think we’d be happier with our use of time and find more time to do what we want.