“…America as a nation produces twice the goods and services per person that it produced in 1948. Everyone in the country could, in principal at least, work a four-hour day or a six-month year and still maintain a standard of living equivalent to that enjoyed [back then]… [however,] America took none of its productivity gains in additional leisure. It bought consumer items instead.”
Bill Bryson, Made in America.
The above quote comes from a book first published in 1994. By now I would imagine the productivity rate would be even higher. Yet somehow we find ourselves working even harder and longer with that desire for more, more, and more.
Over the past few days I have been pondering my own productivity. Like many people over the last few weeks I have been on leave. A time when people should take a break from their daily grind to relax. Instead I have found myself doing all those things that I have let pile up over the past few months and the more things I have done the more things I remember I have to do and the more burnt out I feel.
Some of these things are personal, like cleaning up around the house, reading, and shopping. However, many other things on my list of things to do are items I would still consider work such as editing websites for friends or even attending social functions.
Now some of this non-primary work is good, it allows us to develop other skills through hobbies and the like. But it also means that we are never getting rest. We are always go, go, go.
A lot of course has been written about work/life balance and my desire isn’t to rehash all that.
Instead I just wonder if in a world of instant everything if we can ever truly get a break?
I would love to spend a few days with no cellphone, no social media, absolutely nothing instant. Not for the torture of it, but instead for the benefit of my mind and body to release.
The problem is in the past I have turned off my cellphone for only a few hours and people have started to panic because I haven’t replied to text-messages.
Yesterday I found myself with a desire to avoid the internet most of the day, until ironically, I found myself tweeting that I wanted a cave to hide in. Even in my desire to escape the system I found myself expressing myself through it – in a way a lot like this blog when published will.
I wonder what people would think if we started to say no a lot more. Not out of spite, but out of control. No I am not going to do that extra work, no it is fine as it is, no I need time to myself. But instead perfectionism has become a curse to our modern existence. Instead of accepting things for how they are I am constantly thinking what others will think and if only I had more time!
How much improved would life be if one really did only work a four hour, or even a true eight hour day? Not eight hours plus working on that portfolio, researching new techniques, and freelancing at night. But eight hours of work and eight of leisure, true leisure, relaxing leisure, real escapism.
Maybe one day I will get a chance to experience this utopia but right now as I am “escaping” through the writing of this post I am also glancing at twitter, checking cellphones, and thinking about where I need to be in the next hour, what I need to do tonight, my plans for the next week, and how I can make this post more perfect.
Maybe the first step to escaping is to create an off button for the mind.
It’s just a thought.