I shouldn’t really be writing this post; I just don’t have time. I’m busy writing other posts, answering emails, working on next week’s story ideas, etc. The thing is, we’re ALL so busy and we love to remind each other of it, or so alleges a New York Times post from over the weekend that’s been making the rounds. Writes author Tim Kreider:
If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint…
…Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work.
I know I’m personally guilty of both complain-boasting of my business and, in an unfortunate show of hypocrisy, being annoyed when others do the same.
And Kreider isn’t the only one talking about this. Anne Marie Slaughter’s provocative Atlantic cover story Why Women Still Can’t Have It All quickly turned into a full on debate about “the myth of work life balance.” Mother Jones’ 12 charts on how much Americans are working (and how little they’re getting out of it) started re-circulating on Twitter, and today even Brad Feld weighed in on his blog with a terrific post on the subject.
Feld has spent the past month in “maker” mode (if you don’t know what that means this is worth a read) and feels he’s struck the right balance between productivity and work stress:
Sure – I’ve been “busy”, but I don’t feel busy. I wake up each morning without an alarm clock and have found that I’ve been sleeping 9 to 10 hours a night. I’ve spent more time with Amy than I have in a while and as a special bonus get to sleep with her every night. We go out to dinner a few times a week. We’ve watched a bunch of movies (all of the Avenger series, Kill Bill 1 and 2, and a few others.) I’ve read a couple of books. We’ve had a great time with a few friends who have come up and spent a night or two with us. And I’m in front of my computer a lot.
Feld is lucky in that his interests and his profession align in a way that makes this kind of productivity possible. I’m lucky as well, as I love reading, writing, debating, and get paid to do just that.
But I’d allege that for most Americans, working less isn’t really a plausible option. I have no idea how Tim Kreider gets away with being a writer working five hours a day, but that doesn’t seem very plausible in an age of both globalization and rampant unemployment. Feld, for his part, is an extremely well known and successful investor.
I understand the argument that working long hours doesn’t necessarily add to one’s productivity – my guess is the truth of that claim varies person to person and industry to industry – but so long as employers don’t feel that way, the point is moot.
Some people like Kreider
and Feld who have established themselves will be able to live comfortably without subjecting themselves to long hours. And as Feld points out, many of them well established high achievers will be able to find habits and schedules that maximize productivity while minimizing stress.
But for most people – and, especially, most young people – that’s not an option. Jobs are in short supply (especially dream jobs) and competition is fierce. To riff off my colleague Lauren Landry’s recent post, my guess is most young professionals reading Kreider’s post would respond Quit telling me to work less; I don’t really have a choice.
What do you think? Do you think you work too much? Is work-life balance an option for today’s professionals? How much does your productivity diminish as hours worked per week increases?
Images via Mother Jones
Update: See the scratch through above.