Monday, January 11, 2016

Is Free Time Overrated?

Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don't feel like doing them.

The Holidays are over. You’re swamped at work. Bills are piling up and it’s still getting dark by 5pm in most parts of North America. “If only I had a few more hours in the day,” you think to yourself, “I could catch up on everything that didn’t get done last month.”

Nice thought. But, unless you have a magic genie bottle or a highly sophisticated app that lets you manufacture time out of thin air, you’re out of luck and probably “pissing into the wind” as my college track coach used to say.

We’re not workaholics here, but we try to keep our clients out ahead of DOS (dangers, opportunities and threats). Hopefully you got an
early start on your New Year’s resolutions as we recommended last Thanksgiving. Even so, you’re probably feeling a lot like three steps backward for every one step forward. That’s to be expected. Now is the time to dig in not to procrastinate. As Hall of Fame basketball legend, Julius Erving once said,
“Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don't feel like doing them.”

In a recent study and related article in the NY Times, Stanford University sociology professor, Christobal Young argues that that time is a “network good.” In other words, its value depends on the number of others who have the same schedule of time available. “It’s not just that we have a shortage of free time; it’s also that our free time, in order to be satisfying, often must align with that of our friends and loved ones.”

The week after I graduated from college, I headed West for some of the best skiing of my life—late May, deep powder, bright sun in Snowbird and Alta, Utah. I literally had the mountains—and Cottonwood Canyon--to myself.  No lift lines. Dirt cheap prices and great conditions. A skier’s paradise, right? Not exactly. Like I said, I literally had the place to myself, and since this was in the days before smartphones and selfies, I had nobody to share the experience with. Most of my friends spent a cold rainy drunken week at the Jersey shore—eight to a room—in a rundown motel, and probably had more fun.

As Young observed, “We face a problem, of coordination. Work-life balance is not something that you can solve on your own.” Same goes for telecommuting, flex-time, job-sharing, etc. We’re freer than ever to work where we want to work, how we want to work and when we want to work. But we’re also expected to be “on call” 24/7/365. There’s no question that workplace flexibility has many benefits. But Young research “suggests that a disadvantage of these efforts is that they may lead us even further from a weekend-like system of coordinated social time. They threaten, ultimately, to exacerbate the decline in civic engagement and social contact known as the ‘bowling alone’ problem.

Or skiing alone.


Work smarter, not harder. But make sure everyone else in your life is on the right page.

Our blog has more as well as the FREE Resources page of our website.

Tags: work life balance, free time over-rated, Julius Erving, Christobal Young


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