A Lack of Frenzy; Tracking Time

I sleep, I play, and I work. These are the three things that consume most of my day, in that order. Sleeping, though I shudder to say it, actually consumes the largest dedicated chunk of my week, especially on the weekends. If there was any one activity that I wish I could find a way to do less of, it is that little time waster. Leisure consumes the next largest chunk of my day. According to Take Back Your Time, the goal is to spend more time doing leisure activities, but I am not sure if ¼ of each day relaxing is considered ‘more’ or not enough. My leisure time is split between dedicated time with my wife, and relaxing with a solitary hobby. Finally, I work. Working is a necessary part of life, and everyone who has ever achieved anything in their lives has done copious amounts of it.

There were no particular surprises in how I spend my time, weekly. Being personally chronophobiac means I have a pretty good handle of exactly how I spend every moment of my day. I have a work schedule, I have a sleep schedule, my wife has corresponding schedules, and we plan our time around each other as much as possible. I will admit, I spend far more time in the car and cleaning the house, and far less time on my homework, then I originally estimated; but, being less than 10% of my day each, they are hardly a major concern.

If you look at it from a, “what is the highest, what is the lowest,” perspective, I believe my time expenditure was fairly close to my original forecast, especially in regard to my big three. One thing to keep in mind, I got sick the week I tracked my time. My wife got sick the following weekend. Still, the only real effect was the nine hours I did not spend at work; I spent asleep trying to recover. I considered tracking a different week, due to my illness, but decided against it. As much as we like to schedule our time, and take advantage of ‘free time’ or ‘natural rhythms,’ things come up. You get sick, relatives drop by, your best friend got caught cheating and now needs you to console them, a five car pileup delays traffic for a couple hours.

I am a procrastinator, have been since high school; but, I am an effective procrastinator. I take my desire to read a book or play a game into account when deciding my day. I want to get the housework done, and I will, as soon as I am done with this chapter. And maybe the next one. I still get everything accomplished, on time, without undue stress or hassle. I leave my work at work; I dedicate what little time I have with my wife exclusively to her, and do not fret if chores run a little to the unfinished side.

I am a night person. I am naturally more productive in the evening, more comfortable when it is dark outside, hate having to go to bed early for work. Unfortunately, work is the anchor of my daily schedule. I end my day at 10p.m. to begin my day at 4a.m., and it absolutely goes against my natural rhythm. I would like a job that was afternoon or evening, full time, and $14 an hour, and if you find one, please drop me a line. For that matter, I would easily settle for part-time, $10 an hour, no insurance or vacation. I have been looking for six months, and a day job is all anyone is willing to offer me.

I have been in the military, I have worked for the United Parcel Service, I now work for Citizens Bank, and I have never had occasion to complain about a lack of vacation or sick time (PTO). From what I have seen, it is not a matter of companies not providing them; it is a matter of people not taking advantage of them. People come into work sick, saving their PTO for when they are “well enough to enjoy it.” People do not schedule vacation time so they can cash in the time at the end of the year. If someone does not take vacation to ‘decompress,’ it is their fault for not taking it; not a corporate conspiracy to undermine an employee’s social life. When I am sick, I call in. On the weekend, I spend time with my wife. The idea of a 24/7 lifestyle is, at best, an exaggeration.

People blame the internet for sapping our free time, World of Warcraft for crippling our social lives, and commercials for society’s rampant consumerism. How about blaming the individual for not having the self awareness to turn off the machine? Consumerism is a product of greed mixed with sloth, not the orange tiger selling cereal. The only difference between the malls of today and the market squares of yesteryear is air-conditioning. If you just cannot resist the many tempting purchasing offers on the online, your problem is much bigger than the internet. People who are constantly plugged in are doing it to avoid a mass of personal issues that literally have nothing to do with the internet itself. Attempting to blame the internet, TV, or even society, for anything, is just another attempt to avoid personal responsibility for your own actions.
An important question often posed, would I be willing to work fewer hours for less money? Absolutely not! I have bills to pay, a house to buy, a family to plan for, and not even recreation is cheap these days. Long hours and job dedication is not the evil corporation taking advantage of the poor, helpless worker, it is free market capitalism and the need to compete. In any service based industry, the two ways to compete are quality and quantity. The best way is to improve the quality of your employees, and thus, the quality (and the reliability) of your service. Look around, that is never going to happen. The other way is to improve the quantity of the service you can provide (thus lowering cost and ‘issue response’ time). That means longer hours.
The acceleration of time is an individual problem, and must be dealt with on an individual level. A government that is created to manage our lives is socialism. It is a declaration that we, as individuals, are incapable of deciding for ourselves what is best, and an outside force must impose such a decision upon us. The free market is literally a reflection of the values and desires of the populace. American society is the way it is because the population has declared “this is how we want it” with every decision made for generations. I am sure anyone would say they wish they had more free time, but try finding someone actually willing to do something about freeing up said time.
Something I would like to see adopted from Germany or Switzerland is not their labor laws, or their vacation time, but their attitude. From my time in Germany, I know firsthand that the general attitude about American workers is not that we are frenzied workaholics; but rather that we are lazy, incompetent, and inefficient. In countries such as Switzerland, England, or Japan, laborers feel lucky to be able to work at all. Americans see their employment as an imposed drudgery, only a bare step above slavery, and it is all the faceless corporations’ fault.

If you did not have to work, what would you do with your free time? My friends and I have asked each other this many times, with our varied answers. Some would read, some would write, some would travel, some would go back to school, and some would work anyway, though perhaps with a different profession. Amazingly, none have ever said they would simply sit, and wait till their time ran out. What is free time for, if not for doing things? Is having the time and nothing to do with it but sit and stare at the clouds really an achievement? Americans do not work the most in the world, Korea carries that distinction. Americans are the highest paid employees in the world, with toys and debt to match. While certainly government or corporations are more or less responsible, if you are looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.