Sunday, February 21, 2010
Leave Work Early: Making the Decision to Scale Back
What would happen if you decided to arrive at work no earlier than 9:00 in the morning and left at 5:00 every day? Maybe you already have that kind of job, and if so, you're excused from reading this post. I was talking to a friend the other day who told me he'd lose his job if he left at 5:00 every day. His work requires him to handle certain things well after 5:00 -- it's simply not a nine to five job.
Americans work longer hours than any of our Western European cousins.
We also take fewer and shorter vacations than most Europeans. In my research, I learned one explanation for this: the impact of advertising on our mass psyches. Americans work longer hours so they can make more money to purchase all of the goods and services they see in advertising. If this is the case, we are working harder for fabricated desires. If there were fewer ads, would we relax a little? The irony is that we have less time to enjoy the goods and services we are working so hard to afford.
In my coaching work, many of my clients are striving for balance. They are working long, hard hours at jobs they don't really like. They don't have much time with their families, and they certainly don't have time to pursue their passions. Many are quite successful, but they are drained and unfulfilled.
So here's a bold idea. What if you made the decision to start cutting back? What if you shut down your computer at 4:45, tidied up your desk, and walked out of the office at 5:00? What if you started with the decision that you would work less and have a more balanced life, and then let all other decisions revolve around that commitment? For some, like my friend, that might mean some big changes -- a new job, a simpler lifestyle. It would be a huge shift in thinking. But it would also be a huge shift in living. Life would be a bit slower, with more time to pursue fewer activities -- but with focus and intensity.
At first blush, this idea might seem impossible for you.
But I invite you to consider it and mentally explore the possibility. Start with the concept of scaling back, and think about how you could do that and the possible consequences. Think about how you would deal with the consequences and whether the resulting fall-out and change would be more or less painful than the life you lead now. Perhaps you will surprise yourself.