Time is the most precious thing we have. We only get to use it once, and what we throw away is never available to us again. It’s so easy to go through life thinking about what we are going to do when we have the time, while failing to notice all the time we’re not using in the ways we really want to.
Some of this is about what it takes to survive and pay the bills, and our duty of care to others. We also get sucked into feeling that we need things, and the appearance of status and this keeps us working rather than living, and consuming rather than enjoying.
Last year my work patterns were awful. Some of the work I was doing tended to turn up at no notice with tight deadlines, which meant on any given day I had no idea what might be coming, or when. It’s really hard to have a work-life balance in that sort of situation. It’s hard to plan anything when you can’t figure out ahead of time when you will be working or what you might be earning. As this kind of work becomes ever more normal and the government wants to re-brand zero hours contracts as ‘flexible’ we need to be alert to what this means in practice. If you get to decide when you work or how much you work, that’s flexible. If you can’t plan your child care, social life, home life as much as a week in advance, that’s a problem.
People died for the 8 hour working day, and when working days are longer (as they were a hundred years ago and more) people get sick more, die younger and have a far lower quality of life. This time is all we get, and it should not be considered ok to rob someone of all scope for good time in their lives. We all need rest, we all need time off, and we all need some idea of what we will be doing when, in order to have sane and balanced lives.
My work life has changed significantly in recent months. It’s getting to the point where I can look at the shape of my work over weeks if not a whole month and work out how I want to spend my time. This has meant I can reliably have a day off every week. Before, I was working at least a part of most days, because I couldn’t afford to do otherwise, and I had to say yes to everything. A day off in a week confers rest, peace and also a degree of dignity. It is easier to say no to things when I want to. I’m pushing it further, having got ahead with what needed doing and having the luxury of some days off all in a group – something closer to a holiday. I haven’t had an actual holiday in about five years, and two days off together is a revolutionary thought, but I’m trying for a week of not working much most days, having me-time, down time, adventures, lie ins… I’ll check emails intermittently.
It makes so much difference, feeling that I can do this, having the means, and the support. I can say that working flat out, and working sporadically with no control over the time, are not good things, and we need to hold these lines because they matter, and not be sold the lie that a loss of control over your life is somehow a good thing.