What ever happened to the idea of a 15-hour week? (A tale of priorities and the value of time)


What ever happened to the idea of a 15-hour week?

(A tale of priorities and the value of time)

“The love of money as a possession — as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life — will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity.” John Maynard Keynes..

The one thing most people have in common is that we would all like more time, leisure time that is. Whether it is the all too familiar experience of spending your Sundays wishing you could just have one additional day off (don’t you just love Bank holidays for this reason) or the data that shows absenteeism almost doubles on Mondays & Fridays, it’s obvious that most people want more time to do the things that they want instead of spending it (time) doing what their employers want.

Lack of time has many casualties, be it the pain of getting home late having missed seeing your child that day, your children’s important milestones and events missed by commitments in the office, the perpetual rush from one task to the next without time to pause, reflect and enjoy the natural world which surrounds us, or the lack of time to invest in doing something for which you are truly passionate about. In Bronnie Ware’s ‘The top five regrets of the dying’, the biggest regrets of those on their deathbed were not that they wished they had earned more money, lived in a bigger house, accrued more personal wealth or bought more stuff, it was the two things that our ‘work all hours’, wage slave lives. consumer culture take away from us the most; they regretted never having the freedom (financial) to live a life true to oneself and the lack of time with which they were able to spend with their children in their youth/partner.

The truth though is that it is this way because we have chosen it to be like that, it’s probably always been like that, the only trouble is that maybe we’ve never stopped to actually consciously consider whether that way of living life is the best way or not? Or do we do it purely because it is the only option that we have been raised with? Our herd mentality to follow the flock and to go with the majority.

“Live like no one else does now so that you can live like no one else does when you retire.”, Anonymous

In 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes famously told the world, in his essay entitled ‘The Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren’, that in just 100 years it might be plausible that no man (or woman) would have to work for no more than 15 hours a week. He predicted a scenario of ‘our grandchildren’ working a five day, three hour shift pattern, a total of 15 hours, from which enough of a salary could have been earned to satisfy the ‘economic problems’ of life, the struggle to survive, leaving us all with the remainder of our days to do what we deemed best.

Now I know what you’re thinking, a 15 hour working week is a joke, a pure fantasy only to be found in Utopia, I myself am writing this article having worked a 50+ hours week, but if we all thought, acted and consumed differently then it’s a dream that we could become within touching distance of. How? Most people go to work to earn money with which they exchange for various things…your mortgage payment, utility bills, food etc, but a huge part of that goes on unnecessary expenses, expenses that certainly weren’t around at the time of Keynes writing about the economic possibilities for our grandchildren.

You may even be thinking ‘but’ 50% of my salary wouldn’t even cover the bills, and you could even be right, but how many of your bills have, like many a luxury, entered your house as a guest and settled down to become the host? Could you live without two cars (or even without cars altogether)? an expensive mobile phone contract? satelite TV? holidays abroad? eating out in restaurants? the latest must have gadgets? regular wardrobe/home updates? expensive entertainment choices? lavish gifts at easter, valentines, birthdays and christmas (there are other ways of show how much someone means to you).

‘I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.’ Tyler Durden, Fight Club

Of course, you might even ask yourself what would I do with all this free time? Every man and woman needs to live with a purpose but what they don’t need is for work to be their sole purpose. Life should be more about the never-ending cycle of working, resting from work and indulging in retail therapy (to make you feel better about having worked!).  Every person has it in them to be more than just a full-time consumer and to adopt an approach of spending their leisure time with purpose, producing rather than consuming. Learn to play an instrument, become part of a community group, volunteer your time to help others, try to make something, spend more quality time with your family, begin a new hobby (photography, art, hiking, sailing), go for a walk in the woods/on the beach, learn a new language, read more books or even try writing one! The list is endless, you may even begin to do something that you both enjoy and produces an income, an opportunity to be your own boss and to be in control of your own life.

Could it really be possible? Whilst the dream of a 15 hour week may not be in the reach of most, a 4-day a week most certainly could be. On the days of the week in which my son is looked after by others, after taking in the consideration of childcare costs, the associated transport costs for getting to/from work, additional pension contributions, taxes, national insurance payments, I calculated my daily take home pay to be less than £30 (around $45), meaning I could essentially work 1 day less a week, for just £120 less a month. I’m sure there are plenty of people reading this whose situation is very similar.

Debtfreeminimimalist say: If we continue to follow the same-old path of filling our lives with excessive amount of material possessions (and its companion, consumer debt) we will forever continue on this treadmill of overworking and lack of time. But what not try the alternative? Live a simpler life, a life with more time to enjoy on your own terms (rather than the one dictated by your employer). It’s time to take a moment to examine your true priorities in life, to decide what you truly value in your life. You may even find that you’re a satelite tv subscription (or car payment, gym membership, iPhone contract, luxurious holiday, new kitchen etc..) away from the possibility of working a little less and enjoying life a whole lot more!

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