Boundless #48: Global working hours, perfectionism & why I write
Freedom Hour: One hour every week to remind you that you are free
April 20th, 2019: Greeting from Taipei!
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“Freedom Hour”: This is an exercise I’ve done with a few clients. Set a weekly calendar entry 📅 at work titled “freedom hour” (make it private) and use this hour to work on things you are excited about, to read a book, to work on a secret project, to start learning a new skills, to move towards your next move, to take a walk, or just to sleep on the floor of your office. No social media, internet outrage or anything you normally do to pass the time. Do something to remind yourself you aren’t actually trapped in your job. Let me know your results?
Are you a freelancer? Take the Leapers survey on mental health and well-being
🕚 #1 Working Hours: How Much Do/Did People Work?
From The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure (link)
13th century: 1620 hours - 135 days per year, 12 hours per day
14th century: 1440 hours - 120 days per year, 12-hours per day
Middle ages: 2309 hours - English Worker: 243 days, 9.5 hours a day
1400-1600: 1980 hours - 180 days per year, 11 hours per day
1840: 3105-3588 hours - - 315-365 days per year, 10-12 hours a day
1987: 1949 hours per year - Average US worker
1988: 1856 hours per year - UK Manufacturing worker
From OECD estimates of an annual working year (2017):
Mexico: 2257 hours/year
Korea: 2024 hours/year
US: 1780 hours/year
UK: 1514 hours/year
Germany: 1356 hours/year
From Quartz, looking at American work hours by education level:
Other hours estimates:
An “ambitious” lawyer: 2,300-2,400 billable hours a year
The US “hustle” (60 hours a week, 4 weeks vacation): 2,880 hours a year
Part-time US workers (5.37 hours/week, 50 weeks a year): 1,342 hours a year
China’s 9-9-6 (9am-9pm, 6 days a week with 2 weeks vacation): 3,600 hours a year
Impact On Inequality?
Economists often credit decreases in working hours as a factor that has widened inequality. However, they often remain stumped at why people may work less, especially in services work. Assumptions in many economic models assume that “homo economicus” wants to buy more stuff or have more leisure, but tend to downplay or ignore the leisure part. This Quartz article is typical of this line of thinking:
Economists generally assume well-being isn’t about income; it comes from consumption and leisure. A workforce that works less could be better off in that sense. However, a decline in working hours could reflect an economy that isn’t offering enough opportunities to work hard and get ahead.
Similarly, economists find that among salaried workers
“industries with more pay inequality tend to be the ones with wider ranges of hour worked.”
Meaning that at least some inequality can be credited to people wanting to work more or less, not just a blatant unfairness in the system. My point here is not to question inequality but to push people beyond getting trapped into the default metrics of the current inequality debate: full-time employment salaries. This view presupposes a certain kind of professional life that many people don’t want and don’t need given all the options and ways of living life.
✍ #2 Who I Write For
Some of these thoughts emerged while hiking in Taipei this week in the beautiful Yanmingshan mountains:
I don’t write for the person that has made life work on the traditional path.
Some of the people I hold in the highest regard have followed the default path. I wish that path could work for me, but that’s not where I’m headed.
I write instead for the weirdos who have always felt uncomfortable about doing what everyone else is doing and are excited by the possibilities that have emerged in today’s world.
I write to understand why the default path does seem to work so well for some and so poorly for others.
I write for the people that don’t think there is one “right way” to live.
I don’t write for the people that want others to think like them
I write for the people that are comfortable with a bit of messiness. The ones that can hold two opposing ideas in their head without getting angry. The people that look at someone that thinks something different and says “I wonder where they are coming from?” instead of dismissing that person.
I don’t write for mass appeal or approval
I write for myself because I find joy in the process - the challenge of trying to make sense of what I think and also share that with people in an accessible way.
I write because it has enabled me to make real-life friends who are excited about some of the things I’m excited about all across the world.
I don’t write for the people that think work is the center of life
If work is the center of your life and its working for you, I definitely don’t want to change your mind. Instead,
I write for the people that may think that different ways of arranging life are the key to evolving to a new future of work
I write for people that think work can become something that is a little more responsible towards our environment, integrated with a sense of community, and filled with a little more joy and freedom.
I write for the people that think just because something “is” does not mean it ought to be that way
Most of all I write because its an amazing way to find fellow people across the world that are headed in a similar direction with similar questions.
Research Findings Break: Perfectionism On The Rise:
“more recent generations of college students are reporting higher levels of socially prescribed perfectionism than previous generations. This finding suggests that young people are perceiving that their social context is increasingly demanding, that others judge them more harshly, and that they are increasingly inclined to display perfection as a means of securing approval.”
Aka people care more and more about what “society” thinks of them.
🎙 #3 Bring More Joy To Your Morning
Craig is also the creator of the Morning effect, something he ended up being passionate about after going from someone that hated mornings to a morning advocate over the past 7 years. He defines the morning effect as:
"the principle that what you choose to do in the morning can have an amazing impact on other parts of your life. It leads you to get up and be productive, do more of the things you wish you were doing, and embark on your days already feeling accomplished. All of that is a HUGE win, but honestly, it’s just the tip of the iceberg…"
#4 Reads, Listens & Misc.
💡 The power of ideas in The Protestant Ethic & The Spirit of Capitalism:
Labour must, on the contrary, be performed as if it were an absolute end in itself, a calling. But such an attitude is by no means a product of nature. It cannot be evoked by low wages or high ones alone, but can only be the product of a long and arduous process of education. To-day, capitalism, once in the saddle, can recruit its labouring force in all industrial countries with comparative ease. In the past this was in every case an extremely difficult problem.
Andrew Taggart talks about Total Work on the Intellectual Explorers Club
Deeper dive on the David Autor labor trends last week.
From Pema Chodron’s The Places That Scare You:
Whenever someone asked a certain Zen master how he was, he would always answer, “I’m okay.” Finally one of his students said, “Roshi, how can you always be okay? Don’t you ever have a bad day?” The Zen master answered, “Sure I do. On bad days, I’m okay. On good days, I’m also okay.”
One the linear path to success:
The presentation of a linear path to success as the model to which each individual must strive if they are to be recognized as valuable, has led to a reorganization of the life choices of the individual. To be inefficient at any point in this process, to divert from the prescribed linearity, is understood by the subject as an act of self-sabotage – it is not conducive to the notions of the ‘good’ which have been constructed before us.
I want to make this newsletter an ongoing experiment and co-creation with the many members that read and follow along. What questions do you want me to write about? Anything you are working on that I can share? What quotes are inspiring you?
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