Because I am my own favorite person, allow myself to quote… myself, from yesterday’s post:
There’s a certain subset of people who believe that time spent watching TV, or pissing around on the internet, or whatever, is a huge waste of time. These people believe that any time not spent being productive is time wasted. I’m not sure there’s a group of people I pity more than the relentlessly busy. What a terrible existence, having to prove yourself all the time.
This week, I’m in the process of moving all of my worldly possessions back into my parents’ garage, because apparently I’m heading somewhere delightfully foreign in a little less than a month. I’ve had to clean out the fridge and throw out old crap and pack up all my DVDs even though I spent almost a whole year here and watched one season of The Office, one time. Dammit, those DVDs cost me money. And I only have about 20 of them.
I may not be the smartest guy. Let’s move on.
Last week, I was really stressing out about this move. I had all this crap I had to take care of, and not so much time to do it. Now that I’m two days away and the majority of the heavy lifting has been done, I’m much more zen about the experience. Sure, I’m anticipating a few more headaches, but the process hasn’t been that bad.
What I was doing is what just about every human in the history of the world does — they assume their problems are the world’s most important issues. We tend to overvalue the good things because they happen to us, and we tend to exaggerate the bad things, because we remember the frustration associated with it.
Nowhere is this more evident than when we think about how much time we spend at work. Apparently we all work hard, and then we go home and have to deal with stuff like email and whatnot. People feel more stressed than ever, with pressures like kids and housework and walking the dog, combined with long commute times and bosses that just won’t quit.
Except it’s largely a figment of our imagination.
According to John Robinson, who heads something called the Americans’ Use of Time Project, there’s little evidence that Americans are busier than they’ve been since the project launched, back in 1965. Sorry, chances are you’re not as busy as you think.
From the Macleans article discussing the topic:
Despite a sluggish economy that has left millions of Americans feeling they have to work harder just to keep their jobs, the average employed American worked just 34.2 hours a week last year, while the number of people working “extreme jobs” of more than 60 hours a week makes up just one per cent of the population. Meanwhile, Americans report getting slightly more than eight hours of sleep a night, a number that’s remained roughly constant over the past half-century. If anything, workers are getting slightly more sleep than they did in the past, Robinson says.
WHAAA!?!?!?!?!??!1 That can’t be right. All I hear about is how busy people are. I’ve maintained for years that you’re not as busy as you think, and that people in general just want peers to think they’re swamped. It’s the lamest version of keeping up with the Joneses ever.
In fact, people think they work a full 3 hours per week more than they actually do. This adds up over time. Assuming a normal 8-hour workday, the average worker thinks they work 19 more days than they actually do over a year. That’s almost 3 weeks worth of showing up. We’ve gotten so good at this that we’ve convinced ourselves that we’re swamped when we have plenty of leisure time.
How does this relate to your money? There are a few lessons to take from this.
1. Chances are, you’re not working as hard as you think. Which means, if you’re in the accumulation phase of your wealth building journey, you have time to work an extra shift at work or take on a side hustle. Your older self will thank you.
2. If you’re more secure, focus on working smart rather than working hard. If you can find a decent paying gig that allows you to put in 40 hours a week but with no commute, there’s value in that. Same thing if you’re like me and you work from home. It’s easy to save cash on office clothes if you don’t have to wear pants.
3. Reject the lure of always being busy. As Robinson puts it:
It’s part of this mindset that we always have to keep busy. It’s a status symbol to say that you feel busy. If you’re not busy, you’re not a functioning person in our 24-7 economy. But it’s largely self-imposed.
Once you reject this reality and realize you’re not nearly as busy as you think, suddenly all sorts of doors open. You can choose to squander it (like I increasingly do), or you can use it to build something valuable. But realizing the choice is yours is the most important thing. Your life is your own to live. Stop living it by other people’s rules. You’re not as busy as you think. No matter what everyone else says.