I have long been a fan of How to be Idle, Tom Hodgkinson’s essential guide to how to invest your time better. In line with recent psychological ideas, and with common wisdom, he suggests that there are better ways to spend one’s life than queuing in the supermarket for goods you don’t want, and spending the rest of your life working your socks off to pay for this nonsense.
But what struck me, from the point of view of doing business more consciously, is what might stop us making this move. I can listen to all the rational arguments, and come to the conclusion that working hours are not fixed, and probably are declining in any case in some parts of the world. And that a 21 hour norm is probably a good idea.
But at a more personal level, what would stop me actually making the change? The authors of the paper said, I think, that many people wondered how they would pay the mortgage, or the bills, or whatever? I think even that is fairly easily answered for many: add more value in less time. Ricardo Semler’s “Seven-Day Weekend” describes one way to do this – and what happens if you make a success of it.
But maybe this response also masks a deeper, more complex issue? Just why do so many highly intelligent, articulate and capable people spend so much time “working” – in whatever form – making money, doing charity work, running errands, or even doing crosswords or the gardening?
Is it possible that most of us find it incredibly hard to sit and be still? To do nothing?
And is that perhaps because doing nothing inevitably leads us to experience whatever there is to experience – externally and internally?
And that trained as we are – to keep busy, to detach from our feelings, to focus on achieving the perfect end-state – we can safely avoid just this experience. Of powerful emotion. Of being in process. Of really being alive?
That’s what it seems like to me sometimes. I’d welcome your comments.