KIRK: Sulu. When did he find the time to have a family?
SCOTT: Well, like you always say, if something’s important, you’ll make the time.
- Star Trek Generations
This is not the first time you have heard that, I am sure (well, maybe the Star Trek reference is), but the point is the same: with most things in life, you will never find the time, mainly because you can’t find time. It’s right there, as abstract as it is, all round you, flowing. Let’s be honest; you have never “found the time” to do anything in your life. You made the time. We all have the same number of hours and minutes in the day. Even daylight savings doesn’t create any real time travel for us.
Some of us are super busy; some more than others. Some of us work insane hours, some of us have kids, some of us are retired, but our hobbies and volunteering might have us busier now than we were when we were working. Some of us might be students, and some might be between jobs. But I think you will find examples in every stratum of those, despite the demands on their time, who still make the time for themselves to eat well and train.
I don’t want this to be a lecture, but I have been thinking a lot about this lately, and as tends to happen when I do, someone, somewhere posts something I can read and incorporate.
This popped up on my MSN homepage: “6 American Work Habits Other Countries Avoid at all Cost.”
I am not a religious lad, but I’ve read the good books and I don’t think you need to be a biblical scholar to know that the first handful of commandments are about idolatry. They also go beyond just stomping out pagan superstitions, but apply to any false dragon you might be chasing; in this case, work, money, financial success, etc. – which are important. We need these things to live and, to a certain extent, to have a level of purpose and happiness. But as I tease on my brewery tours when I get to the conversation about hops and the American craft beer revolution, just because X is good, it does not necessarily follow that more of X is better. Working is good for us, but too much is killing us. There is a lot to be said for the Calvinists and the “Protestant work ethic,” but we may be taking it too far in one particular direction and missing the entirety of its point.
Here is the list of habits the rest of the world is doing its best to avoid.
AMERICANS WORK CRAZY LONG HOURS
THEY HARDLY EVER GO ON VACATION
AND THEY BARELY TAKE ANY FAMILY LEAVE, EITHER
AMERICANS TEND TO EAT AT THEIR DESKS
AMERICANS SELDOM TAKE BREAKS DURING THE DAY
AND THEY SEND EMAILS AFTER WORK HOURS
Naturally, we are not all guilty of this, but too many are, and it shows in the country that may have the most material and financial wealth, but also leads the way in depression, obesity (except for Australians), diabetes, heart disease, and the list goes on.
We’re not happy! We’re not healthy! So, are we really that wealthy?
It is my not-so-humble opinion that in as much as it is important to do a good job and take pride in ones’ work, as my grandfather and father would say, “If you are going to do it, do it right the first time, or don’t do it all” (yes, I have misapplied that at times to “youthful exuberances”😊). But have we maybe taken this too far in worshipping the Type A personality? The workaholic? The Dragon’s Den or Shark Tank entrepreneur who is smashing out 120 hours a week to get their startup – their baby – off the ground?
Here in the States, and the rest of the world, pilots and truck drivers are legally limited in how many hours they fly or drive. This is because when they exceed this number, statistically speaking, the odds of screwing up and/or falling asleep (and therefore screwing up) go way up. But the very same doctors who lead the way in imposing this don’t practice what they preach. American doctors work the most number of hours (80-100+ hours) a week compared to their counterparts/colleagues in other countries. Would you be surprised to learn that they have the highest rates of malpractice lawsuits, and therefore have the highest rates of malpractice insurance out of anybody? It can’t be they continually hit the wall against their “God complexes,” could it? I won’t accuse every doctor of having a God complex. But to think you are retaining, never mind learning, anything after a 100+ hours a week in med school and think you are able to perform that quadruple bypass after the same number of hours in the week is a little naïve, don’t you think?
So, if we know pilots and truck drivers’ performance topples after so many hours, is it not fair to ask yourself the same question of your own performance? When does working so many hours create diminished returns? As in, you’re now just wasting your time.
I want you to be productive and successful, but I also want you to be healthy and happy. So, instead of New Year’s Resolutions, maybe reflection; how can you make the time to pursue, and achieve, what is really important to you?