Slow down and get your life back!

Why more people are down shifting.

Folks are doing so much these days that we are at breaking point most of the time. We rush from home to work and appointments, then have no energy for house work, cooking, hobbies, family and friends at the end of the day. What are we doing and why are we doing it? This is madness!

Why work? For money? So you can buy nice stuff for your family who you never see? I’m sure they’d prefer to see you. I’m sure you’d prefer to see them. Get real. How much do you really need to earn? Work it out. Then get a life!

Or, if you have no family, why else do you earn money? To spend your free time well? Working hard to earn money purely to give you quality leisure time is a bit of a farce. How expensive are your hobbies anyway? Can you make them cheaper? Do you have other hobbies which don’t require much money? Reading, cycling, running and walking are just a few examples of things people often wish they had more time for and don’t cost anything to do. What else do you want to do? Think!

So, what if your favourite pastime is related to your work? You could be on to something here. For example, the people who take tandem parachuters on jumps are really living their dream. To get that job they had to do LOTS of jumps tandem, then complete a course and do LOTS more jumps solo. Basically, they loved it so much they turned it into a job. Now they get paid to do exactly what they do for fun. It doesn’t get much better than that, does it?

Then there’s the age old story of the fisherman. A businessman tries to get the fisherman to see the merits of working harder and catching more fish so that he can sell to others and make a lot of money. Then, when the fisherman has his made his fortune he can relax and do whatever he wants to do with is time. Which is fishing. I’m glad the fisherman sees the pointlessness of all the hard work. Most people don’t. Even when your profession and leisure are in no way related, the premise is still the same. Why work hard so you have more free time? Why not just work less? Or get a job that feels like leisure? Obviously, we need to draw a line somewhere. We need some money to survive. But don’t kill yourself by working. There’s no point. Live a little.

I often found when working full time that I had little free time for myself. I constantly felt I had to “reward” myself for putting in long hours. So, I spent lots of money in the short amount of time I wasn’t at work. I actually would have preferred to have less hours and less money. There wasn’t an option of dropping my hours. So I quit. That company then had to retrain someone to do my job, just because the company ethos was to have fewer full time employees over many part time employees. They have a lot to learn about changing mentalities and the needs of people today.

Today, we have many people who want to downshift or go part time for various reasons. Some want to have more free time. Some want to study while they work. Some want to start businessSome want to have portfolio careers (with more than one career at a time). Yes, even people building portfolio careers can work less than full time hours. But mostly, people downshift so they can start families.

With two parents working part time hours you have created an ideal situation for bringing a child into the world. Both parents can stick to their chosen career path without either feeling like they have lost all their work skills due to years of parenting. Both parents continue to have adult contact and the mental stimulation of their career. Both parents get one-on-one time with the child. There should also be plenty of overlap where the whole family can be together.

Without even considering parenting, the average couple has a big problem with both people working full time hours. In fact, the same problem is noted by single people working full time hours. What is the problem? Well, think about it. Who gets the shopping done? Who does the cleaning? Who goes to the post office? Who goes to the bank? Who runs the errands?

If you work full time it can take weeks to get that tiny errand done because the places you need to visit are only open the same hours you work. Some places have call centres, but not all of them are open very late. And not everything can be done over the phone. Also, you can’t palm everything off to a well meaning partner, family member or friend. A lot of places (especially banks) require you to conduct your own business. There are privacy laws in place which mean no-one can do these things for you. And in the meantime that unfinished errand will bug you and stress you out further. This is the sort of thing that leads you to a mid-life crisis.

We have created a world which doesn’t actually work. If we’re all working full time no-one can get anything done. Everyone rushes to the post office at lunch time and wonders why the queues are so big. Worse still, the post office staff have lunch breaks too. So there’s less staff on at peak time. Companies that have responded to this demand on hours are responding only in one dimension. They increase the amount of hours they are open. Which means people are working longer hours! Even less time for living. Why not respond by letting more people work part time hours? It would also increase the amount of jobs available. Wouldn’t that be great?

So, we can all see plenty of reasons to change to part time work or start businesses. Downshifting is great! More time to go get a life! So, if this is what so many people really want they why is it so hard to get? Have a think about who runs most of the companies we all work for. Most of them are older men, probably from an era where it was expected that they would have a wife who ran the household while he was the breadwinner.

Simply put, the managers of this world just don’t realise that work-life balance and flexibility are an issue. They’ve never had those needs. So the company has continued with the same structures it has always had. Only these days people don’t fit the mould so well. Governments are also run by men of this generation. They continue to push unemployment policy that aims for full time jobs for all. This may be what generations before us wanted but it doesn’t suit most of us now.

We need to stand up for ourselves and ask for what we need. If you want more time then ASK for more time. If you can’t get more time then go to a company that will let you have it or start your own business. Make sure your exit interview details exactly why you left. Help to induce social change by talking to your local MP about promoting shorter and more flexible hours. Eventually, these companies and governments will catch on and life will also become easier for those too meek to ask for what they want. But if you want things to change before you’re too old to enjoy it then do something for yourself now. Life’s too short to waste.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
– Ferris Bueller

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