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Friday, October 31, 2014

Balance: Myth and Reality

Posted by Tim Stobbs on October 29, 2014

Ugh, if I read one more article about work-life balance that doesn’t provide any useful ideas or solutions I may have to vomit.  Seriously people, I understand we are all very busy but can’t the media take a bit of time to come up with something useful for the average person.

It’s interesting that we tend to paint ourselves as the hero (or heroine) of our story, we are suffering in our daily struggle, but that is to be accepted.  After all, there really isn’t anything to do to improve our work-life balance.  Technology has invaded our personal life and now work won’t leave us alone even when we are at home.  Then there are the constant cut backs at work that squeeze more and more effort out of our remaining time there so we have no choice but to work longer to keep things up.  Yet there is one big problem with this paragraph: it is utter bullshit.

So without further ado let’s deconstruct the myths in that last paragraph:

  1. Technology has invaded our personal lives – This is so common of a myth that people complain about it on their bloody personal phones as an issue.  So here is the reality, take some control and ownership of the issue.  First disable all those horrible notifications on your apps.  You don’t need a ping noise every time someone likes your last Facebook post so turn it off.  Then turn off all the other ones except perhaps the ones you do actually find useful…like when someone texts you.  Then proceed to develop some healthy habits with your phone…like it is ok to ignore it while driving.  The world won’t end if the other person has to wait 10 minutes until you are home to answer a text.  Then also learn it is ok not to read your work email after hours.  I glace at the title of my emails and unless it is in all caps saying “ANSWER THIS NOW OR YOUR ARE FIRED” I will get to it tomorrow.
  2. We have no choice to work longer to keep things up – I really hate statements like this, but in fact just because the choice is not very pleasant doesn’t mean you can’t make a choice.  I personally choose to put in my agreed 40 or so hours a week and then forget about it.  I do the best I can, but realized years ago that I’m NEVER getting caught up on my work.  Because even if I managed to do that they would just give me more to do.  So by working longer hours all you are doing is putting a band aid on a gun shot wound.  Face the fact that you don’t have enough resources or you are doing things you don’t need to do. Learn to say to requests, “That’s nice, but I can’t help you.” or go with the classic “No!”.  By working longer, you are just making things worse for yourself.
  3. We are suffering in our daily struggle, but that is to be accepted – Dear lord, what the hell is wrong with you people that you thinking suffering is to be accepted or normal?!?! Suffering isn’t normal and frankly a lot of your issues are of your own making.  You worry what others think of your work (ie: should I put this in the report, will they get mad at me for telling them someone bad?), you don’t want to be the guy that leaves early or comes in late or you think that if you suffer long enough you will get some sort of reward.  Screw all that you can’t control what other people think of you so stop worrying about it.  I personally always put the bad news in my reports (otherwise how do management know about it?), I occasionally come in late because of traffic or leave early because I have nothing I can get done in 10 minutes anyway.  Then lastly, suffering never results in a promotion, sorry to shatter your illusions.

Then of course there is the ultimate solution to work-life balance…work less!  Shocking I know but the majority of people I know really shouldn’t be working full time based on what they have going on in their lives.  So either get rid of more of your life or get rid of more of your work.  Then you have a hope to hit a balance point but the in mean time stop beating on your head and complaining about the headache…instead try something novel like do something about it.

This rant was brought to you by coffee, too much work and inspired by the Globe and Mail.

Winter Activities

Posted by Dave on October 21, 2014

As I’ve written previously, my wife and I basically hibernate in the winter – spending most of our time holed up in our house and staying as warm as possible. Last winter, we noticed that we barely socialized at all. Although we’re mostly okay with that, it is nice to see people the odd weekend, so this winter we’re going to make more of an effort to hang out with friends on a more regular basis. In the summer, I have a built-in excuses to hang out with people – either through golfing or by inviting people over for barbecues and to visit on our patio. This winter, we needed new plans.

I really like to cook, so that’s one way to get people to our house – have a Pad Thai night, which most people usually enjoy, and is quick and easy to cook for a few people with most of the prep work done before people show up. Tacos are also lots of fun to do – getting the cast-iron pan glowing in order to make home-made masala flour soft-shells (our favourite).

Another activity that we both enjoy is boardgames. We’ve found a few couples who share this interest, and it’s mostly making the minor effort to set up a “play-date” together on a Friday or Saturday night to get together. Right now, we’ve found that good “couples” games are Settlers of Catan and Cards Against Humanity. I prefer more strategic games, and own the Euro-Games Agricola and Carcassonne. The games I like are significantly less social in nature, and require a lot more planning and long-term strategy than the 2 previous games, but are an excellent way to pass a cold winter afternoon or evening.

I also seem to read much more in the winter – attacking many more of the almost infinite books I’ve placed on my “To Read” list on Goodreads. Additionally, I try to increase my days in the gym from an average of two to three days a week to three to four days, attempting to balance my lack of movement from spending time indoors.

The thing that most of the activities need to have in common for us is that they’re cheap and don’t require us to be outside at all. We don’t like the cold, but are hoping that winter will go more quickly if we share our misery with our friends.

How do you plan to pass the winter?

Escape Everything

Posted by Tim Stobbs on October 13, 2014

 The following is a guest post from Robert Wringham from the wonderful publication of New Escapologist.

Hello. My name’s Robert. At the astonishingly impudent age of 26 I decided that the conventional world of work, mortgages and pension plans wasn’t something I was very interested in.

More interesting to me was finding a way to live without all that bother and to move to Canada, a country to which I’ve always had an admittedly vague emotional connection. I’m now 32, a resident of Canada and living fairly independently of the rat race.

What do I do with my time? I rise late; read library books; go for walks; drink beer; cook; spend time with my partner; and further my personal projects, which largely consist of writing words in an increasingly competent fashion and convincing people to read them.

To many, this is a ridiculous way to spend a human life. How can you possibly earn enough to live on? Why would you turn your back on a tried-and-tested, perfectly safe lifestyle? Aren’t you grateful for the affluence afforded to you by your parents and your education? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What does Canada have that Britain doesn’t?

These aren’t unreasonable questions, especially when they come from the indentured slaves most people have allowed themselves to become.

To me, freedom is of paramount importance. I daresay most of the paycheck people would agree, but their definition of freedom differs to mine. To them, freedom is the ability to report to a job every morning, to serve a grateful employer, to be rewarded by a wage or salary, and to spend that wage or salary on “maximum consumption”: on buying property or leisure experiences, or on debts accrued through a lusty impatience for the same. To me, freedom is the ability to wake up in the morning with a clear 15 hours ahead of me, which I can spend however I like.

As a reader of “Canadian Dream: Free at 45″, you’re more likely to think as I do than as the paycheck people do. You’re likely to share my fondness for Canada if nothing else. Many of you have already found a way to live comfortably without work; and many more of you are on your way to doing so, or are at least curious about such a lifestyle. It’ll come as no surprise to you that the escape route from slave to freeman is a radical but immaterial adjustment of life priorities.

In 2007, I set up a small-press magazine called New Escapologist. It’s still going strong, not because I had any kind of clever business plan or an injection of capital or a radical publishing model that would take the world by storm. It still goes, quite simply, because I enjoy producing it and because there’s a growing body of people out there—people like you and me—who question the conventional rate race model of existence.

Eleven magazine issues later (two a year, no more required), I’ve accumulated a body of research and large number of personal escape stories. I’ve spoken to people who’ve used perfectly conventional but seldom employed investment techniques to make a bundle and retire early. I’ve spoken to people who sold their part-paid-for house in favour of living in a camper van or a small home. I’ve spoken to people who became bottom feeders and garbage pickers because even that is preferable to working a zero-hours contract in some godawful office or call centre. I’ve spoken to people who threw in the towel and caution to the wind to become artists or writers instead of working for unethical insurance companies. There are hundreds of ways—some radical, some relatively conservative—out of the rat race.

What makes us—you and me—different is that we’ve assessed our priorities, learned what’s important in life, and had the courage to adjust course instead of staying on the straight and narrow.

For the past year, I’ve been piping all of this thought and research and experience into a book. The book is called Escape Everything! and aims to be a comprehensive (and witty and joyful) guide to the various ways in which one might escape the soul-crushing drudgery of the rat race.

My aim with the book is to encourage more people to take the plunge in escaping the rat race or to at least to change a few minds about what’s possible when you throw caution to the wind and cease worshiping the baubles offered by consumer economy.

Alas, I need your help to get it properly published. I’m using a publisher called Unbound (set up by good people from the Idler and QI, two of my favourite things). Their past books include Letters of Note and titles by Monty Python’s Terry Jones and Red Dwarf’s Robert Llewellyn. My guide to escape and the good life will only join this crowd if we can raise enough money through crowdfunding. So please, without hesitation go and buy Escape Everything! today and together we’ll get this book out.

In the meantime, I’d be delighted to answer any questions about the book or about escape in general in the comments thread beneath this post or over at the New Escapologist blog. But don’t prevaricate! Pledge towards the book to help make this happen.

Thanks everyone,
Robert Wringham