Do Americans work too much? We take less vacation time than any other country in the world. That’s in part because Americans get less paid time off than about any other first world country and also because there’s such tremendous pressure in the American workplace to not take the time we are granted. Add onto that the pressure we put on ourselves to always make and achieve more — or simply to keep with the the Jones’ — and you can see why we take so little holiday time.
Earlier this week I asked whether that whole Protestant work ethic thing was an ethic at all. Rather than doing the corporate grind, my wife and I have adopted a patchwork income approach that allows us to spend a lot of time together as a couple and with our kids. We have a lot of flexibility, and that’s what gives us the margin to ski a good powder day or take as many trips as our budget will allow.
We have flexibility. We can almost always bend. But don’t interpret the fact that I’m questioning whether I think the whole Protestant, American work ethic thing is a good thing or not as me being able to work the 4-Hour Work Week of Timothy Ferriss. In fact wife and I were talking recently about just how busy our lives have become.
In January of last year, a few months into the process of reinventing our lives, we moved to Lake Tahoe. Our entire life consisted of me calling on prospective merchant clients in the Tahoe area to add accounts to my credit card processing portfolio. While I did that, Monica hung out with the kids and made new friends. When I wasn’t calling on accounts we hung out as a family or were on the slopes skiing. That was our life. In the evening we would have dinner as a family. Around 7 o’clock we would put the kids to bed. And then for the next 3 hours Monica and I would sit next to the fire and talk. We’d go to bed around 10 and we got a great night of sleep almost every night.
In some of those fireside chats the idea for this blog was hatched. That was the beginning. Then I started doing more consulting with non-profits again. Monica began doing marketing for a small non profit organization and managing an online marketing campaign for a bicycle attorney. I added another blogging postion with the Sprint Snow Squad. Then I started writing a book.
Lately we’ve wondered what happened to that life we once had that was full of time margin.
In the morning I plop down at the computer to check my email and interact with friends and strategic relationships on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest… I comment on a few photos on Instagram. I check my Klout score while my phone pings me to let me know that my friend Noah has just checked in at Starbucks on FourSquare.
It all makes me want to invest in this company. (C’mon! Watch the video! It’s only 27 seconds…)
Monica and I juggle work and the kids throughout the day. She gets some screen time to work. I’m on the phone working with one of the non-profits I help raise money for or emailing a merchant who has a question about their credit card processing statement. I try to steal a chunk of time to work on my book. Late afternoon to bedtime for the kids has become family time. But then as soon as the kids are in bed it’s back to work. At night it’s back to the social networks, we’re blogging, and we’re dealing with issues on the blog. (If I ever meet the person who named it Real Simple Syndication you may have to hold me back…) Wrapping up our work at 1 or 2 in the morning has not been uncommon.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not complaining. We have a great life. We do have a lot of margin time. We do have a lot of flexibility. I see my wife and kids more than any husband or father I know. I don’t have a boss that I have to ask if I want to take a day a week or a month off from work.
What Monica and I were reminded of recently, though, is how quickly life can get out of control. Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living. Every now and then, it’s important to take a step back and do some examining.
I feel like in many ways this blog is about asking whether our lives accurately reflect what we say we value most. Monica and I have made major life-changes to try to ensure that our life does reflect what we say we value most. We’ve been focused on our life as a big picture and I am really, really excited about the path we are on. But did my day today accurately reflect what I value most? Do I really want to consistently be looking into a computer screen at midnight? Wouldn’t I rather be sitting by the fire and talking with my wife?
It’s good to know where we’re going. This blog and all the writing that Monica and I are doing is important to us. So are my merchant accounts and consulting clients. So are Monica’s marketing gigs. Each is an important piece to our patchwork that’s helping us achieve the life of our dreams.
But I don’t want to miss the here and now. I don’t want to forget to examine today.