The All Consuming Nature Of Work

Just as time is a finite resource, so is energy. It takes physical energy to move, and mental energy to think and create. An individual has a relative static amount of each type of energy on a given day. While it’s possible to go above and beyond this energy level for a short period of time, whether running a marathon or working crazy hours, this energy debt will eventually need to be paid back in the form of extra rest or time off work respectively.

Even though people with full time jobs work far too many hours, they still at least have over half of their awake time to themselves. This is not the case with with a full time worker’s energy allotment. The typical full time job soaks up the vast majority of a person’s energy on a working day. By the time people get home from work they are often exhausted. Between errands, kids, and preparing dinner there is really no gas in the tank left to do anything except watch tv or a movie. A full time job is about 235 days of work per year - which means that on almost 2 out of every 3 days all a person can really invest their energy in is their work, instead of hobbies and other creative endeavors.

Furthermore, the days that you can take off from work are scattered - a few days here, a weekend there. Switching contexts and really getting into the mindset to do something different takes a while, and isn’t something that you can just turn on and off over the course of a weekend. This scattered time away from work is simply insufficient to really be able to focus on something creative. Thus, not only does work take up a huge part of your energy but it also makes it harder for you to productively harness the remaining energy you have left over.

I understand why we have jobs, and how the work performed is essential for a functioning economy. It’s also easy to quantify the value of work in terms of wages paid and profits gained. But having a full time job comes at the expense of not being able to fully pursue creative endeavors outside of work. The value of what could have been created if people were able to use their energy as they pleased - the art, music, writings, new businesses - is nearly impossible to quantify, and thus is essentially valued at zero from an economic perspective. Obviously these creations wouldn’t be worthless - in fact I’d even go as far to say that these creations would be priceless.

All this is pointing to the undeniable fact that a full time job in no ways allows an individual to have a true work life balance in terms of what they put their mind to. As much as I like my job, and my colleagues, and my sense of purpose from going into work every day I also feel the heavy burden of suppressing my creative impulses due to lack of energy. I’m hopeful that one day we will figure out a way to make work obsolete. Until then we need to provide more avenues for people to both earn a living and still have enough energy left over to pursue their passions. I think we can do it, and am eager to help brainstorm solutions in this area - it’s too important to just sit back and accept the untenable status quo.