BossWoman eNews – October 2004
Susan Robison, Ph.D.
Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives
Welcome to the October 2004 edition of Susan Robison's free
e-mail newsletter for women business owners, executives, and
Our goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about
leading a balanced and prosperous life. If you are on this list
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In this issue, you'll find:
- Take Back Your Time
- BossWoman coaching
- Up and coming workshops
1. Take Back Your Time
What if you could take the rest of 2004 off – without any loss
of income? What would you do with the next nine paid weeks off
from your job? Would you finish off your holiday shopping,
complete a house project, catch up on sleep, or just relax and
play? Of course you can’t just stop working for the rest of the
year – at least not if you work in the US or Canada. However,
if you held your same job in a European country you would work
a 40 hour (only) week and have 6 weeks of vacation distributed
throughout the year. You would essentially have nine weeks
less of work time for the same job. You might be able to do
some of those things you say you don’t have time for.
October 24 marks the second annual Take Back Your Time Day.
Started by John de Graaf and sponsored by a non-profit, The
Center for Religion, Ethics, and Social Policy at Cornell
University, this day was designed as a consciousness raising
day similar to Earth Day celebrated each year in April. When
Earth Day began 35 years ago, activities on university
campuses and in communities raised consciousness about the
earth and ecology. Within a few years, science, business, and
government combined efforts to stop the destruction of the
earth through pollution. Similarly, people who believe in the
simplicity movement are hoping that the publicity around
October 24 will raise the collective consciousness about time
erosion and time poverty.
If you are thinking your discretionary time has eroded over
the last ten years, it is not your imagination. If you think
you don’t have time to do the things you want to do you are
probably right. A recent survey commissioned by Kronos Inc.
found that 1/3 of full time employed Americans report that
in the last six months their work week was increased by five
hours. Only 1/3 of that group got any increase in pay. Time
poverty is a cultural insanity.
Consider some of these reality checks from the authors of
"Take Back Your Time" edited by de Graaf to see if any
explain your own experience of feeing overworked and time
Longer Work Days
- Americans work a month longer on average than they did in
1969. That is a month of time that could be used for sleep,
enjoying your children, hobbies, taking a course, or for any
activity that you value. While overtime used to be an
extreme situation or a privilege to earn extra money, it is
now expected as a part of more jobs and, with recent
legislative changes, no longer expected to include extra
compensation. *The downsizing phase of the 90’s resulted
in many people taking on job descriptions of those who left
in addition to their own – again without additional
compensation. While people could be good sports to help out
for awhile, they are now showing the effects of the long-term
stress of doing a job and half beyond the short period of
- Most large corporations experienced a short-term spike in
better bottom lines built on savings of salaries and benefits
of the downsized employees. If those savings were passed on
to the stock holders, there might be some justification in
terms of US economy. Instead those profits were passed on to
the executives who earn 200 time what their employees earn.
In other “rich” countries executives earn 20-50 times what
their employees earn.
- The relationship between the acquisition of goods and life
fulfillment is an upside down “U.” When people own nothing
they do not have life’s necessities and are not very happy.
As they accumulate more, their fulfillment ratings rise but
as stuff piles up, there is a turning point at the top of
the “U” where fulfillment heads downward.
- The vicious cycle of overwork and excessive consumption
build on each other. The more we work, the more we buy
because after all we deserve it.
- We work to pile up stuff because we work so hard it seems
to justify overspending. *The more stuff you have, the more
time it takes to shop for it, store it, maintain it, clean
it, and even haul it away.*Many people say they work out of
economic necessity. However, most Americans live way beyond
the necessity level. We spend to match our salaries and
then complain we can’t change our jobs because we have bills
- When the bills arrive we are willing to work more to pay or
all the stuff. Prolonged overwork which puts our health at
risk so we have to have more medical things done which means
we need good insurance so we better get and keep a job that
provides good coverage for all the aliments we wouldn’t have
if we didn’t work so many hours to begin with.
Productivity and Reduced Work Hours
We are at a choice point where we can continue to maximize our
gross national product or we can maximize a higher quality of
life. Other industrialized countries are beginning to measure
their economies by replacement proucts not increasing
production and sales. Instead of using the GNP they are using
measures of life satisfaction, health statistics, and family
- Overworked people have higher accident rates and more errors
in their work.*Family life has been affected by our overwork.
Only 25% of families share dinner with each other.
*Burnout and stress caused by overwork cost the US economy
$344 billion a year. Included in that figure is the high
turnover caused by employee morale caused by overwork.
- There are no longer any gender differences on hours
overworked. Yet according to the Women’s Bureau of the US
Department of Labor, women are still making $.75 per hour less
than men for the same work.
- Instead of making our country better all this overwork has
undermined our health. In the early 1950’s the US was the
healthiest in the world. This year it ranks 25th, behind all
the other “rich” countries and a good number of “poor” ones.
- 70% of survey responders say that they would rather have
more time off to spend with family than receive more pay for
- People who work fewer hours report being more satisfied with
their lives than those who work more.
- Research in countries that have shortened their work day
(Belgium, France, the Netherlands, & Norway) indicates that
productivity per work hour is higher than in the United States.
- Trendsetting corporations in the computer, pharmaceutical,
and financial industries have experimented with shorter work
days. The results are dramatic: higher productivity, lower
turnover, fewer errors, better health and well being of
Time cannot be bought, stored, or borrow. It is one resource
which can only be used once -the moment it occurs.
Working Less: Not a New Idea
- The American Federation of Labor had a commitment in 1926
to the progressive shortening of hours of labor. After
achieving the 8-hour day and the 5-day work week, they set
goals of the four hour day and the four day work week.
- In the 1920’s several corporations such as AT&T and
Kellogg experimented with shorter work days. The Women’s
Bureau of the Department of Labor kept data on how the
Kellogg workers spent the extra two hours a day. Workers
enjoyed their families and spent time contributing labor on
community projects that added to the quality of life. They
felt relaxed and loved their jobs.
- Better use of time was not a partisan agenda. Herbert
Hoover had conservative support to reduce work hours and
the conspicuous consumption that contributed to the inflation
that resulted in the crash of 1929. President Roosevelt had a
plan after the 1932 election to reduce hours to 30 per week as
a way to solve unemployment.
- The Black-Connery bill (Black-Perkins bill) which set the
work week at 30 passed the US Senate in 1933. The House was
about to pass it when the administration proposed government
programs as an alternative. US workers worked an average of
40 hours a week for the next 40+ years until the work week
began to expand to between 50-60 hours depending on what
studies you might quote.
- The time might be right to reexamine the possibility of
reducing work hours as a way to spread work to the unemployed.
You will be seeing more writing in the popular press about
various proposals both voluntary and manditory.
What You Can Do to Work Less and Enjoy Life More
You can contribute to work-life sanity in US culture in three
ways: increasing sanity in your personal time management,
increasing sanity in your leadership spheres of influence, and
increasing sanity in policies and legislation that you can
influence as a citizen.
Personal work-life sanity. Because this is the area of which
you have the most control, I will give the most suggestions:
- Examine how you spend your time. Keeping a time log in 15-30
minute intervals for 2 weeks is an eye opening experience. My
clients who are willing to take a hard look at their time use
have taught me these insights:
- They often leave for work in the dark and return in the dark.
One client said she felt like a “mole scurrying through train
and Metro tunnels to get to work.”
- They are so tired that they collapse in front of the TV and
don’t get done some of the small chores that would ease their
lives, like making lunch for the next day, laying out the
clothes for the morning, paying bills, sorting mail, or filing
papers. These and bigger chores pile up for the weekend and
seem overwhelming.*They shortchange their sleep needs but not
because of being productive during the evening hours but
because of being too tired to get to bed.*They spend time on
self-defined time wasters, including attending social
obligations they don’t care about.
- They offer 24/7 availability to their work when they are not
emergency workers on call and then feel like they never have
- They shortchange their nutrition through fast food and
compromise their health and energy.
- Make small changes and measure the results.
- Quit at 5:00 and leave a note to yourself about where you
were in your work so that you don’t have to ramp up the
- When anyone suggests a meeting ask for an agenda and ask if
that agenda could be covered some other way.
- Unless you work a job surfing the internet, limit your
emails. Set up filters for categories of things that are not
urgent. I subscribe to a professional service that provides
research information. Because it comes in at any time, day or
night, I could be constantly interrupted by the postings. I
set up a filter that shunts the postings to a folder and I
skim 100 postings in about an hour once a month. If you don’t
know how to skim, you can learn.
- Cut down information overload by cutting back your
periodicals to 2 or 3 essential for your professional
growth. Read only the articles you need, clipping them and
putting into a folder that goes with you to places where you
have to “kill time” like the doctor’s office. That way you
can read what you value spending your time on instead of
flipping through stray magazines.
- Invest a half an hour of phone time to cancel all the
catalogues that come in from companies you never shop from.
It will save you hours of sorting through your mail.
- Exercise your right to meaningful work. If you aren’t well
matched to your current job, consider getting career
coaching to figure out your strengths, your values, and
where the world really needs you.
- Examine every purchase with the dollar/time equivalency.
Divide your annual salary by your hours worked to find your
real hourly wage. For every purchase, ask yourself how many
hours of your life you will spend on that purchase. For
example, buying a daily “double tall skinny latte” costs
over 100 hours of work for the average worker – that is
over two weeks of work a year. How much of your time did you
spend on your last car cost? How about that new suit? Are
you getting enough benefits out of your purchases for the
time they cost?
- Using your leadership sphere of influence.
- Consider being a trendsetter by asking for reduced hours
to get the same job done in less time. Do your research
carefully, build the business case for the reduced hours
or telecommuting or whatever you want. You can find
information about how reduced hours result in higher
productivity and how companies that have gone to mandatory
40 hour weeks have increased profits. Act through a
bargaining unit like a union or professional organization
if possible. If not, suggest to a few colleagues that they
can join your proposal. Suggest the changes you want as a
promise for increased effectiveness and then be sure to
- If you are a boss, examine your own hours and those of
your employees to see where the time is going. Institute
flex time, job sharing, and telecommuting when appropriate.
Consider going from open space offices to soundproof
cubicles. The cost will yield more productive work. Have
gathering places like break rooms away from work areas.
- Offer customized work arrangements such as 4-10 hour days
or one Friday or Monday off every 2 weeks or vacation time
including an option for unpaid time off.
- Collective changes – business and government
- Support local and national legislation to make workplaces
- Vote in elections so that your elected officials pay
attention to your call or email. They are not your elected
officials if you didn’t vote.
I am offering a complementary month of coaching to readers
who want more time in their life. Just contact me by the end of
October; you don’t have to complete the sessions by the end
of the month.. Don’t worry that you will make me overwork; we
will schedule your sessions at our mutual convenience.
Are you making a living or a dying? There is no time like
the present to regain your work-life sanity. In fact, there
is no time like the present. The past is a memory and the
future is a dream. You have 168 hours each week. How will
you spend them?
Al & Tipper Gore. “Joined at the Heart: The Transformation
of the American Family.”
John De Graaf, Editor. “Take Back Your Time: Fighting
Overwork and Time Poverty in America.”
Jan Jasper. “Take Back Your Time: How to Regain Control of
Work, Information, and Technology.”
2. BossWoman coaching
About the publisher: Susan Robison, Ph.D. is a professional
coach, speaker, author and seminar leader. She loves to
coach women who want improvement in:
If you are feeling stuck on the way to your ideal life,
give Susan a call for a complementary half-hour coaching
- work-life balance,
- career transitions,
- building your business or practice,
- time management,
- increasing productivity.
She provides keynotes and seminars to business and
organizations on the topics of:
She offers her audiences a follow-up coaching session
because she knows that workshops don’t work.
- leadership strategies for women,
- work-life balance,
Contact Susan for your coaching, speaking, or seminar
needs at Susan@BossWoman.org or at 410-465-5892.
3. Up and coming workshops
“Secrets of Couples Working Successfully Together”
Date: November 15, 2004
Sponsor: Kampgrounds of America
Place: Orlando, FL
Presenters: Drs. Susan and Phil Robison
To register for Kampground Owners Annual Convention:KOA.com
Talks in 2005 on work, meaning, money, and happiness:
to be announced
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© Copyright 2004 Susan Robison. All rights reserved.
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