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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 professionals.

Our goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about leading a balanced and prosperous life. If you are on this list you have been a client, an advocate, or attended a workshop. Pass this newsletter on to others who might be interested. This e-mail list is not sold or exchanged. Details on subscribing (and unsubscribing) are at the end.

    In this issue, you'll find:
  1. Take Back Your Time
  2. BossWoman coaching
  3. 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 pressured:

    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 emergency.
  • 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.
    Work-Spend Cycle
  • 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 to pay.
  • 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
  • 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 overtime.
  • 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 employees.
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 life.

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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:

  1. 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 a break.
    • They shortchange their nutrition through fast food and compromise their health and energy.
  2. 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 next morning.
    • 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?
  3. 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 come through.
    • 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.
  4. Collective changes – business and government
    • Support local and national legislation to make workplaces saner.
    • 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.
My Contribution
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?

Susan Robison

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:

  • work-life balance,
  • career transitions,
  • building your business or practice,
  • time management,
  • increasing productivity.
If you are feeling stuck on the way to your ideal life, give Susan a call for a complementary half-hour coaching session.

She provides keynotes and seminars to business and organizations on the topics of:

  • leadership strategies for women,
  • relationships,
  • work-life balance,
  • change.
She offers her audiences a follow-up coaching session because she knows that workshops don’t work.

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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BossWoman e-Newsletter is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Coaching should not be construed as a form of, or substitute for, counseling, psychotherapy, legal, or financial services.

© Copyright 2004 Susan Robison. All rights reserved. The above material is copyrighted but you may retransmit or distribute it to whomever you wish as long as not a single word is changed, added or deleted, including the contact information. However, you may not copy it to a web site without the publisher’s permission.

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