Long ago, I learned a valuable lesson: working just twenty hours a week is feasible. One has to need and want less to make this work. Share resources with friends, roommates and neighbors. Sell your car and bike, walk, ride the bus, or take the light rail. Value personal, non-monetary exchanges. These intangible exchanges and relationships are enriching and priceless. By shifting our focus from the material to the relational, we are able to work less, and instead do what matters most to us.
This past year, I’ve experimented with doing what matters most to me by working less, and participating in many different types of employment (five, to be exact). I’ve found there is a fine line between how much, and how little, work is beneficial. Personally, I find when working over forty hours per week, there is a noticeable energetic drain, no matter the job. Twenty to forty hours is ok, but twenty hours feels ideal.
It is true that I don’t have a family. This allows me more flexibility in selecting and de-selecting jobs, and sometimes even enjoying short periods of time without work. Additionally, it is also important to point out that my race and gender also give me an advantage in being able to navigate these waters with relative ease.
Every person and family has a unique situation. Nevertheless, each of us can reassess our employment, purchasing patterns, attitudes and actions that can either lock our society in a system of greed and apathy or allow for more joy and meaningfulness to our vocations as well as our neighbors’. This article gives you permission to do this now, in the best way you know how. See Bob Black’s Abolition of Work as a critique on the system of work as we know it. Whether such a proposal resonates with you, I believe at the very least, we can as individuals and societies, better design our work to serve us by allowing our jobs to better fit our evolving and refined needs and values.