Free time is dead. At least that is what Prado Campos states in an article in El Pais. ‘In a world where working too much is not enough, being busy and refusing leisure has become the ultimate status symbol’. As Brigid Schulte analyses in her book ‘Overwhelmed: work, love and play when no one has time’, we live absorbed by our professional life and we devote less and less time to what really matters.
When was the last time you had some free time?
The old concepts of ‘leisure’ and ‘free time’ are disappearing. Work takes more and more hours from our lives and being able to dedicate some time to ourselves is not that important anymore. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that we are more productive or even more committed to our company than our grandparents were.
Nowadays, we are defined by our jobs, and what’s more, by what and how much we do when compared to others (or, at least, by what we appear to do). Work overload has turned into a status symbol. Whenever somebody asks us about it, we’re fully aware that we must say that we have our hands full or otherwise we will appear to be idle.
Nowadays we want to show that we are busier than the rest. As Schulte points out, ‘we sometimes make up tasks that we don’t really need to accomplish, just because we want to fit and show that we are as important and worthy as our colleagues.’
How did we get here?
In the USA, free time is seen as no big deal. Last century, somebody’s status was defined by their amount of free time: the more they had, the higher their status was. But now everything has changed, and we are constantly ‘competing about being busy’. Although leisure and taking time for oneself are still valuable in Spain, we are progressively taking up habits and routines which belong to a culture where people are defined by their career.
We praise those who appear to have time for nothing but work and who live under constant pressure. Stress is synonymous with status, and therefore, stress is what we want to get.
And even worse, the very little free time we have is devoted to ‘intentional leisure’. That is, all of our spare moments have to be perfectly planned and useful. Aren’t we missing something?
Technology: double-edged sword
We spend the whole day online, paying attention to our email, social network or instant messaging, and disconnecting seems to be an enormous effort. Not only because we live surrounded by all kinds of information, but because we don’t want to break free from it (just in case we might be missing something).
But on the other hand, technology can also be an ally to work-life balance and time management. There are a number of tools such as Kiply available for you to learn how to safely improve both your professional and personal lives. Technology can prove very beneficial as long as we know how to use it properly.
The solution is up to us
The solution lies in whether we’re able to get proper work-life balance. And to do so, we must change at two different levels:
On the one hand, society must cope with working families’ reality and companies must facilitate work-life balance. Moreover, new role models are needed too, especially those of leaders who are able to manage their time well. They would show that there is a different way of being productive and that achieving professional success shouldn’t be at odds with time for oneself.
On the other hand, individual change is also essential. Each and every one of us must learn to better manage their time and be aware of the fact that we need to disconnect and dedicate time to our personal lives so that it can have a positive influence on our career.
As stated by Schulte, ‘we must ask ourselves if we really want to adapt to all these pressures that are taking over our time and consuming our energy.’
Translation by Susana Castro.