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Every Second Counts

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Written by   43
1 year ago
Topics: Life, Thoughts, Reality
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A lot of my articles have very anti-work overtones, but with the exception of one, none of them have anti-work as their primary theme, all of them having it as a secondary theme. So, here goes one new article that makes anti-work the primary theme.

Eight hours for work, eight hours for fun, eight hours for rest

If you're a full-time employee, chances are, you work 40 hours (at least on paper), and you work 9-to-5, at least on paper. Was this always the case? Will this always be the case? Let's find out!

When the Industrial Revolution kicked off in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, there were no regulations regarding labour: people were working 80-100 hours a week (10-16 hours a day, 6 days a week).

While the idea of an 8-hour workday dates back to the 16th century, the modern idea of it dates back to the Industrial Revolution, when workers rightfully demanded better working conditions and shorter work hours. It wasn't until the early 20th century, when the 40-hour workweek and 8-hour workday became the standard, popularized by the likes of Henry Ford (who discovered that after a certain amount of work hours, they reach the point of diminishing returns when it comes to productivity), and demanded by labour unions.

The first country to actually enshrine the 8-hour workday into law was Sweden, in 1919, followed by other European countries in the same year, such as Spain and my Hungary. The 40-hour work week became part of US law in 1940, but several US states - such as Illinois - mandated 8-hour workdays as early as 1867.

Eight hours work, eight hours fun, eight hours rest - or so goes the song by Feró Nagy.

Sadly, reality is different

Eight hours work? Sure. Eight hours sleep? If you're lucky, sure. Eight hours fun? Hahahahahahaha.... no. Just no.

While the song sounds catchy as all hell, the title sadly doesn't reflect the reality.

In a day, there are 24 hours, and in a week, there are 7 days, so in a week, there are 168 hours. Compared to that 168, that 40 seems like a drop in the bucket, right? I mean, it's less than 24% of that 168, so it must be small enough, right?

Wrong. That 24%, those 40 hours easily dominate the remaining 76%, the remaining 128 hours. They dictate your sleeping schedule, eating habits, your social life, everything. In a 24-hour day, 8 hours take up one third of the day, which is no drop in the bucket to begin with, let alone when you realize how those 8 hours dominate and dictate how you spend the remaining 16 hours: preparing for work, preparing for those 8 hours.

"8 hours work, 8 hours sleep, 8 hours fun" - Ha! More like eight hours sleep, eight hours work, four hours commute, two hours chores, and two hours watching Netflix, amirite?

A Worker's Diary

How did my typical day go when I first started working, before the Second Wave of the Covid-19 Pandemic?

I woke up at 6:30 AM to dress up, brush my teeth, have a cup of coffee, pack my stuff into my bag, and maybe check up on the news if I had a few spare minutes before 7:20 AM, when I got up on the bus that took me 50 kilometres closer to work.

After a lengthy bus ride, I still had to spend around ten minutes on my foot to walk to the workplace, arriving typically just ten minutes before a co-worker with a key arrived to let me into the office, as they did not trust a newcomer like me with a key. This was followed by 8 hours of work, interrupted by a half-hour lunch break. Thanks to my generous boss at the time (who sadly no longer works for that company), I could leave 15 minutes early, and leave work at 17:15 (or 5:15 PM) to catch the bus at 17:30, which would take me home by 19:00 (7 PM). I spent at least one hour eating dinner, showering and preparing my clothing for tomorrow, and the remaining 3 hours....

...yep, you guessed it: procrastinating. 3 hours just isn't enough to immerse myself in a video game. If I wanted to watch a movie, those 3 hours would be over before I even picked it. So, naturally, I spent much of those 3 hours socializing with my online friends, whining and lamenting my miserable life. Then, at 23:00 (11 PM) I went to bed to sleep.

And this is how it went until the Second Wave of the Pandemic hit, when they finally allowed me to work from home. If they ever demand my return to the office, I'll quit. I'll resign. But that's not here or there. The point is that before they allowed me to work from home, my 9-to-5 was actually a 7-to-7. The commutes via public transport turned my de jure 8-hour workdays into de facto 12-hour workdays, and I resented the hell out of that. I wasn't compensated in any way, shape or form for this loss of time. And the worst part is - I was still lucky, because I still live with my family, with my siblings and my mother, who take care of buying groceries and cooking food. Imagine if I was living alone and had to take care of it all too!

Still, the home office gave me a real 9-to-5. Waking up at 8 AM, drinking a cup of coffee or tea, reading the news, starting work at 9 AM, having a lunch break at 12 AM, finishing work at 5 PM, then spending the remainder of the day doing whatever I wanted.

It still wasn't perfect, as the remainder of the day seemed to just fly away way too fast, but it was definitely a huge improvement compared to what I had before.

The next improvement was them allowing me to work dynamically, as long I filled in my daily quote of 8 hours (which is to say: I am allowed to start earlier if I want to finish earlier), with the unpaid lunch break lasting however long I want it to last (15 minutes are plenty for me, I don't need the 30 minutes or 1 hour), though sometimes one of my coworkers expect me to be present at certain times to answer to certain situations.

So now I start my workday 15 minutes before 7 AM, have a 15-minute lunch break at 12, and finish precisely at 3 PM, and go to bed between 10 PM and 11 PM. So, what do I do with those 7-8 hours of free time then?

Well, the first hour just seems to fly away instantly for some reason. I look at my clock, it's 3 PM, one second later, it's 4 PM. I guess it's a combination of inspecting what my mother has bought, helping her unload the groceries, etc. or I just unconsciously zone out for an hour to recover my energy or something. I don't know. At either 4 PM or 5 PM, I have my dinner, which typically lasts half an hour. Then I spend the rest of the day writing articles like this or studying (I'm still a college student), or just socializing with my online friends. Either way, I very quickly reach 9 PM without having had anything meaningful done, at which point I turn off my computer and collapse into my bed with my phone, just browsing the Internet and talking to my online friends till it's sleep-time.

Maybe it's just me having really bad time-management skills and a lack of discipline (hence all the procrastination), but I feel like I can't commit to any tasks that would take more than a couple hours on weekdays, because I'd probably get interrupted by either family members or online friends. I don't even play video games or watch anime on weekdays, because by the time I'd get immersed, I look at the clock and realize that it's sleep time. Free time just seems to pass away so fast. It's like when schoolkids constantly complain about weekdays lasting so long, with Saturday and Sunday just transitioning to Monday in a mere second.

Every Second Counts

They say that numbers never lie, but in case of work hours, oh boy, are the numbers deceptive. I already mentioned, that on paper, 8 hours is just one third of a day - 33% of it, and out of a 168-hour work, 40 work hours is - at least on paper - less than 24% of it.

Yet, for some reason, we feel like work takes up the majority of our time. Why is that?

Well, first all, (our perception of) time is relative. In theory, a weekend makes up two sevenths of a week (28%), but to the typical student, it's going to feel more like one tenth (10%). The schooldays make up five sevenths of the week (71%), yet to the typical student, they'll feel like nine tenths (90%). Time passes far more slowly when you're bored, when you're doing something you'd rather not be doing, etc. Time flies away fast, when you're either having fun or you're procrastinating. I remember that in my golden years - between 2018 and 2020 (before the Summer of 2020), my days and weeks just melted into each other, as I did not even need to know what day of the week was it. In other words: time spent working will always feel longer even if it isn't - that's just how the human mind works.

But second of all, it is a lie by omission to say that work takes up just one third of your day. Yes, 24 divided by 8 is in fact 3. But how many hours of those 24 are you actually spending awake? For a healthy person, the answer is 16 or less. Now, all of the sudden, work makes up at least 50% of your day, not 33%. But it gets even worse if you count in the commute too. My pre-pandemic schedule basically involving me doing something work-related 12 hours out of the 16 hours I was awake, which meant that work took up a whopping 75% of my days!

Under the assumption that you sleep for 8 hours each day, you are awake for 112 hours out of the 168 hours of the week. Out of those 112 hours, you work 40 hours on paper, which would make it 35.71% of your walking life. Out of the hours that you're not spending sleeping, you're spending slightly more than one third of your life working. But because of how the human mind works, the remaining two thirds feel so fleeting, while that dreaded one third just stretches itself out into eternity.

But I made yet another lie by omission. Because those 8/40 hours have an ugly tendency to creep over and infiltrate the remaining 8/112. Make no mistake: you're probably spending the lion's share of the remaining 8 hours of the day either either preparing for work, mentally or physically recovering from work, or in the worst case scenario, commuting to and from work. And because how much work dictates your schedule, it would be nonsensical to treat it as just one third, or even half of your life, and it's more fair to treat it as five sevenths (71%) of your life.

Was work ever meant to make up five sevenths of your life?

Probably not. But because of how the human mind works, even if we reduced the 40-hour workday into a 24-hour workday (6 hours per day instead of 8, 4 days per week instead of 5), those 24 hours would still feel far longer than the remaining 144... excuse me, I mean the remaining 88.

So while I do believe that movements that are aimed at reducing the 40-hour workweek into a 30-hour, 24-hour or 20-hour workweek are admirable and ought to be supported, I believe that as long as there is a need for humans to be engaged in unwanted labour, people like me will always complain about having to adjust their entire schedule around something that on paper makes up only a minority of your day.

Even if you only had to work 8 hours per week, those 8 hours would still dominate the rest of your schedule and at least partially dictate how you spend the remaining 160.

Every second counts.

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Written by   43
1 year ago
Topics: Life, Thoughts, Reality
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It's true. It's as if, one day is not enough to complete daily tasks. Even those simple chores are still undone within the day. Aside from those simple chores at home, there are also important works in the office or at school. So, every second counts.

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