Wednesday, 16 July 2014

On time, productive or otherwise. And, a pyramid.

How do you spend yours?

Your time? 

Do you count the productive hours of the day as the ones at work (£/$ for money work) or do you deal those 'productive' hours up between home, work, family and life? The old 'work/life balance question I guess. I've been pondering this a while. Recently having moved and downshifted my working hours considerably, I've been thinking of what's acceptable and productive and what's just perhaps seen as outright indulgence. Those tasks which are helpful like gardening, or reading or reflecting, but don't give you hard cold cash and quite frankly you can do without, if you're honest. For those lucky enough, like me, to be starting a new phase of life, in a new place. Are these 'pastimes' a halfway between holiday and real llife change. The corridors between old lives and new realities? Or is the real change a mindful move to reducing the 'paid' work hours and upping the 'unpaid' working day, which is often equally as productive. Providing food, comfort and support to yourself and those around you, aren't these equally as productive activities?

Or are these, the haiverings of a self indulgent wifie. Probably, but why not, I'm an epic haiver-er.

So having moved a wee while back now, I'm trying to work out how I fit into my new life. I'm still self employed and opportunities are presenting themselves regularly, so fear not, we'll not starve. But should I get a full time job and contribute significantly to my home and society? Is the graft that I do at home, in the garden and throughout my family's life maintenance productive and contributes positively to us all, it is just as valuable?

Is some part time work (however that manifests itself) and volunteering outwith my home a way to stay a firmly attached and contributing human being in my community? Or is it just a pseudo-mid life crisis type indulgence and I should get off my bottom and find a stimulating productive full time job to help solve something, hopefully significant, even on a small scale? I like work, I do, a lot. But, if I had the choice to shape my life in the way I'd like from here on in, how would it look?

I currently work around 2-3 hours a day for cold hard cash. I enjoy my work but I don't want it to take over my life. I work in the garden for a good couple hours, if not more. As we're establishing a productive (bonnie) garden, this should eventually be productive too and reduce the spends positively. I help/aid the family with chores, admin tasks and hope to make the home we have a happy, comfortable one. I write and I research, often for my own pleasure, but its productive and will eventually 'help' others to grow and produce their own food. I walk and cook every single day. Lets not pretend we're a family that eats everything from scratch but we cook every single day, for most meals, its just how we live. My days are full to bursting.

Am I productive, or a wannabe 'good life' cliche? Or do I value my own time properly and see the benefits of establishing a routine which supports those around me. I know I'm lucky in my circumstances, and value that everyday. But, is a financial contribution the most important one always?
I wonder if many folk wonder, like me, wonder how they 'contribute' equally if they don't earn enough (money) to pay a full share of the mortgage/rent/bills in their home.  Is their time still as productive as 'paid' time?

After all, once times spent we can't get it back. 

So I still ask myself, 'what is productive and useful'. I know we need a balance between money to sustain life and a standard of life to sustain our souls. Maslow's hierarchy of needs published in his 'A Theory of Human Motivation'  in 1943. Having our most basic of 'needs' met, maybe striving for some balance isn't so unexpected. [The subtext to that last sentence is of course, at my current 'middle' age.]

As my family sit down to tea, in a comfortable homey space, I hope I'm as productive as they seem to be. I certainly feel very motivated by this life.

I'll endeavour to get more figured out tomorrow.  I'm heading out to do some paid work later. I've an appointment to do some voluntary work later on next week. I guess I slowly need to adjust to my own 'new' life and make sure the choices I make suit us all. I've no issue with working full time if the right job comes along but I know it will need life to juggle a bit if I do. Which won't be so bad either. I guess its all about choice and balance.

Any thoughts? Life, work balance. How's that panning out for you?


  1. An excellent, thought provoking post young lady! I can't believe you're even considering that you might NOT be productive - you are one of the most productive people I know!

    Have you read this?

    A financial contribution is one contribution, but not the only one. And in plenty of ways you ARE making a financial contribution anyway, by growing food and stretching leftovers and cooking without waste. The more I work the more I find myself stuffing in wasteful expensive meals at train stations, and ordering takeaway rather than making dinner myself...

    As for my work life balance... it feels ok for now. I work 4 days a week and adore my job, but I also adore my time off, voluntary work and garden. Sometimes I feel like I'd like each week to have 10 days in so I could do more of each!

    1. a ten day week wouldn't that be marvelous!

      Thank you for the link I'm off to find it now - I'm sure its fab. I found when working full time the quick meals grabbed on the way home found a hole into our lives. Not sure I liked that.

      I'm glad your work life balance is grand and a ten day week sounds blissfully marvelous.

      Thanks for commenting Jenni

  2. I know it is a first world privelidge to be able to not work full time just to survive, but in the crazy, materialistic fast-paced world we live in I think the choice to live a slower, simpler life with time to help others, connect with the earth by growing things, cook things from scratch rather than consuming salt-laden expensive convenience foods just makes sense. Its productive in terms of quality of life, mental well being, quality of relationships. Were I to suddenly get well I would very much hope to create a lifestyle that didn't require me to work full time, because there are so many other things to do. If you measure productivity holistically rather than purely economically, it sounds as if you are building a very productive and very rich life for yourself, and by extension, your family. I'm thrilled for you xx

    1. You see Janet, as i was painstaking chopping the lobes/lugs off the laburnum sticks and binning the foliage for the great composter in the sky I thought of you. Not sure why but I did think Janet will understand why on earth I'm doing this. Why take hours to make kindling and sort branches into 'might be useful for fencing', 'might be useful for kindling', will be useful for logs. I don't especially want organic freshly picked logs kissed by faeries even if I could afford them. I'd just like to use what I can, spend a little less and enjoy the journey. Like you said more holistic. I'm happier and a bit less relfective today. Maybe because I confessed my lack of ambition and love of 'home living' like you said very 'first world' issues but so many of us, if given the choice would reduce our (money) hours a bit I think.

  3. I have long done voluntary work that I could fit in around caring for my husband. Now that circumstances are different, I am going to be looking for a job soon. However, never underestimate the contribution that you are making to many lives - as chair of governors at the village school, I am a key part of the team, and as a gymnastics coach, I make a difference to a lot of little girls, not only coaching them in gym moves, but helping them to develop self confidence and boosting their self esteem. Our families benefit from all that we do in the home, and everyone's contribution should be valued, however small. My gardening efforts are nowhere near as impressive as yours, but we are eating potatoes, courgettes, beans and beetroot from the garden, and home grown is fresh and tasty every time!

    1. Thank you Morgan, you've really worked hard! And, whilst the journey you're on now must be so difficult I hope you're successful in your application. Our families do benefit. Thank you again for taking the time to post. I really appreciate it especially during this difficult time.

  4. when my husband was in full time work I always felt like I didn't contribute enough, even though I cared for our four children at home, did housework, cooking... making ends meet when we were really strapped for cash etc.... all these things took skill but still I always felt that I didn't contribute enough to the family team. When the children were older and I went out to full time work, I was contributing well but I hated the work and eventually the stress of it made me unwell and I gave it up. It has taken a long time to get to the point of actually believing that I am contributing my fair share but it took early retirement to really convince me. Money should not be (although I know that it often is) the decider in whether you go out to work or not, sadly for most people it is the only reason for doing what they do. Be joyful in what you do because it sounds really fulfilling to me and if you are fulfilled then that will spill over into your family life and everyone will benefit. :-)

    1. Thanks for sharing Jane. I think given I'm in good health, I have reason not to work outwith the home. I'll probably need a wee part time paid job to keep the kids afloat at university too. I'm happiest pottering about at home, whilst I'm always mindful so many folks don't have that choice, hence the self-reflection. The few times in my life I've been full-time I've enjoyed it but the impact on my family in small ways (meals, missing events etc) was always a heavy heart to carry. I'm glad your early retirement suits you, you sound happy. If anything in life we should strive for its happiness and health. Thank you for your time commenting.