As the gripping cold conceded to the heatwaves in July, we moved to the countryside for a few weeks. There, we have a good view of our neighbors’ farm. While those small farmers are still around, we’re ecstatic to observe the rhythms of the rural lifestyle.
When the cow moos full of milk, my neighbor has to milk her. When the rye is ripe in July, he works 16 hours a day to scythe, sweep, and rake. He collects his chickens’ eggs at 5 am and waters the vegetables at 8 pm when the sun is not so scorching anymore.
Countless articles recommend keeping “Work-Life Balance”. Leave your job at 5 PM, turn off the work phone/email and enjoy your “Life”. It is crucial to set proper boundaries – the articles state in unison. Keep your mental hygiene.
My neighbor is too busy to sit in the office scrolling articles on the Internet, so he hasn’t heard about Work-Life Balance. He does what he needs to, and he rests in between. He sees the fruits of his labor and spends hours watching the rye grow. I envy him sometimes.
He lives on that farm. Farmers were working from home long before COVID.
In the 1800s, 90 percent of the US population lived on a farm, rocking their WFH setups. How did they all survive without mental breakdowns and Harvard Business Review articles praising strict Work-Life Balance?
I believe we have the work-life balance debate wrong. Instead of introducing more rigid walls between Life and Work, we should focus on keeping a dynamic equilibrium – just like my neighborhood farmer.
Do things that need to be done, and stop sitting in place just because the clock tells you to.
Anne-Laure Le Cunff from Ness Labs touches on that issue in her article “The problem with work-life balance“, starting with the phrase itself:
“That’s a debilitating phrase because it implies there’s a strict trade-off. And the reality is, if I am happy at home, I come into the office with tremendous energy. And if I am happy at work, I come home with tremendous energy. It actually is a circle; it’s not a balance.”
I don’t have such issues with the phrasing, but I think we have it wrong where we think “balance” means tall walls between parts of life. But balance may mean a dynamic equilibrium (as in “Power of Full engagement“) – when one side of your work+life pie gets outsized, you compensate – from Anne-Laure’s article:
One day, one of your kids may get sick; another day, you may need to replace a colleague on the spot; yet another day, you may feel a burst of productivity and get so much done you can take a really nice break. It feels different to work in the summer than in the winter; it feels harder to work when you lack sleep; it feels easier when your colleagues are being helpful. These are ever changing factors you can’t control,
Demand more Life from your Work
Time is a bit cruel. It flies by when you’re having fun, and drags on forever when you’re counting minutes for your shift to end. So you can just decide to have a little more fun, and work will be less exhausting. Any workplace can provide:
- Fulfillment and Challenge
- Working on something bigger than yourself
- Coworkers that can be turned into Friends.
If you’re trying to introduce strict boundaries between work & life, you’re going to treat your job as the enemy and something to run away from the first chance you’ll get.
Avoid BS (As in BuSywork) like the plague. You shouldn’t do constant overtime just to “prove your loyalty”. But if you get a chance to do something awesome, don’t throw it away just because it’s 5 PM.
A thing I wrote
Before becoming a Team Lead, I hired a VA to train my delegation muscle. It has taught me to let go of micromanaging tendencies. It paid off for my Team and my Family.
Interesting things from around the web
The Most Precious Resource is Agency
Simon Sarris has articulated one of my talking points much better than I ever could: The school teaches children to be passive consumers of life.
We seem to have a political (public) imagination so shallow that it cannot conceive of what to even do with children, especially smart children. We fail to properly respect them all the way through adolescence, so we have engineered them to be useless in the interim.
But it does not have to be this way. In fact, we can teach them BOTH agency, and knowledge from the curriculum:
The secret of the world is that it is a very malleable place, we must be sure that people learn this, and never forget the order: Learning is naturally the consequence of doing.
Thanks to the Internet, you can undo years of school trauma today:
You don’t have to wait for professionals to tell you how to make stuff, you can just make stuff. Start typing
Owner of Gail.com refuses to sell the domain to typosquatters
Typosquatters register domains similar to known, existing ones hoping that somebody misspells the address and end up on their site instead.
The owner of Gail.com received the domain from her husband, and it turns out many people end up there instead of gmail:
In 2020 this page received a total of 5,950,012 hits, which is an average of 16,257 per day. Looking at just unique hits, we received a total of 1,295,284, for an average of 3,539 unique hits per day. Occasionally, we get Twitter-bombed and may get several tens of thousands of visitors a day. As an example, on July 21st 2020 we received 109,316 hits.
This person, an outstanding Internet citizen refuses to pollute the common good:
Q: Are you interested in monetizing gail.com?
A: No, but thanks for asking.
Q: Don’t you know that you could throw some ads up and make money?
A: Yes, I know, thank you. For those who feel they need more advertising in their life, please have a look at our swanky Electronic Frontier Foundation ad below. If you believe in a free Internet, please consider clicking on the link and donating to the EFF.
Be like the owner of gail.com.
Lego Lost at Sea
On Feb 23rd 1997, nearly 5 million bits of Lego fell into the ocean when a huge wave hit the cargo ship Tokio Express, washing 62 containers overboard. We’re still finding it 24 years later. Among the pieces lost were green dragons, highly prized among beachcombers.
Lego Lost at Sea project documents those findings but has since expanded to all plastic debree washing out on Cornish beaches.
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I write about the psychological and technical aspects of the Internet, focusing on remote work, online economy, and cognitive load. Every monday.