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Time: It’s All We’ve Got

I was reading a blog the other day (Aunt Toby reads far, far too many blogs) and the writer was discussing the fact that her hours at work had been cut back to 4 days a week. She did not discuss what that was going to mean to her family in terms of the change in income, but what else she might do with the time.

And it reminded me that there are certain truths to life and one of them is the old saw about ‘Time is the currency of our lives’. All we have is time. All we sell, no matter what our skills are, is time. We only have 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week. And we only have a certain amount of that during which we not only want to work, but can physically work. So, therefore, time IS money. We even use the same sorts of language with regard to time as we do to money: Spending money…spending time. Saving money..saving time. Wasting money…wasting time. Investing money..investing time. Time really does, to a certain extent, equal money.

But the question comes back around to this: What if YOU were called in and told that the amount of time that they’d pay you for at your current job has now been cut by 20% — you now have a whole day to do anything you want to do. What would you do with that?

Now, a lot of people are so stressed in their work lives that if they were offered an official ‘three day weekend’ every single week, they’d dance a jig for joy. I’m not sure when they woke up the second or third time, though, if they’d know what to do with that time other than watch tv, mow the lawn or cruise the internet. But one day a week to do with as we wish – a real gift. What would I do with that?

If I worked in a place where the benefits included education or training – I’d use my time and take advantage of that benefit now. I still would have my job, albeit at a reduced salary or number of hours, but if I could still take advantage of the benefit, I’d look at the economy, my employer, my place at my employer and ask myself the following question: “What’s the one thing I can improve in my background or skills that when the economy turns around again(and it will do that, trust me), I will be in a position to be able to present myself as ‘the new and improved ME’?” No matter how bad the economy is, every company has (or should have) some forward plans – find the guardians of those plans and ask them where the company is going to be in the future – where are they going and what skills will be necessary for them to get there? It might be, believe it or not, foreign language skills. Or it might be certain computer programs. Or it might be more strength in the financial end of things. If it’s a manufacturer, it might be a computer program, or computer aided design, or computer programmed robots or some other technical skill. All of these are subjects that I can take advantage of at my local voc tech high school, community college or university and if I can take advantage of educational benefits and now use a more flexible working schedule, then I would definitely take that on.

But perhaps they don’t want me to come to work every day but just leave early (and there are some issues with this that I’ll discuss in a little bit)? What if they only want me to take a day off? Well, then, I’d take Fridays off and look for a program that works on weekends.

What else could I do with my time? What if I look at my company and the economy and feel that even with a turnaround in the economy, it and my place in the company is still a problem?

Well, then with a day a week at my disposal, I’d start looking at:

— Contacting people in other more likely industries and getting informational interviews (“I’m thinking about going into the xxxxx industry? Is there anyone who has a half hour to talk to me about opportunities?”)
— Contacting people and rebuilding my networking because no one is at the top of their game in terms of that.
— Contacting people and asking them about how their companies are doing. I still have a job, but it is always really good to know what is going on in my backyard and letting people know that I’m interested in what THEY are doing. You never know what direction a local company is going in – they might just have been bought by someone else; they might be going into new products or processes. Information is personal power. Don’t forget that.

Let’s suppose that I’m of an age that I’m not thinking particularly energetically. Perhaps I am thinking about using that time for more volunteer things. There is not one organization in my community that can’t use skills and time. If nothing else, I’d take the day and offer it to my local school district to help kids with their reading and elementary arithmetic skills, or I could arrange to take them on field biology walks. The schools butt up on a reservoir and I do have some field botany experience and knowledge – I’d be more than happy to take a group of kids out and do some collecting, plant pressing and drying, mounting, and so on.

But lastly, something I’d think about is this: Leave early every day (or the other side of it, coming in 1.5 hours later every day) or take a whole day?

I’ve had experiences ‘working half time’ and I can tell you this – first, I never actually got to work only half time. Invariably, I got a call just before I’d have to leave and I’d have to stay later. Or I’d have to go talk to someone. Or something else would happen. I have got to work a four hour day. Working more hours than half time and only getting paid for half time turns you into someone who is working for less and less on an hourly basis. That’s one of those ‘slit my throat when I look in the mirror’ things. Do not do that. Secondly, if you take the one day and smooth that over the entire five day workweek, you still have travel, clothing, eating, etc. costs on every day. So, YOU still have all the same expenses you had before; you just have less income to pay for them.

So, if you are offered this sort of thing (that is, we are cutting your hours) – take all of it as a lump – a half a day on Friday or a whole day of Friday (or, Monday – take your pick, but don’t take a day during the week).

And USE that time for YOU.
(photo courtesy of badboy69)

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