Ep. 30 – Feeding Our Time Hunger
Three themes connected to time, which either affect or support being more intentional with how we use our time. They are Time Poverty, Protective Capacity, and the Theocracy of Work.
Season 5 is about Intentional Productivity. What it is and how it can help us work and live better. This is the season finale episode, but it won’t be the last time I cover intentional productivity, because I’m writing a book about it.
Any resources referenced in the episode are listed below the transcript.
Creating Cadence Transcript – Ep. 30
If you’ve ever felt stressed about a lack of time to do what needs doing, then you’re not alone.
The majority of people working today experience time poverty to the detriment of their wellbeing and relationships. But much of this is not our own doing, it’s the system we work in.
In this episode I’m looking at three themes connected to time, which either affect or support being more intentional with how we use our time.
Hi and welcome, this is Creating Cadence – a podcast for life and work in motion.
I’m your host Mich Bondesio, a writer, coach, consultant, and the founder of Growth Sessions.
And this is episode 30, the final episode of Season 5 of the podcast, recorded in late April 2022. For the last episode I was still recovering from Covid. After three weeks, that is thankfully behind me and so I’m ready to build momentum again.
So, this season I’ve focused on the concept of Intentional Productivity, which is a phrase I coined 4 years ago when I first started this work as part of my Growth Sessions platform.
So far, we’ve covered a variety of things which influence our ability to do good work in a more mindful way.
And, although this is the last episode in the season, it’s not the last episode about Intentional Productivity. There’s still so much to say on this topic and that’s why I’m also currently writing a book about it.
In the last episode (episode 29), I spoke about the importance of creating space and the positive impact this can have on our time, attention, creativity and productivity.
In this episode, I’m looking at three themes related to things which either affect or support being more intentional with how we use our time.
The first is the dichotomy of time poverty vs time affluence. I’ll reference some suggestions about how we can find more of the right kind of time in our days. So that we don’t feel so time-starved all the time.
The second idea I’m exploring is about ring-fencing our time to protect our capacity. It’s one of those fundamentals that supports both our wellbeing and productivity immensely, if we incorporate it into our systems of work.
I’ll also be looking at a phenomenon known as the “theocracy of work” which relates to techniques which large tech organisations are employing to encourage work to become the highest form of fulfilment for their employees. Unfortunately, to the detriment of other things in their lives.
And even if you don’t work for a big organization, which many of my listeners don’t, there are shades of this behaviour in every industry, which carry over into our own approach to work, so there are things we can learn from it.
Links to the resources referenced in this episode are shared in the transcript which you can find at creatingcadence.co. And if you want to find out more about these topics and themes, then please sign up to the Cadence – Life & Work in Motion newsletter. You can do so either at creatingcadence.co or at growthsessions.co
So, without further faffing, if you’re ready, let’s dive in.
Recently, I was listening to an episode of the 10% Happier Podcast with Dan Harris, where he interviews a behavioural scientist named Ashley Whillans, who at the time had just written a book called Time Smart.
It’s a fascinating listen because Ashley revealed some interesting research findings around our typical behaviours when it comes to time.
We sabotage our use of time, partly because we don’t know how to manage it with intention. But, also because we’ve become incentivized by our businesses and organisations to work constantly. (and I talk more about this in the final part of the episode).
So, when all we do is work more, this results in a sense of time poverty, because every second of our day feels rammed.
Ashley suggested three ways that we could gain time to potentially move from being time starved to more time affluent.
The first is Funding Time, where we pay money for someone else, or something else, to take the time it would take us to do something. Throwing money at the problem is often something we are reluctant to do. And it shows just how little we value our own time, when we aren’t prepared to pay for it.
The second way is Finding Time, where we seek out the fragments of time that go missing in our day to day. This time loss is most typically caused by our tech use and being connected online. Examples of this could be getting distracted by social media at the wrong time, or stuck down an email rabbit hole when you have more critical work tasks to do.
Once we’ve identified where that lost time goes, the aim is to consider ways we can better use that time to actively disengage, so we can recapture that time to enjoy in another way offline. But this isn’t just about considering that time, it’s about putting it into practice.
Ashley’s third suggestion is about Reframing Time, which can help us feel better, when we feel conflicted by the time it takes to do things we dislike doing, like drudge work or boring tasks.
Now reframing is a popular and effective method of transforming our thoughts and it can be used in any setting.
But it’s interesting to see Ashley reference it in relation to time use. Especially since she also recommends (based on research findings) that we elevate the time we spend away from work (such as our weekends) to a much higher status.
She suggests making time away from the console feel special and more important than how many of us currently treat this time. Because so many of us see taking time away from work as a barrier preventing us from getting more done.
When in fact it’s the opposite. That time away is what regenerates us and supports us to work better, be more productive and get more done.
But, just a note here, I actually rail against that idea of getting more done. Intentional Productivity is about doing better, not doing more. It’s about being able to produce your best, not your most.
This unhealthy perspective we have around needing to work more, and do more, is so deeply ingrained through traditional work norms and it’s squeezing every last drop of time, energy and joy we have from our days.
Now, I realise that some of you may already be in the position where you are able to have a more autonomous work life that gives you the freedom to design how you work and when you work.
I, for one, am fortunate to have a degree of that autonomy, which I’ve been intentionally developing for the last four years. But it’s still very much a work in progress and there are still many days when my time feels out of my control.
So I appreciate that some of you might not be there yet.
Even if you are an employee, you can help to start creating momentum and making change in your organisation around how time is used, by talking about these things.
So give some thought to how you can reframe rest and reclaim time. The shift from unhealthy to healthy work cultures starts with our own habits.
We need to reclaim our time. And to do that we have to become more intentional, and we have to create boundaries and respect our time, before others will start to respect it.
Which brings me to the next concept I want to talk about, which is Protective Capacity.
I first heard this term Protective Capacity when I listened to an audiobook version of “Fix This Next”, a business book by the prolific author Mike Michalowicz.
To quote Mike, “getting shit done faster is not productivity”. He talks about how when we achieve higher levels of productivity without strong foundations around organisational efficiency, we end up doing more unnecessary work and get caught up in vicious, stressful, exhausting cycles.
And then we become the bottleneck to being effective in our businesses.
The idea around protective capacity is about creating a buffer. For many of people their day is loaded from start to finish, so they are maxed out on delivering things, being in meetings, and fighting fires with no spare time to breathe. So if the shit hits the fan something else has to give, and guess what that is, it’s their leisure time, or their quality time with family, or their time to do some exercise.
Instead, Mike recommends, and I fully agree with him, that we create spaces in our day, that provide spare bandwidth for fighting fires when we have to. But that we can use for creative thinking time, or resting our brain when not needed.
This idea of creating purposeful, ring-fenced time is something that Ashley Whillans, who I mentioned previously, also talks about it. The research shows that this breathing space reduces our stress and makes us more effective at the other tasks we need to do in our day.
And yet how many people do I know, myself sometimes included, whose days run away. So think about how you can insert spare pockets of time in your day. Time that is not taking up by meetings, so that you can deal with other things that might crop up in your day.
Before we get to the final part of this episode, a quick word about sponsorship …
The Creating Cadence podcast is an accompaniment to my work, and it’s where I explore topics like digital wellness, intentional productivity, emerging technologies and the future of work.
It’s not yet sponsored, so the cost of my time in making the show is currently covered by lovely listener donations.
You can support too with a one-off or ongoing contribution that costs the same as a cup of coffee or a good book. You’ll find ‘creatingcadence’ (all one word) on both the “Patreon.com” and “BuyMeACoffee.com” platforms.
And, if you’re a potential sponsor listening in and you think what you do or make would connect well with me and my listeners, then please do get in touch at email@example.com.
Now back to normal programming… where I’m talking about alpha organisations, the theocracy of work and the detrimental side effects of corporate maternalism.
According to Professor Carolyn Chen – a sociologist at Berkeley, University of California – there is a social cost to what she calls “Techtopia,” a society where work is the highest form of fulfilment.”
In her recent book “Work, Pray, Code: When Work Becomes Religion in Silicon Valley”, Carolyn’s research findings reveal that professionals are looking to their work to meet their spiritual, emotional and social needs.
And this is being leveraged by large organisations, especially tech companies, that are using holistic practices and spiritual concepts, and flexible incentives to optimise productivity and ensure people devote more of their lives to work. Ultimately leading to the theocracy of work.
To me, on the one hand this sounds positive, the good is that it encourages healthy living and working and creates a sense of purpose for employees. But on the other, it’s truly frightening, as the purpose behind this incentivization aka indoctrination is less than angelic, as the primary motivation is essentially to ensure more bums on seats for longer (and by longer I mean 24/7).
My first thought is of Google, whose workplace campuses are renowned / notorious for having everything you need on hand at work, so that you don’t need to go home. And working there has often been likened to being part of a cult.
Google’s new London Campus, which at the time of recording is being built at Kings Cross, will house 7000 people, with a host of amenities to make them all feel at home at work. I hope to god they get to go home or explore their city and do things outside of work too.
In a Princeton University Press article, Carolyn highlights how challenging it is to achieve better balance and time management in environments where, and I quote, “the entire economy of social, spiritual and material rewards is organised around work.”
And she continues “When a society’s social, material, and spiritual rewards are monopolized by work, those who don’t have the right skills, education, age, and race get locked out from living “productive,” “fulfilling,” and “meaningful” lives.”
When cultivating these all encompassing work communities, there is a danger that they replace the role of other communities in our lives. When our work community monopolises our time to the detriment of others, that diminishes the time and energy we have for our other communities, like family and friends.
Now when you have a family it might be easier to make that distinction and create that separation to seek connection outside of work. But especially if you’re in the early stages of your career, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle culture.
Social relationships both inside and outside of work form part of the bedrock that supports our health and wellbeing. If all our connection is via work there is an imbalance. And if all we are doing is work, that tips the scale completely.
The current statistics around loneliness, depression and burnout are shocking, and becoming isolated by our work is just contributing to that.
In a recent collection created for Pocket (which is an online article curation service), the writer Rachel Hislop, focused specifically on how the grind culture is failing women.
She noted, and I quote “that burnout is not only about work, it’s about the flaws in our approach to work and the low value our full lives hold in the scheme of capitalism.”
Rachel also references the complex battles that women face dealing with issues that overlay capitalism, such as the gender pay gap, rights around healthcare, racism, sexism, and misogyny. She cites these exact reasons for why many women have not returned to the workplace after the pandemic, and how many others are considering exploring what a life of ease might look like as an alternative to relentless ambition.
To understand what she means by ease, I’ll quote Rachel:
“Leaning into ease isn’t about laziness or a refusal of productivity. It’s simply a rallying cry to attempt to center something new: Ourselves. It’s an admittance that we are not armed by society to thrive without sacrificing our wellness. Ease doesn’t always look like quitting or complacency. It looks like a profound reimagining of who the systems we exist in are built for and a radical re-examination of rest.”
Now if the role of the patriarchy in contributing to the burnout epidemic is of interest to you, then I also highly recommend reading the book “Burnout – The Secrets to Unlocking the Stress Cycle” by Emily and Emilia Nagoski.
So, like you, my work is important to me and it takes up a big chunk of my available time.
And while I think it’s important to be able to do work that is meaningful and has a sense of purpose, I think it’s even more important to remember that work is not the only thing that gives our lives meaning and purpose.
I learned that the hard way through my own epic burnout experience a few years ago.
We need family hugs, play time, and good friendships, and hobbies, side projects and creative and physical pursuits, as well as time reconnecting with our place and true role in nature.
And we need time and space for rest, to recover and restore our energies, so that we can also follow economic pursuits on our work days.
The bottom line is that it’s ALL of these facets of our lives that help to build our strength of character, to make our personality more rounded, and to build our resilience through experience.
It’s all these things that bring depth and interest into our lives. And we can’t do all of that and become our better selves stuck behind four walls in front of a screen.
And that’s why, although being productive activates more potential and enables us to get things done, and is a key business metric, it’s more important to learn to be productive with intentionality than to just be productive.
Which is why we need to revolutionize how we work, so that as individuals, (irrespective of whether we work for ourselves or others), we can have more control over how we design our days. And our work and work places can become more inclusive and supportive. This is how we all become more effective at doing our work.
The old way of working is broken. We are not all working in a factory setting anymore, and we don’t have to adhere to defaults that no longer serve our modern needs. We don’t have to let this happen to us.
And time is short. There’s a lot happening in the world and we don’t know how much longer we have to live the life we dream of.
So why waste any more time….
How can you work in ways that bring more meaning, not just to the work, but to your larger life. In a way that supports your health, and creates the space and frees up the time for you to also engage fully in the other important parts of your life that don’t need to involve work.
This is what Creating Cadence is all about. Developing healthy behaviours and practising supportive skills that enable us to create momentum, work with purpose and live with intention.
So that we can embrace ways to live enriching lives in full colour.
Thanks for listening. Until next time, be brave in making change, be open to new things and keep moving forwards, one step at a time.
Bye for now.
Mike Michalowicz – Business author focused on entrepreneurship.
Ashley Whillans – Behavioural Scientist at Harvard Business School
- A New Way To Think About Your Time
- 3 Rules for Better Work Life Balance – Ted The Way We Work Series –
“It’s not just burnout” How Grind Culture Failed Women – Rachel Hislop
Burnout – The Secrets to Unlocking the Stress Cycle
- https://www.burnoutbook.net/ Emily and Emilia Nagoski
Prof. Carolyn Chen – Sociologist, University of California, Berkeley
Google London Campus