March 2, 2013

"A typical workday begins with the alarm clock. You shower, dress, eat and leave the house."

"You walk, drive, bike or train in to work; you chat with your co-workers; you stress over your to-do list; you meet with your boss or underlings; you sit at your desk and stare into the screen. Before you get home, you’ve probably also eaten lunch, run errands, hit the gym or the basketball court, and perhaps visited a friend or a relative."

That's the first paragraph of an article about the problems of retirement. (What happens when you lose all that structure and stress?) But I found that description of the "typical workday" implausible. Even assuming the typical worker has a desk job, I find it hard to believe that on a typical day, a working person slots in exercise, errands, and social calls on the same day.

This narrative of busyness and stress... is that what life is really like?

You know, back in the 1950s and 60s, you would constantly read about the problem of excessive leisure time. In the modern world — with automation and so forth — people would have so much free time it would be a problem. Are we living in the solution to that problem? Who imposed that solution and how?

48 comments:

Rose said...

The ones who hit the gym... 1%.if they're lucky.

AllenS said...

One question, how many commenters comment from work? Where I used to work, that would have been impossible.

Surfed said...

Retirement next year. Plan of action. Wake up and check the surf via web cam. If there's a swell hit the water for a sesh. If not check the wind and go out for a sail. After lunch, look on the art table for whatever commision has been taken (USS Constitution, et al) table. Then a little siesta (possible side action with the sig other) and then maybe start planning for my next world surf excursion on the cheap (Ecuador, Nicaragua, etc.). Maybe comment on Althouse (it's the only blogspot I give it up on) and start cooking dinner for us. Love to cook. Then it's off to live music somewwhere in the city whether it's Sam Pacetti (Youtube him NOW) or, like last night, Hall & Oates (side query - Just what does John Oates do?). Hit the rack and turn on "UpStairs/Downstairs (vastly superior to Downton Abbey)on the Roku box. Put on the snore strips and hit the lights. Wash, rinse, repeat rinse.

MTN said...

Great post. I certainly have less leisure time than my parents had. It's all about work and kid activities. I don't exercise every day (~4x/week) but my wife does (sometimes twice), plus she runs errands, checks homework, etc. Some people do live the way described. Not that we enjoy it. I suspect many people in less affluent countries live much more satisfying lives. Whose fault? As adults, I think we have to take responsibility for our own actions and decisions but social trends do exert force.

edutcher said...

You need interests, things to do.

You can sleep to noon, if you like, but you have to have things to occupy your mind - hobbies, travel, your own business, volunteering.

Listening to your arteries harden.

Ann Althouse

Who imposed that solution and how?

That has a nice statist sound.

And nobody can impose it (although it sounds like something I-am-not-a-Dictator Zero and Big Sis with the Civilian Defense Corpse or the Silver-Haired Angel of Death with her death panels would enjoy doing), you have to make your own answer.

pm317 said...

is that what life is really like?

Yes! and I am loving every minute of it. You academics should try it -- at least the 99%ers who feed off of the 1%ers trough and still think they are relevant.. get out in the world and enjoy life to the fullest. My day starts with a beautiful commute, along the river and it is so enchanting to look at the water in all its moods, reflecting lights depending on the time of day, exciting and sometimes anxious work and pleasant chats with co-workers and strangers during the day, come home to a nice dinner cooked by my lovely husband, some TV, and sleep. It is uncanny how friendly the outside world is from the bubble of academia.. I have been in "top school" environs where everybody has their nose up in the air and no friendly smiles let alone chats, as if that would make them less significant and not the big shots they think they are that you think you have to act that way too to keep your place in the bubble. Now I am free from such bondage -- as I walk around, people look at me expectantly, to a say a nice friendly hello, talk about the weather.. I look at the window washer hanging from his rope and smile and wave or talk about the annoying lift lady who says annoyingly "going down (or up)" and comment on her to fellow passengers and everybody laughs..that is my everyday!

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

is that what life is really like?

National Lampoon Radio Hour, early 1970's, making fun of Patty Hearst:

PH: "Growing up in Hillsborough, I had no idea that some people had only one house, and no horses."

bagoh20 said...

Sounds pretty accurate to me. Maybe not all those things every day, but most of them. I've noticed that I long for a day with nothing to do and and empty schedule, but at the end of a very busy day I feel best and most satisfied. Unbusy days are the least satisfying. It something I'm now sure about, but that doesn't change a thing. I still long for free time, and imagine I'll enjoy it. As soon as I get it, I look for ways to get busy and if I fail to find them, I feel I've wasted a day. I think this is genetic. My mother at 80 is unstoppable. She cannot sit still, and is constantly working and busy. If I had a choice I'd choose this, as the opposite is probably a liability.

DADvocate said...

Sounds pretty similar to the work routine where I work. We have a gym on premises for working out plus an outside basketball court and walking trail. Almost no one ever plays basketball. That's for young whipper snappers who don't care if they tear up an ankle for blow out a knee. Been there, done that.

As someone with a M.S. in parks and recreation, we used to hypothesize about increased leisure time and creating opportunities on how to use it. The leisure time never materialized. Rather than people being allowed to do in 4 hours what used to take 8 hours, they're expected to do in 8 hours what used to take 16 hours.

Working in marketing research, we can probably do in a week or two the amount of research that would have taken a year in the 1950s.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Ha. Part of the studies were about retirees in Finland and being depressed. Just BEING in Finland would be depressing.

Being retired now for over 2 years and having been self employed before that where I could choose my hours, I can sing praises to the sky about the lack of stress obtained by freeing myself from the alarm clock. I haven't used an alarm clock in over 8 years, unless I had to go to an especially early event. Rising when I feel like it...waking when the first faint glimmers of sunlight peek over the mountains to the East.....listening to the birds begin chirping announcing the rising sun......gradually and leisurely waking up to a freshly made pot of coffee that had been made with fresh ground beans the night before.....aaaaaah.....

Surfed's day plan is similar to mine. With the exception that my husband's business also requires some actual structured work on my part as bookkeeper, billing clerk, mail box, bank deposits etc. I also love to cook and retirement allows me to be really creative.

I'm going to whore-link to a couple of posts I did on retirement

My early thoughts on retirement one month in

Typical summer day I am in LOVE with retirement.

Joe Schmoe said...

I find it hard to believe that on a typical day, a working person slots in exercise, errands, and social calls on the same day.

Really? We do. I leave the house at 5:30 to hit my gym before work. That way I only have to shower once. Work by 8, yes, at occasional spots throughout the day will chat with coworkers and check email, LinkedIn and Facebook, work until 5:30 or 6 as long as I don't have any evening meetings, home around 6:30, cook dinner for my wife and kids, do homework and bedtime stuff, finish picking up from the day and get stuff ready for the next day (kids backpacks, my gym bag and work clothes, make lunches, etc.), and hopefully be all done with that stuff by 9 p.m. so we can relax, talk, watch a little tv before going to bed around 10:30-11. Oh yeah, and I teach a class at nights on the side during the school year. It's hectic but I'd rather be doing stuff than sitting on the sidelines as an observer.

Sorun said...

I retired around 50. The health benefits are huge: plenty of sleep, time to cook your own food, and time for lots of exercise. However, you have to work at retirement so you don't get bored, both for today and when thinking about how to occupy a few more decades of life.

Eleanor said...

Retirement i wonderful. I don't know how I used to find time to go to work.

Joe Schmoe said...

AllenS, I comment here seldomly from work. I can, but I don't have huge chunks of time, and 100+ comment threads can take 20-30 minutes to read through. My experience with manufacturing companies, high-tech companies, and service companies is that some internet time is allowed (you can't really stop it unless you disable internet in the office), but people shouldn't overdo it and should be discreet. When I walk towards someone and they make a quick move to their keyboard and mouse, it's obvious they are doing something non-work related on the web. Which is fine as long as they are getting their stuff done. Control freak bosses don't succeed anymore, if they ever did.

Aridog said...

AllenS asks ...

... how many commenters comment from work?

Not meeee!! I retired and joined the 47%...er, well, almost anyway.

No matter....I do miss one aspect of the last position I held down, as Chief of an office where everyone had computers. At least once a week my personal entertainment was to go around, after normal hours [on my time & my dime], wiping out the bookmarks, favorites, and shortcuts to bullshit gossip sites, political sites, and game sites I found on subordinates' computers. One guy was a smart enough....and placed his deviant shortcuts in a folder on a server. I found it, set its properties to deny him folder edit access, but allow everyone to read the contents, and renamed it "My Porn Folder." I think he muttered "cocksucker" under his breath when he discovered the modifications. I was rather proud of that.... :-)

Having administrator access can be a joy!

Richard said...

This narrative of busyness and stress... is that what life is really like?

Wow. Are you living in a bubble or what?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

You do have to work at retirement in some ways as well. I don't just sit and knit. One of the traps of retirement is the chance that you will become isolated.

Volunteering in the community is a big deal. Not just because it is worthwhile and needed, but it also keeps you active and in contact with people.

I volunteer as a librarian at our local non profit, private, library several times a month. It is a real kick in the pants to see the little kids come in for story and craft time. Some of them are so serious and excited at the same time. So cute. Lots of people I know come in to get books and we have great conversations.

I am on the Board of Directors for our water/sewer/parks district. Also sit on the Board of a 501-c-3 that we started about 10 years ago. Our current project there is to get funding to help build a therapy and exercise center for the area. We don't have anything like that here. Those take up a lot of time as well. Chamber of Commerce. Joined a knitting group that meets once a month.

Keep busy. Volunteer. Your community needs you and you NEED to be active.

Aridog said...

Joe Schmoe said ...

... which is fine as long as they are getting their stuff done. Control freak bosses don't succeed anymore, if they ever did...

The problem can be twofold: one, when they are NOT getting their work done timely or at all, and two when your organization specifically prohibits it...considering it a potential pathway for malware and or subterfuge.

In the case I cited as my "entertainment" it dealt with those who abused the access they had. As a group my subordinates of those days would probably say I was the opposite of a control freak, because my first order was similar to a doctor's: first, do no harm....which included not doing irrelevant stuff that dropped me in to a bucket of shit in the process.

There were some who felt I didn't interfere enough in their work day. And there was one in that period that I had to fire/separate due abuse of dot-mil eMail system. I had admin access to PC's and servers, but not to the email software or servers....or I might have been able to save the guy from himself. He got 3 or 4 formal warnings....you can assume I got one too for each of his, etc....turds tumble down hill and all that. As it was, I had to deal with the complaints, via Office of Counsel where they were sent initially, as they arrived...always after the fact.

pm317 said...

Oh, no alarm clocks in the morning.. I would hate that. Hurray for flex hours. But I think Chief Yahoo! is right though in asking home-workers to come to office, if there is evidence of slacking and abuse. And the argument I am hearing, just this morning on Fox and Friends that she builds a nursery next to her office and the people at the bottom are whining they don't have that luxury -- well they don't have their ass on line and if she didn't do a good job, they won't have their jobs either -- simple as that.
OMG, I am turning into a bloody capitalist, god forbid, a Republican!

Mel said...

My typical work day really doesn't look like that. I work an office job and most days I squeeze in a brisk walk on my lunch break to relieve stress. I eat breakfast AND lunch at my desk most days. (I spend a lot of time on hold with insurance companies trying to get things like chemotherapy paid for.) I run errands after I get off work and get my kids home from school only when necessary - like banking. Anything that can wait until Saturday does because there is laundry to be done between work and Scouts or sports.
Most of my socializing is with other parents at my kids' various activities.
I don't know who these people are who can hold down a full-time job without having the intelligence to create their own structure after they retire, but they aren't any of the retirees that I know. Especially not my dad, whose life looked a lot like Surfed's comments only with golf and motorcycles before his CHF got really bad last year.

Mel said...

My typical work day really doesn't look like that. I work an office job and most days I squeeze in a brisk walk on my lunch break to relieve stress. I eat breakfast AND lunch at my desk most days. (I spend a lot of time on hold with insurance companies trying to get things like chemotherapy paid for.) I run errands after I get off work and get my kids home from school only when necessary - like banking. Anything that can wait until Saturday does because there is laundry to be done between work and Scouts or sports.
Most of my socializing is with other parents at my kids' various activities.
I don't know who these people are who can hold down a full-time job without having the intelligence to create their own structure after they retire, but they aren't any of the retirees that I know. Especially not my dad, whose life looked a lot like Surfed's comments only with golf and motorcycles before his CHF got really bad last year.

William said...

I have yet to discover a downside to being retired....I think that I'm finally reaching my full potential as a human being in retirement. I have a flair for doing nothing and sleeping late. This is what God intended me to do.

Kelly said...

My parents are approaching 70. They both still work, and are constantly busy. With their energy level, you'd think they were in their forties. My mom does title searches, she's in and out of court houses all day. For valentines day my dad got her a pedometer. Yesterday she walked eight thousand steps, came home and did another two miles on the treadmill.

My dad sold his funeral home several years ago, but he now works for the new owner helping him with several funeral homes. This means he's up at all hours and running between different towns holding funerals.

Both of them are enviably fit. My mom takes one medication for a lifetime seizure disorder, my dad takes heartburn medication. That's it. They go on trips several times a year. No laying around the pool for them. They're up from early morning until night running around, sight seeing, hiking. As a kid, vacations with them were exhausting!

I think there is a lot to be said for not retiring.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

LOL @ pm317

Welcome to the dark side....oooooohooooh (scary Outer Limits music)

Sam L. said...

DBQ, Finns have short overcast days and long cold nights, like the Swedes and Norvegians and Icelanders.

Yup, can be really depressing. Drives many to drink.

Joe Schmoe said...

pm317, I've been following the Yahoo telecommute story this week too. I have a bit of experience with both sides of telecommuting, but too much to say for now. All I'll say is this new cute, perky blonde CEO at Yahoo is getting a lot more leeway in the press and in the court of public opinion than her older, seasoned, tough-as-nails blonde predecessor. Carol Bartz was a highly-accomplished veteran CEO who constantly had to defend her every move. This Marissa chick gets daily tongue-baths. Many pixels were spilt this week in defense of her decision to rescind work-from-home. In a world where appearances still dominate, it's good to be young, pretty and telegenic.

I think my conversion to libertarianism with strains of conservativism began when I got sick of hearing 'don't judge a book by its cover' when I saw much of society judging books almost exclusively by their covers, so to speak.

rhhardin said...

Telecommuters see no change, at least if their job has also been their hobby.

Michael K said...

I retired from Surgery almost 20 years ago. It was after a major back surgery (14 hours) and I had no choice. I'm 75 and still working about three days a week. For about 12 years I was doing review work that was kind of fun and required me to learn a lot of orthopedics. Now, I teach a day a week and do two days examining recruits for the military. That's fun as I enjoy talking to kids. Right now, I'm in Tucson at a house I have here with a partner, of sorts. My schedule is pretty open.

I expect to be working until I can't anymore. It's amazing the number of opportunities that are sent to me every day for part time work as a doctor. The coming shortage is going to be severe. One thing I do not do is interface with insurance or Obamacare. From the complaints I hear, that will be a growing trend.

sydney said...

I don't have time for lunch or exercise. On a good day I can squeeze in breakfast and a cup of coffee- sometimes that means a granola bar and coffee from the doctor's lounge while I look over my patient's stats on the computer before going up to round on them. I spend my lunch time finishing up the morning documentation, returning calls, and reviewing labs. Do it again for an hour to an hour and a half at the end of the day before heading home and spending an hour at mealtime/clean up with the family then either fall asleep on the couch or sit at my laptop reviewing more labs and documents for my patients.

Oh, and once in a while when I feel like I can't stare at one more cholesterol result, I drop by here and make a comment.

Synova said...

All the extreme old-folks in the local ham radio clubs seem to have their events at the crack of dawn... meetings are held with breakfast on a Saturday, check-in radio hours end at 8am, that sort of thing.

Joe said...

Yet another argument for preventing academics from working more than ten years without an intervening ten years in the real world.

Yes, it's like this, only worse. For me it's hell--well paid hell, but still hell. I'm willing to go through it so I can retire.

My coworkers and I live in the world of Dilbert and Office Space.

ken in sc said...

I'm retired but my wife is not. I get up before she does because whoever gets up last has to make up the bed. Well, I sleep in about once a week. I take all day to make up the bed because it just has to be made up before she comes home.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I find it hard to believe that on a typical day, a working person slots in exercise, errands, and social calls on the same day.

You would.

Michael K said...

"I spend my lunch time finishing up the morning documentation"

This is the most common complaint I hear. The new electronic record requirement is a tremendous burden. I used to be a big advocate of EHR but it has become another bureaucratic nightmare. Bureaucracies don't do programming well, including Microsoft.

Eric said...

You know, back in the 1950s and 60s, you would constantly read about the problem of excessive leisure time

Before women entered the work force in large numbers?

From what I can see changing attitudes on child rearing have a lot to do with loss of leisure time for adults. Some time after I grew up as a society we started to expect parents to coordinate the lives of their children instead of just raising them. Little Johnny's every moment has to be filled with stimulating and educational activities, whereas my parents periodically just chased us out of the house with instructions to "go play" and "come home at dinner time".

The funny thing is for all the extra time and money modern parents put into their children I don't see any indication the tots are turning out better.

Christy said...

At the gym before work. Intimate bonding steam room conversations. Lunch with colleagues. Work late, then either play racquetball or volleyball 3 or 4 nights a week, and then out to dinner with friends. On those other nights would be club or committee meetings. Sometimes I felt as though being 30 minutes late would throw off my schedule for the next three weeks.

Retirement has been glorious as a lady who lunches, does book club, does committee work, plans parties, and best of all, sometimes just sits in the rocking chair on the front porch and watch deer in the cove and on the ridge across the way.

sydney said...

Michael K,

So true. This is especially bad for primary care because so little of what we do is easily templatable, unlike a procedure. So much history to enter. So much physical exam points. All unique to each patient and each presenting problem.

Lydia said...

Althouse asks...
You know, back in the 1950s and 60s, you would constantly read about the problem of excessive leisure time. In the modern world — with automation and so forth — people would have so much free time it would be a problem. Are we living in the solution to that problem? Who imposed that solution and how?

The yuppies. Who descended from the preppies, who descended from the Puritans.

It's in our DNA.

Surfed said...

@Mel - You are mistaken sir. Never once in any comment on this thread have I ever mentioned golf or motorcycles. I do not play and I do not ride. Honest mistake. No worries.

pm317 said...

@joe Schmoe This Marissa chick gets daily tongue-baths. Many pixels were spilt this week in defense of her decision to rescind work-from-home. In a world where appearances still dominate, it's good to be young, pretty and telegenic.

It is not all about her pretty face, though that may be part of it. She is ex-google and I bet an Obot -- she is one of them. Though she openly says God, family, Yahoo! in that order.

Ann Althouse said...

Not even much interest in leisure here. Did anyone even take my question seriously?

What brainwashing has happened since the 60s? Really sad.

Aridog said...

Althouse said ...

Not even much interest in leisure here.

I retired, some years subsequent to medical opinion/orders to give up my regular leisure pursuits such as alpine skiing, nordic skiing, equestrian sport and recreation, mechanical tinkering, and some others. Something about the cervical spine and potential to be another Chris Reeves.

Like what I am supposed to do other than what is left for me...reading, museums, working with my dog(s), and socializing with people I'm close to? Otherwise, decent tickets to anything worthwhile cost a fortune, and usually that requires trips to NYC.

Yes, it does piss me off...tough shit.

Did anyone even take my question seriously?

Sure. Nothing I can do about it. Oh, wait...I sky dove while in college, maybe I can do that again like General Tweedle Dee Dempsey?

What brainwashing has happened since the 60s? Really sad.

A.) You work in the academic brainwashing department, even if not a washer yourself, so you should know.

B.) Who the flip did you know in the 60's who had anywhere near too much leisure? What we had was dearly paid for in blood sweat and tears. Maybe it is just me?

David said...

" I find it hard to believe that on a typical day, a working person slots in exercise, errands, and social calls on the same day."

Government union worker.

David said...

Plus most people and especially the stressed get past the need for the alarm clock. They are awake worrying before the clock goes off.

wyo sis said...

Except for going to work daily at a specific job the day described could easily be a day of retirement. Going to the gym, eating lunch, visiting friends, playing ball are all activities that are independent of a job.

EMD said...

Retirement in the previous life usually came in the form of a pine box.

Nini said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nini said...

Sorry for this rather long comments. I hope I answer the questions posed.

Nothing much has changed in my life now that I’m semi-retired ( working part-time) than when I was younger except that I have more free time to do activities that I have always done. Only that my limitation now is the finances.

I'm an early riser, even when I'm not working and hit the bed early in the evening too. When not working, I like doing family stuff, trying new recipes or making my own ice cream, puttering in the garden (I wish to do a bit of vegie gardening in the backyard but having a dog who is fond of digging makes it impossible) and watching local tv and Fox News and CNN. I'm also big on reading. Our family loves travelling, all of us have been to a few countries when our finances were still good but we haven’t travel overseas for a few years now. Situation has now changed. (My son though, who has saved enough from his first job is travelling to Calif and New York in April). We regularly do 1 -2 hours day trips to visit country towns, to sit in a restaurant and watch the world go by, to go bushwalking (hiking) in the mountain or to play with the dog along the beach. We used to do country drives almost twice a month when we were still a complete family. These are the things I did for recreation when I was working full time and still doing now that I’m semi-retired.

I agree with Dadvocate. Compared to the early days, workers who are supposed to be benefited by office automation, for example, I think are doing a more stressful job because, technology are able to track how much work you’ve done or if you have reached the benchmark set for your position, especially in big corporations. I think technology is not making our working lives any less stressful as the corporations are upping the benchmark accordingly as newer technology comes along. Of course big companies spend a lot of money to make the workplace as comfortable and safe to work in. They provide employees with a nice break-out room where they can relax, watch tv, play foosball, make some drink, eat biscuits and fruits provided by the management to make them feel that the corporations care. Of course, however, the evolution of the financial system means corporations have to work harder to give the shareholders the dividends at the end of the year by making you work hard too.

I think given the chance many workers would like to retire earlier but some government regulations would make that hard to do because private pension funds can only be tapped or one be eligible for government pension and health care entitlements when one reaches 65 years old (in Australia). There are plans here to increase the retirement age by 6 months every year from this year. I think the rationale for this is that life expectancy is getting longer because of advances in medicine, and of our overall lifestyle – our home appliances emancipate us from hours of domestic work. I’m 55 now so by the time I am able to retire I’ll be 67. What a drag.