Make your life more productive: Work less (in the winter)

We were working together at a coffee shop a few weeks ago, my friend and I, and suddenly we realized the sun was all too near the horizon. It was 3:30 p.m., and we both began to gather our things, ready to head home and make dinner, mourning summer -- when 3:30 would have been the hottest hour of the day. It was then that I broached my idea for a revolution in worldwide productivity: change the way the work week, works.

What if we were to work hours that fit how our bodies respond to the seasons: 6-hour days in the dark of winter; 10-hour days in the long, bright hours of summer? I never mind sitting at my computer until 6 or later in June, when I know that I can still garden for an hour after making supper for my kids; we can kick the ball around while we water. Not so in November, when I start thinking about bedtime at 4:30, wiping out my effectiveness for the rest of the day.

In a piece on the evolution of the weekend on (appropriately) Weekend America on NPR, Krissy Clark explains that it wasn't until the Industrial Revolution that people started becoming tied to the clock. Before then, you rose at sunrise to tend to the farm duties, starting dinner an hour before sunset and heading to bed shortly thereafter. There was no weekend, no alarm clock. The eight-to-five schedule is a thing for the convenience of the machines in a factory; not the people.

Now that our industry is "knowledge-based" and many workers are remote, wouldn't it make sense to return to the natural rhythms that make our bodies work best?

Consult any physician on the planet and he'll tell you that makes sense; depression is so prevalent in the winter there's a name for it. I know I woud be less depressed if I wasn't always worried about trying to fit in my work day with my family life, and failing miserably. In the summer, everything fits. I'm brilliant and a workaholic; in the last days of November, I start wondering if I can escape my computer come mid-afternoon.

The weekend might have been the invention of the early 20th century. Why can't we make another giant leap for labor and cast off the season-blind rigidity of the Industrial Revolution? It's about time.


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