It's About Time 

Balance your checkbook, make dinner, do your laundry, write that novel -- but first, take a minute for yourself.

We've all heard the old adage: "So much time, so little to do." Yeah, right, maybe if you've been marooned on Fantasy Island with Ricardo Montalban granting your every wish while that little guy Tattoo supplies an endless stream of icy tropical drinks. More likely your reality matches that of most Americans -- full, frantic, and fragmented. So where's the flow? Where's the time? And where, oh where, is that icy drink?

You may be thinking that's just how it is, so why complain about things you can't change? But according to local sociologist Ofer Sharon, "Over the past thirty years, American work hours have increased by 163 hours annually -- basically an extra month a year." Not only does Sharon think that's something we need to change, but he's devoting his time to making sure we do. Sharon, whose findings can be read in the published paper, Engineering Overwork: Bell Curve Management at a High-Tech Firm, knows all too well the penalties we pay as individuals and as a society for the imbalance between work time and play.

Appropriately, we caught up with Sharon via e-mail (who has time for personal interviews these days?) to ask him about his research and the Take Back Your Time initiative that spawned Take Back Your Time Day, October 24 throughout the United States and Canada. Sharon pointed out that "we have a crisis of rising work hours," surpassing the Japanese in 1999 and clobbering Europe with nearly 350 more work hours per year. "Behind these numbers," he adds, "are lives spent rushing, always racing to cross the next thing off the list of things to do but only having five new things pop up." Sound familiar? He continues to explain that while some theorists blame our insatiable appetite for consumption, he believes it's our need to be respected by colleagues and not to be perceived as ne'er-do-wells.

The question remains: What can we do to combat the daily time constraints we're faced with and spend more quality time with our family, friends, and ourselves? Take Back Your Time, in addition to acting as a platform for concerned citizens and providing resources for starting your own "Time" group, lists a legislative agenda on its Web site consisting of a few modest proposals to get you started. Among them: make election day a national holiday, enact three weeks' minimum annual paid leave for all workers, and place a cap on mandatory overtime. Or in the tradition of the Bay Area and its love of the grassroots solution: find smaller, simpler ways. Take batting practice with your alarm clock; burn the to-do scroll; take a long walk through East Bay Regional Parks with the family; have lazy, languid sex all day long; or make your own ice cream and don't do anything else until it's done. There are numerous ways to escape the giant treadmill. Just ask San Francisco resident and Time member Stan King, who couldn't be bothered commenting for this article because he was taking off for a nine-day solo bike tour to Southern California. We could all learn a thing or two from Stan. Info:


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