Today’s Solutions: October 17, 2021

Marco Visscher | October 2006 issue
“It’s important to be lazy”
I don’t have time to be lazy!
Al Gini: “You’re not alone. We work 50 to 60 hours a week. We have been seduced by the idea that all work is good and leads to success. This work ethic is an invention of factory owners and managers. We bought that myth, we’ve gotten used to it and now we’re addicted to it.”
But we work less now than ever before, with shorter work weeks.
“That’s not true. The Roman Empire had 189 feast days in a year. Even in medieval Europe, peasants worked only 20 days a month. Except for the Industrial Revolution, when sweatshops took off, we never worked so hard as we do today. Officially, we have a 40-hour workweek, but all surveys show we actually work at least 50 hours a week—whether we’re white-collar workers, or blue-collar workers. But I don’t want my brain surgeon to be working for 11 hours before I get to be his next patient.”
Okay, so we work hard. But the economy grows and we live healthier lives.
“I doubt whether the exhaustion everyone is complaining about is helpful to our health, but the main problem is the diminishing of self: We don’t grow ourselves anymore. We’re so busy doing that we forget to be. We don’t have time to reflect or to contemplate.”
What about all the people now seeking personal growth?
“Listen, I used to be a hippie and I ended up working much harder than my parents did. That should sound pretty familiar to a lot of people.”
How can we slow down?
“We have to say ‘no’ sometimes. We have to get our priorities right and make decisions. What do we have to do? What do we need to do? What do we want to do? It will make life much more pleasurable. Usually, a first heart attack gives us permission to slow down and spend time with our grandchildren and do things we really enjoy. But why would we wait for the heart attack?”
Al Gini is professor of business ethics at Loyola University Chicago and author of The Importance of Being Lazy (Routledge, 2003), among other books. His latest book is Why It’s Hard to Be Good (Routledge, 2005).

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