Bear with me, I am about to go on a rant…. I was asked recently what makes me angry about the world. I can sum that up in one word: Regret. No one should reach the end of their journey and experience regret.

When we hear people talk about regret, it often involves family, children, spouses. As in “I regret not spending more time with … “ And we all know about this regret, we are aware it is coming – if we let it. So what is it that we allow to interfere with that time? In my experience, that interference comes most often from one of two places, the first of those two being our job and the second being the stuff we acquire with the money from our job.

I am not at all implying that we all rush out and quit our jobs tomorrow or get rid of all of our things. I am asking you to look at how many hours per week you spend on each of these.
How many hours did you commit to when you accepted that job? (Did you even discuss it?) And how many are you actually working? For too many people I know, that first number is “40” but the second number is closer to “80.” Eighty hours…. double the agreement when the job was accepted. (*If you are not discussing it with your management or in an interview, you should be.) Leaving all of our ‘free time’ for the maintenance of the stuff. Thereby creating the regret of not spending time with the people we love.

Why? And more importantly, who controls this? We each do.

Whenever I ask people that question: “Why?” I get a myriad of answers and excuses, but what I sense is behind all of that is fear. Fear of losing that job and not being able to get a new one.

Fear of not being able to afford the ‘stuff.’

I understand.

I am a single mother with one income, a large house that I love and a child to care for. I have that fear, too. But I am not working for someone else at 11:00 pm. There is no purpose in life if I am spending all my time for someone else’s dream. I have dreams of my own. (One of those dreams is less stuff and a downsized home, but that’s a different rant).

You know what I’ve learned? The person emailing me at 11:00 pm does not want me to reply. Not tonight. They want to go to sleep. But if I respond, they need to read it and we have to dialogue. All while we are both falling asleep. Don’t do it.

Let me tell you something else I have learned.

We – each of us – teach other people how to treat us.

As I write this, I am at the end of a week long vacation. Nine days away from my desk, if you count the weekends too. I have saved for and planned for this vacation for nine months. I did not take my work with me. I didn’t even take my own business that I am building. I took a real, actual vacation. I focused on the present, enjoyed the company of my travel companion, cultivated our relationship, enjoyed time with family and actively participated in the exploration of a new environment.

That’s what it is about. That is the reason I have that job. To have time and funds to do exactly what I did – travel, enjoy my family, enjoy my life.

Before I went on vacation, I made sure that the people who interact with me knew well in advance that I was going to be out. Make sure you are extending this courtesy to the people with whom you work. I have often received an out of office from someone with whom I was working closely on a piece of a project, yet I had no idea they were going to be out of the office. I don’t want to bother them on vacation or wherever they are, but they have the files I need. I can’t do my job because they didn’t extend me a little respect. If you are one of these people, see the earlier comment about teaching people how to treat you. You are forcing people to contact you while you are out because you haven’t allowed them the opportunity to prepare for your absence.

Are you the only one that knows how to do your job? This isn’t job security, I assure you. I have seen many people get downsized or let go. The hole left gets filled in, and often with inaccurate information or processes. You want job security? Teach others how to do what you do. It gives you the added bonus that when you have a sudden illness or want a day off, they don’t need to call you.

Are you wearing multiple hats at work? I often hear about that task or role picked up ‘temporarily’ because someone else left. But rather than replace the person who left, the company leaves the task on the other employee’s desk.

Possibly you don’t mind, for now, because you are learning a new skill or getting quality time with the appropriate people to help move your career forward. All too often, though, this is not the case.

If you are doing the work of multiple people, and your company is letting you, how much money are they saving by not hiring those other people? It doesn’t even matter what they pay you. Even if you are genuinely making the salary of all those people put together, they are still saving taxes, unemployment benefits, health benefits if offered, whatever other types of ‘perks’ they offer.

But what’s the cost to you?

I have known people to lose their spouses, their children, their health. Is what you are doing and how you are doing it worth that? I can’t decide for you, you have to decide. But at least think about it. Sometimes, there are perks to temporarily working this schedule.

This is truly one of the things I am most angry about in the world. That we have allowed ourselves to become terrified that we will lose our jobs if we create appropriate boundaries, demand respect from our employer and from ourselves, and do the jobs we agreed to do when we accepted the position at the company. That we have become afraid to renegotiate as the situation changes. That we have come to value the stuff we buy with the money from those jobs more than we value the people in our lives.

Working the long hours should be the exception – when there’s a new product to deliver, a project nearing completion, a new something ready. It should not be the norm. Create the boundaries for yourself and others that allow you to work to live, not the other way around.
No one, ever, reached the end of their journey and wished for more time at the office. What makes me angry in the world? Regret. Unnecessary regret.

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