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Sunday, 20 March 2016


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I missed the part where you estimated how many hours a week you spend on TOP-related activities... was that 80+?

[No, I'm among the incredibly fortunate few. I probably work 5-7 hours a day. Seven days a week, yes, but then again, I also estimate that the work is fun, interesting, or at least marginally entertaining or involving probably half to 70% of the time. And a small but steady percentage of the time it's genuinely rewarding or satisfying.

Given my habitual lack of focus...my hours could probably be distilled to 3-6 by someone with better powers of concentration who was more organized. Another factor—when I do the exact same things a lot of you do while "playing," I'm "working."

Don't think I don't know how good I have it. I've done the corporate thing, and I've done the freelance thing, I've done the "under"-employed thing, and I've done the chronically UNemployed thing. I know how it is and what it's like out there, or at least I have an idea. --Mike]

Dear Mike
Rarely I can read a so well written article concerning the poor quality of our present way of live. Time is our most precious resource and we spoil it in useless activities. I have learnt to select and follow only valuable sites, like TOP. I don't care of others, I look to them and go further.
Maybe am I too old? Lol

While I agree with your analysis I'd add one more factor, The FLOOD of information that accompanied the digital age. When I started my administrative job in 1974 we would get all our information in the mail, on paper. I had to read anywhere from a dozen to 4 dozen new directives, policies, etc. a week, usually only a page or two, occasionally as many as 6-8 pages.

Then came email. By teh time I retired I was getting 100-150 emails per day and some of them had attachments, multi-page PDFs of the kind of stuff they used to send by mail. You get burn out on reading after a while. I still get a lot of email as a retired person, stuff asking me to support this or that, buy this or that and yes, even the occasional brief communication from a friend. But here's a tip to all the others: When I'm plowing through the daily deluge, if you don't make it clear to me in the first paragraph or two why I should keep reading, your email is headed for the virtual dustbin. I have more patience with blogs because I use a news reader to sort out which ones I want to bother with but I confess that even then my sense that I'm drowning in information gets to me. Maybe to word flood isn't right. It is more like a tsunami.

You avoid the sad obvious. It's the attention span and thinking skills that have become harbored in near nothingness.

“These days, unions are in steep decline (most of our labor has moved offshore)”

People still labor in the USA, it’s just that we have a service economy now, and service jobs are not unionized the way manufacturing jobs were.

“I've heard tales of Silicon Valley startups offering their workers sleeping accommodations for when they just don't have time to go home and back.”

My neighbor worked on the original “Toy Story” movie. For months I would go to bed with the sound of her car driving into the apartment parking lot, and wake up to the sound of her driving back to work. After the movie was released, she had time to talk about how intense it got there. They provided laundry service on Saturdays - she brought her dirty clothes to work and they would be cleaned while she kept working.

At least she has something to show for all of that work. I think that puts her in the 1 percent category as far as people working what companies like to call “startup culture” hours in the Bay Area. 99 percent of the time it ends up as exploitation.

Robert Owen was an industrialist in Scotland for part of his life, but was indeed Welsh by birth.

Thank God I retired in 1999 before email went crazy and work went 24/7.

I'm sure you are right about many people not having time to read longer pieces. But work is only partly to blame. We live in a time of ever-present and easily consumed entertainment and connection. The sheer mass of connection points has exploded beyond print, telephones, mail, television and recorded music to include all the tools on our mobile devices. Many of these rely on supplying and inviting snippets of information.

We are not only spreading ourselves thinly, but are also becoming trained to accept only that which is in bite-size pieces. Time spent reading beyond a headline or absorbing a photo means time away from the best snippet. In time we lose patience for accepting the challenge of longer articles that demand thought and response rather than simple absorption.

The real challenge may be that we are weakening our ability to investigate, follow our curiosity beyond the headlines or perhaps even to reason and debate.

Unions are needed now more than ever! You can still be exploited, but at least you will be well paid for the excess hours.

Both of my children work 12 hour days. The one who is in a union works four 12 hour days, the one who works a non-union job works five 12 hour days.

I've had union jobs that had five 14 hour days a week, six 14 hour days, and others that were for twelve hours every day. The amount of overtime paid was much more than my base forty hour rate!

Now I'm paying for all the on-the-job time with health issues, all of them caused by the excess hours.

If I'm on the internet I'll be watching Netflix or Amazon Prime. Not reading blogs or Forums, TOP is an exception. My reading time is spent on well written novels (Baldacci, Child. Connelly, Jance, Kellerman, King, Sanford).

My goodness! After having been away for a few days I return to find that you've been holding forth extravagantly on several topics, Mike! No, I've not read all of your essays in full yet. But your fingers must be sore.

Always worth remembering that some countries with stricter limits on working hours (like Germany) have much higher productivity than other similar nations (like the United Kingdom) that have looser (I hesitate to say more liberal) legislation. Making folk work longer hours doesn't automatically mean more output - whatever you define that as.

We have been photographing in France for the last 6 months and, while the time and scenery has been mostly breathtaking, the one thing we have had to get used to (and aren't quite) is the one gets hungry here at 8:00 a.m. and then you're not hungry until noon. Then from 2:00 to 7 p.m. you don't hungry again (unless it's for a baquette).
Then from 7-9 have fun.
Restaurants advertise continues service. It means they are open 7/7. 7 hours a day 7 days a week.
Don't screw with a Frenchman's work day. They get very upset.
Perhaps there is a lesson here.
We will have to adjust when we get home.
mi dos pesos

This post (read immediately following yours) is more or less of equal length, and related content:


I'm not sure it's because people have less time. Not sure what it is. I subscribe to quite a few journals which arrive with a satisfying thud through the letterbox. Maybe they don't qualify as magazines, but they certainly have substantial content. London Review of Books and New York Review of Books among them. These are not just book reviews as anyone familiar with them will know. Both often have art / photography related items that would interest folks who frequent this blog. I find plenty time to read them (on public transport, during coffee breaks etc) despite being part of the modern IT workforce and pretty much fully employed

I think I've mentioned this before on these Comments, but years ago I read a remark from some silicone valley CEO. He said, 'Commitment starts at 100 hours per week.' I used single quotes to denote paraphrasing because I doubt that was the exact quote.

You don't need an MBA or be a rocket scientist to understand why he wanted his employees to think like that. When they start talking about "team" and "commitment" and "passion", it's often a sign that you won't be getting many raises. I worked in IT for 25 years in a previous life and remained in contact with many ex-colleagues from several employers. They are all, every last one, disgusted at the IT industry and regret the time they spent in it. But while we were doing it, coding till midnight and all weekend for 40 hours pay seemed normal. Like we were on a mission. The con worked, I'm not proud to say.

None of the companies that I worked for then exist anymore.

It's actually even worse than you indicate for younger workers. They are indeed expected to work absurd hours (frequently irregular and unpredictable, to make more difficult to interview for a better job); union representation or meaningful retirement benefits are historical curiosities no longer available. But what's especially brutal is the Catch-22 of contemporary employment. A college degree is a prerequisite for most any job with potential for advancement; but college costs have exploded, while aid has been replaced almost completely by loans, frequently at well-above market interest rates. So, many college students are deeply in debt upon graduation, hence unable to afford (say) a home or a reliable car. And, to rub salt in the wounds, bankruptcy law in the U.S. was re-written explicitly to exclude student loan debt, so it will follow students to the grave.
Even well-educated 'fortunate' young workers with nominally excellent jobs are being ruthlessly exploited. For example, Silicon Valley's tech titans have been colluding to keep tech salaries depressed by secretly agreeing not to offer higher salaries to competitors' employees as inducement to change companies. Traditional economics holds that higher demand for skilled workers will lead to higher salaries until a new equilibrium is reached. But Tech companies are also getting around this by importing visa-dependent H-1B workers from Asia, driving incomes down yet again.

I used to look forward to a retirement when I could travel and be creative and spend more time with those I love. Now that I'm there, I look back to when I had the energy! It's a wash.

"Now" is the only time we can count on.

Make the most of it.

with love

If lack of time is the issue, how to explain the growing proliferation of video on the web? Compared to text, video is horribly inefficient at conveying most kinds of information, and is much more difficult to skim for that information or to preview for potential value, or to judge the merits of its content.

More and more often, I find that what sounds like a promising read on line turns out to be in video or audio form, and, more often than not, I decide I can't spare the time.

I think that there's something to both your theory of lack of time vis a vis age and that of lack of focus mentioned in the comments.

But I suggest that more of us older folks simply have more and better reading skills. I'm not talking about basic comprehension and vocabulary, but things like the ability to quickly assess and navigate a text's form and style, and approach it in an active, critical way. The skills needed to deal with longer, richer pieces of writing, in other words.

On the other hand, it takes far less skill and effort to just watch a video, to immerse oneself in it and despite distractions, and to engage with it, even if that's primarily on a visceral and emotional level. But it takes more time, compared to reading well. So where's that time coming from?

P.S. I don't think you're alone in feeling less focused than you'd like to be when working, Mike. I think that's the biggest problem of all these days, for many of us, and not just regarding work.

At the peak (trough?) a person writing a book about my workplace quoted me without attribution.....

"Wasn't sure what he was - rich because he owned a lovely house on Lake WA, or homless poor because he often slept on the hard floor of his office..."

That was me. It paid really really well in the end, I don't think there's much else to recommend that kind of time management though.

There is another point - for a great deal of what is written about in magazines and blogs, most readers already know a great deal of it.

So often, what I'm reading for is the 3 sentences that point to a book or paper or scholar or artist I've not heard of, or some direct comparison of devices I've not seen before, or some comment on history different from what I already know.

In other words, unless the field is really new/foreign to me, I want *all* authors to get to the point of things I don't already know. Which is of course very hard because what I don't know doesn't match what anybody else doesn't know....

Just a postscript to my previous comment. Most of the IT work I do now is done remotely, with "meetings" etc managed by online services and conference calls etc. I start work about 5-6am - but that's because I'm an early riser. I often still do work late at night. But I don't work continuously and I would reckon still just contribute 8 hours a day. However those 8 hours, spread over, are particularly productive. I think this sort of modern work environment is a godsend. And leaves plenty time for reading. Many IT tasks are problem solving and benefit from being left alone to marinade for a period of time while you change your focus

To add to what Gareth said about Robert Owen being Welsh, he was born and died in Newtown, Montgomeryshire. As you drive into Newtown today, the welcome sign proudly proclaims "A new town since 1279" - an interesting perspective on time and novelty, I think.

I'm in my 30s, have an interesting job and family with small kids. Those and helping with housework take a significant amount of time. On top of that, modern lifestyle has all sorts of distractions and entertainment available: there are numerous social media to check, new, articles etc. Given this, I may read a post here 2-3 days after initial publication and at that point the discussion in the comments has moved on.

To cope with the difficulty of allocating a significant stretch of time for photography, technology can help. I frequently carry a camera with me, one lens to keep things simple and focused and take pictures whenever I have the opportunity. Digital enables me to have a wide shooting envelope in a compact package and skip developing. I can take a phone picture from the same scene and edit it in the phone to capture the mood of the scene quickly, instead of letting the memory fade and change my interpretation.

Incidentally, I recently learned that prints of Ansel Adams' Moonrise over Hernandez change significantly over time whenever he made a reprinting. Off topic, but very telling of how the human mind works.

I worked in computers for years very often leaving home at 6am and getting home again at 9 or 10pm, five or six days a week and working at home if I didn't leave home at the weekend. I made money but the downsides were no social life, IBS and heart palpitations.

I left to try and get a better work / life balance and at my new desk I saw people rushing past my door so I ran out to ask what was going on and the reply was "5pm, we're going home." That was a shock to my system.

I left that job some time ago and now that I don't work for money my life has never been better.

I'd urge anyone pursuing a demanding career by choice to have a long think about what they really want from life.

When I did industrial and commercial electrical installation, it was common to work 10 hour days. It is a physically demanding job, bending and threading conduit all day, pulling in miles of cable, and carrying heavy materials across what was usually a big site.

We finished at six. They should have let us go at five, because we all eased off in the afternoons so that we could last until six, and still be in a fit state to make the journey home, which was seldom close.

I'm not sure how you reconcile this idea with the fact that millions of people seem to have the time to watch entire seasons of TV on Netflix in a week. Or sports on TV. Or anything else on TV for that matter. There is also a decent amount of long form writing on the Internet, the now sadly defunct grantland.com being one example. You could routinely read 10,000 words about almost anything there, which puts a lie to the idea that the Internet is nothing but a cesspool of sound bite literature.

Anyway, I'm pretty lucky. I get to do pretty cool technical (software development) work, for which I am decently compensated, and with no real expectation that the work take over my entire life on a regular basis. Can't ask for too much more.

I've gotta admit that I got outta the rat race when I was 21. That's when I "retired" and became part-time self-employed because even at that tender age I knew I didn't want to work my life away. There's two ways you can go - you can join the majority and work hard to get all the things you can now afford (and not have the time to enjoy them) or you can reduce your "needs" down to a minimum and afford what really matters to you. So I'm time rich and asset poor, yet can still afford to have a great camera and computer, travel etc. I also chose to not have kids...

Since I wrote about it in college, I've been saying there are precious few "labor-saving" devices, because if you can do eight hours of work in four hours, your boss will just have you do sixteen hours of work in eight.

One of the interesting bits that stuck in my mind from a long-ago college course in "American Intellectual History" is that *nobody* had a problem with women working outside the house before the rise of the labor movement. One of the largest categories of work back then was "servants," and anyone middle-class or above was likely to them. (Mostly unmarried women.) But we've all seen classic photos of women and young girls working in cotton mills, and that was not at all unusual. The labor movement, however, wanted to push women out of factories as a way to make labor more pricey, which would provide a living wage for those who did work...in other words, eliminate lower-priced competition. The underlying idea was to make it possible for a single working man to support a family. The stay-at-home wife became a marker of middle-class status in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, until the feminist revolt came along, which turned the idea on its head -- working women became a marker of equality and upper- and middle-class status.

Should be noted, though, that this didn't much affect farm women. Most of America was rural in the mid-nineteenth century, and "women's work" on a farm was in no way disdained, and in fact, was critical. A farm couldn't make it unless the wife worked full time; that pretty much continues right up to the present time, although the focus of the work has changed. Just like all American women, farm women got in-house labor saving devices, and so moved some of their time to out-of-house work -- either in regular jobs, or running the big machinery on their farms. Automation has now made it possible for a 100-pound farm wife to cut, rake, bale and stack hay...

I believe with a proper reform movement, the labor movement could again become important in the U.S., but I'm not sanguine about the prospects of reform. In Germany, for example, there are usually union representatives on major companies' boards of directors, and they are there to see that both the workers and the company are taken care of. (The German unions decided long ago that driving a company into the ground was not good for jobs.) In the U.S., the the auto industry, for example, the unions and the management made an implicit and (IMHO) corrupt deal...we'll give you labor peace for unsustainable wages and benefits, and you can take salaries as large as you want without objection. That worked until the postwar Japanese and Germans came along with better cars. No reason that Americans couldn't build cars just as good or better, but those cars would cost too much given the wage/management pay structure. So, they made the cars cheaper and cheaper and the quality got worse and worse, and eventually lost it all.

I have worked 12+ hours days so for so long, an 8 hour day seems like a short, easy day. Oddly, though I work so many hours, most of it is non-productive, wasted time. I could easily finish in 8 hours or less. This, however, is the norm in Tokyo. The only thing I need not worry about is having to hang around until my boss thinks it is time for him to go home---something many Japanese have to do. (And I don't give "service time," overtime without pay. Took a lot to get the message I work, you pay across.)

Despite that, I still have time to read longer articles, longer TOP posts. Just don't have time to comment all that often.

But today is a holiday so I do have extra time to go out to photograph. Extra time I have 'cause my gal has to work.

I really do only work 8 hours a week, but that doesn't mean I have a lot of spare time. My 4 1/2 year old boy occupies most of the rest of my time, and, unfortunately, he's not a fan of my photography hobby. Therefore, reading your blog (and a couple others) IS my photography hobby--at least until kiddo gets older. Before he was born I did work 60+ hours a week--and I had time for hobbies. Go figure.

My wife is a registered nurse. She took the last eight years off to help raise our daughter. Now that our daughter is a little older and more self-sufficient my wife decided to ease back into the workplace by waiting tables. In all the job application she's going to she was informed that there was never more than three shifts available. Some of the larger restaurants had as many as 115 waitstaff. They would rotate everybody so that no one could be considered full-time. I'm not sure what my point is exactly other than to say there's another side of the coin . Personally I like working hard . I have a sense of personal satisfaction when I'm working a 12 to 14 hour day on a large project the people are counting on. I don't think I'm the exception to the rule but there does seem to be a sense that people like me are getting a little harder to find in the engineering industry . Just my two cents .

I do not think lack of time is what hampers reading. Most articles that appear even in news papers are not worth reading. They do not have the ability to hold attention or the ability to entertain. Most books do not entertain, leave alone inform. If lack of time is the reason all that would happen is, it would take longer time reading something. Lack of good writing ends in no reading at all. Why waste time reading thrash? One might as well dream!

The people of the United States brought this situation upon themselves because of a vocabulary deficiency. They don't know the word "no."

First, they didn't say "no" to government takover, starting in the 1980s, by those who serve union-hating, labor off-shoring, tax-avoiding corporate masters. The people were deceived into 'thinking' that what was good for companies and company stock was good for them. They failed to recognize that they had a much greater stake as employees than as company stockholders. This applies equally to those working at Silicon Valley startups and 'regular' employees at 'regular' companies. Saying "yes" changed the balance of power. Despite all the talk of "team," labor and capital are in an adversarial relationship. Voting for those who represent the "enemy" couldn't help but create a non-union, off-shored environment.

On an individual level, failure to say "no" to the demands made -- electronic leashes, 'free' overtime, long hours -- was the root cause of those situations you describe. I've been retired for nearly five years, but not from as high-level a position as it could have been were "no" missing from my vocabulary. It wasn't, however, so I stuck out like a sore thumb when leaving on time every day, taking home no work (paper in the old day, laptop or cell phone nearer the end). It was definitely worthwhile; any lack of serenity resulted from personal life situations, not my employers' demands.

Like others, I'm glad to be retired. Despite current political turmoil, I don't see any substantive change occurring during my lifetime. However, the combination of factors you've described and changing demographics makes me confident that someday millenials will restore things back to the way they were before US decline.

I recently attended a photo book publishing event and it was full of geezers in bad hats, vests, cargo pants. I couldn't stand it and had to leave. I told my wife and she said, " you mean geezers like you?" Those gray hairs we used to rail against who control boards and policies, that's us now.
We're here not because we have time but because of what we have accumulated: skill, experience, perspective, and value those who share that. Short shrift is given the poseur or the wanderer down rat holes we've survived or ax grinders or, perhaps the most avoided, the graceless.

It may well be true that people often don't finish long articles on the Web. I admit frequent guilt. But I don't attribute it necessarily to attention deficits or lack of time or to youthfulness. Let's be honest: The Internet is full of unedited blogger gas. Too many online writers, even on prominent news sites, bury the lede and don't get to the damn point. Way too much self aggrandizing fluff. Way too much blah blah. I know I've long established my tolerance levels for wading through such non-nutritive fare and I suspect everyone else has as well. (My own tolerance level is, I've noticed, significantly lower online than on-paper.).

@ Oskar Ojala: "Incidentally, I recently learned that prints of Ansel Adams' Moonrise Hernandez change significantly over time whenever he made a reprinting. Off topic, but very telling of how the human mind works."

There are three versions of this print separated by nearly 20 years. You might not believe it was the same printer; they're that different. The first version is the best known and the best balanced. The third version is what I'd call over-cooked. The midtones are crushed and the whole image has become much more of a blunt force graphic.

As an aside, I've noticed other photographers' tone and color judgements shift, generally for the worse, as they age. Images lose their midtones and become more contrasty, for example. Failing eyesight must play a role but I think that one's judgements can also shift with age.

The Art Institute of Chicago has all three versions of Adams's Moonrise in its collection. If you're visiting Chicago you can call the museum to make an appointment to view them in the Department of Photography for the price of basic museum admission!

The promise of technology has always been that it would provide us all with more leisure time, when the reality is that it creates greater opportunity for all of us to work even more.

But technology is but one of the (smaller) actors at play. After working their way through college, students must now pay off exorbitant tuition loans while looking for non existent jobs and (again) working P/T. And if you are an older worker such as myself who finds themselves unemployed through no fault of their own- god help them. Not everyone can be an entrepreneur, but everyone should be entitled to a living wage for a decent day's work. Jobs are like relationships, nobody needs a third wheel or a union, until it all goes unforseeably sour and you find out just how powerless you can be.

The USA had its most vibrant economy when it was the highest taxed, most unionized and most regulated in history (at least for white workers), it had: free higher ed, one working parent families, regular upward mobility... Instead of extending that model to all, vulture capitalism slowly took hold and the model got rewritten. Yes, there is a plethora of new working models now never before seen- but what has been the end result? CEO's incomes have risen meteorically, while the minimum wage remained near stagnant for decades and a once thriving middle class has been reduced to working longer hours for less pay often at multiple P/T jobs w/o benefits.

Meanwhile, the US now ranks 27th in math. Is it any wonder that so many who are working the most, hurting the most, don't even know who to blame...

Hi Mike,

I enjoy reading your writing and will read 3,000 words if you print it. I just might not get to it the day you publish it, but I will eventually catch-up. Regarding a 40 hour work week ... I have never had the pleasure!


As opposed to the '50s and the Father-Knows-Best culture, not only is it necessary that two people in most families work full time, but the family structure has changed so that grandparents, brothers, sisters and other relatives no longer live within a stone's throw, if not walking distance, to help with raising the kids. Parents with toddlers either have to pay an extraordinary amount for child day-care, or somehow make do with one parent working from home while trying to run the kids to their structured play dates and activities.

Being in my 60's I didn't have that experience, being fortunate enough to be able to afford to have a wife that suspended her career and raised the kids while I worked 12 hour days as a lawyer (still do, but not quite as long a day - still more than 8 hours, and then emails on the phone the rest of the time). And the salaries have, for a large segment of the population, stagnated while expenses have continued to rise. Parents have to worry about $50,000/year college expenses per child, escalating to who-knows-what in the next 10-15 years. It is no surprise that American couples are having less children.

I don't envy the Gen-Xers, Millenials, and whoever comes after. While the Millenials are committed to balancing their lives, many haven't yet had children. There is much palpable frustration and anger in the society. Wealth continues to concentrate in a very small percentage of the populace - see Thomas Piketty's eye-opening book "Capital in the 21st Century" - and the rest gets to work horrific hours while 60% of American families do not have enough savings to sustain three months of job loss, sickness, etc.

And things are unlikely to get better as computers and robotics promise to take over more of the work we do, meaning more people will be competing for less jobs (other, perhaps than those in tech), leading to the continued need to compete by working insane hours. All the while money pours into Washington from banks, big pharma, wall street, etc. Big pharma alone contributed an average of over $56,000 per U.S. Congressperson in 2015 and spent $240M in lobbying. Are we really surprised that Americans have to work longer hours than their European counterparts just to pay far more for medical care than anyone else in the world?

In the meantime, many of us older guys (sorry, but it is mostly "guys") who don't make our livelihoods in the world of photography get to spend our leisure time thinking about art and, yes, our equipment. Nothing wrong with that. But we're fortunate; I don't regret not having been born 25 years later. Something dramatic is likely to happen. At the turn of the 20th Century when capital took excessive advantage of labor it was labor unions, and a lot of violence as labor and employers clashed.

Jefferson warned about the natural tendency towards governmental complacency when he wrote that: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." I certainly don't espouse violence, but you've touched on an issue Mike that has become literally painful to our society and is growing more so every day. It cannot be sustained.

Lots of people I know tell me they don't have time to do things but I know that they spend hours most evenings sitting on the sofa, staring at the TV!

I believe the correct term is 'wage slavery,' (not 'capitalist slavery'). Brother Noam Chomsky of the IWW uses the term, which comes from the 1800s, quite a lot.

While I was at Uni (1979), I read a book - The Mighty Micro: The Impact of the Computer Revolution by Christopher Evans. Possibly his biggest concern for the future was what we would do with all our leisure time.

What went wrong? Still refer to it from time to time when I want a laugh.

Having a day job in addition to my photography work 12 - 15 hour days are the norm. Fortunately, my work consists of things I'd probably be doing anyway if I weren't employed, so consider myself very lucky.

An interesting side effect of this (which is hardly mentioned, in my opinion) is the impact this has had on children´s lives. A child's typical day will mean a long school day, in many cases including lunch at school. Commute, a ton of extracurricular activities (in which children HAVE to be enrolled simply because many parent´s can´t leave work to pick up their kids let alone spend time with them), sports and/or music and then, most probably, homework. What you are left with is an exhausted kid, with a 10-14 hour day, that simply has no time left to be a, ehmm, kid... Yeah, children don´t seem to have time either.

Ranjit, there are many more good books written than you or I could read in a lifetime. The problem is sorting the wheat from the voluminous chaff - though the internet has made that a great deal easier.

We are too ignorant, or plain stupid collectively, to stop progress. Archeologists and antropologists agree that hunter gatherers (stone age or contemporary) on the average worked 5 hours per day. Now we are burning up non-renewable resources and ourselves, and heating up the planet in the process.

One of the first things I noticed about the Leica Camera blog when it was recently redesigned was that every post lists, up front, an estimate of how long you will need to read it. Most fall in the three to five minute range. I've always wondered if that includes actually looking at the photographs.

IT geek here. Second company I worked for suffered from the power-living syndrome as well. For lunch, the testing and development departments frequently went down the pub together; many evenings a week they did the same "after work" as well.

Buncha saddos, if you ask me. Heck, it took me long enough to get home from central London of an evening, why on earth would I want to prolong that by yakking inanely with folks I work with all day as well?

I quit after a year. Funnily, the company is also gone - eaten wholesale by IBM - pointless waste of life, wasn't it?

Well, I'm of 2 minds about this. I once met a guy when I was fishing after work, this is back in '83, and we were talking. I said I barely had time to do this, I worked such long hours. He shook his head and made a face. We were in the same industry, and he said that the same thing had happened to him and his people, but no more: he finally decided that if everyone had to work like that, they were doing something wrong, being inefficient. They changed their culture and methods, and solved that problem. Pretty enlightened, I think. I think everyone knows how much time is wasted at work....

OTOH, I'm not wholly in favor of "8 hour days". I feel like the real solution would be some combo of the guy I mentioned above, and flex time that is more task oriented. Some things are better managed/done if you just work to a good stopping point, which isn't an arbitrary 8 hours. With modern conveniences like computers, intranets, the internet, & etc, it seems to me we could all be working a 40-50 hour week, but roughly in task-oriented chunks, with time off between for life. Seems a good compromise to me, if we could all just wrap our heads around it.

I am largely convinced that productivity is like engine power and speed. The number of hours worked has to increase as a cube of the extra productivity gained.

To add to my earlier response, there is the question of "company loyalty" as a driver during your career. I know full well, having been a fairly high level corporate executive, that the concept is a one way street (I'm sure there are exceptions,but I worked for six companies and never saw one). In the end, those at very top will drive the direction of the company in the manner that is best for them. If successful, it may be good for those further down the food chain while it lasts - in the end, not so. Salaried workers are exploited more than hourly workers these days, when total hours worked are divided into the pay. The total of hours worked (at work, at home, business travel, commuting, etc.) leave precious little "awake time" for anything else. I'm not complaining - I came through fairly well both economically and physically (my wife would question the mental part), but had decreasingly less time for family and personal interests as I worked my way up. It would be very interesting to know what people are telling their children and grandchildren that are at the start of their careers. By the way, none of the six companies that I worked for still exist and they were all pretty big and well established.

I read your site regularly, but have only ever taken the time to comment a few times. I'm younger than your average reader (late 30s) and somehow find the time to read many of your articles, although it's not always easy. You really hit it with many of the time constraints. I'm out of the house 10+ hours a day for work (including my commute). I have 2 young children. My wife's work schedule has her working into the evenings, so after work, I do the evening childcare (which does give me some quality time with my kids every day). Add in having 3 dogs, and I am often far busier than I really want to be.

With all of the productivity increases that we have had, I envision a world where we have full employment, with everyone working somewhat less than we do now. Unfortunately, that is but a dream.

Now I just wish that I could find as much time for actual photography (or woodworking for that matter) as I do for reading about it. Any ideas?

True eight hour jobs, shift work, are that way for a reason. I used to work for a temp agency in Oregon, and I worked for several months manufacturing barrels and then another stretch as a "jogger" at a large print shop (joggers handle the printer output, moving very quickly). Days feel long, and can be mind-numbing. Any satisfaction from mastery wears thin after a couple months. The union-won 15 minute breaks (2) and 30 minute lunches divide the day into psychologically manageable chunks. The people in it for a career, not temps, all pray for overtime, and some get through double shifts doing speed.

I did that work for only a year or so but it made a big impression on me.

I've noticed that any area of interest, whether professional or hobby, develops it's own subculture with magazines and now internet media to suit. And regardless of complexity, every few years almost everything gets recycled so that after you follow things for a while, it goes on repeat.

Sure a few details change, but even the film to digital transition took a decade and there was ample time to pick up new skills if not by osmosis then by very casual and limited study.

So... in my case I stopped subscribing to photo magazines many years ago, and stopped following most photo-related websites as well. I don't care what's new on Peta-Pixel and even on your blog I come and go a week or a month in-between.

I think even the hardest workers will make some time for their hobby, even if it is only a few minutes grabbed here or there. In fact I think the most productive workers probably are using their hobbies to decompress and be better workers rather than not.

@Kenneth Tanaka: I agree with your assessment based on the reproductions I've seen: I, too, prefer the first version and the last goes a bit too far. Thank you for the information on viewing it, I must keep it in mind as it would be an exciting opportunity to compare the actual prints side by side.

It's 1:57am here, just finished doing corporate mail on the tablet, before checking out TOP and going to bed, and yes - I read the whole article.

Summary: Modern life is rubbish.

As a early-30-something working in the corporate sector, it isn't al bad if you enjoy what you do. I don't wish for the days past, even counting the private offices and personal secretaries (and this coming from someone who shoots film).

It always bothers me when individuals speak for groups, which haven't appointed them to do so. I'm not happy when doing conf calls at 12am. I'm not excited when I have to take 5 hour red-eyes, two nights in a row. But I, speaking only for myself, would take this over 8 hour shift work and a tenure based promotion system.

If you really want something, you'll make time for it. We all have choices to make and live with; we can't have everything. How much TV do we watch versus 10 years ago? How much more time do we spend on Facebook versus 10 years ago? For me, TOP is worth the 10-15 mins a day to read, and all the better that I can put it in a time slot that doesn't affect spending time with my family. Your mileage may vary.

Hmm, I must say that I'm a bit surprised by this article. The question is interesting, but it seems to jump to a conclusion without the thought and research that usually goes into the TOP articles.

As others already stated, people do find the time to consume and produce the content of YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. My guess would be that it is more a matter of interest and priorities than because of long working days.

Working long days is definitely true for self-employed people or startups for example, but clearly not so wide-spread here in Europe as this article suggests (for the US).

I think there are some other elements at play:
- the daily commute, young kids, it eats up a lot of the 8 hours of rest
- with both parents working, the household chores are still waiting for you when you get home in the evening
- may also be that younger people find cameras more interesting than photography? It is important to have the latest smartphone, maybe also for cameras. And then they probably hang out on other photography/camera sites.
- besides the social networks, I also still see more and more TV channels arriving here in Europe, so there must be more people watching television too.
- reading longer articles requires time and attention, so social media events either pile up or interrupt the reading.
- the older generation probably prefers reading less but of better quality, without bla and flame wars. With age, people seem to become more selective in what they read, what they spend their time on (so they end up here at TOP :-)

It would be interesting to have some stats from the social networks and other photography/camera sites, to learn about the users' age, volume of messages read/written, and that per region/continent.


You were nice enough not to mention the diminished attention span of the millenials or the fact that TOP articles tend to be more than 140 characters.

I'm 28 years old. I guess that makes me the baby of the TOP family.

My wife and I have no kids, rent a duplex, and each work 55-60 hours per week between our four jobs. I'm not sure where we'd find the time or money to raise a child or buy a house. Or if I'll ever get to retire.

The long work days don't bother me as much as the fact that it seems likely I'll never be able to quit and enjoy life.


Sad personal record:
3 weeks at an average of 120 working hours per week.

Yes, as an architect.
Impossible deadlines to meet.
And no wasted time.

The average in the profession in some countries in Europe is 80 hours a week. Sad but true, it tends to be a customary tradition to overwork and set the bar each time higher.

This seems to be a really insightful essay with plenty of thought provoking comments. Pity I don't have the time to read them.

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