I’ve been thinking about dictating this particular blog entry on my recorder for quite some time. But I’ve been putting it off. Why? Because I have maybe three God damn hours to myself each night. I spend that time reading, playing video games, working on my chess a little bit, and also trying to record my podcast and do postproduction work on it.
In a way, I probably shouldn’t even be writing a blog. Clearly, I don’t have enough time to fit it in, in between all the other activities that I desperately want to do. And yet, the day times are filled up with work, obligations with my twin boys, spending time with the wife, preparing meals, and doing chores. It doesn’t really leave a lot of time for the things that are “important” to me and me alone.
And so what will I do? Well, if the kids don’t wake up in the middle of the night, that means that I at least have the evenings free to myself it and so I binge on TV and books and games late at night, sometimes until 12:30, or 1 o’clock in the morning. This wasn’t a problem when I was 22 years old, and starting grad school. I would stay up till three in the morning, sleep until 11:30, then proceed to make my first coffee of the day. Check my emails, very gingerly make my way to the University, grab my Starbucks, and start my day at a respectable 1PM.
This is no longer a luxury that I have, as one of my boys will invariably wake me up by 6 o’clock–maybe 6:30 if I’m lucky–each and every single day without fail. Staying up until 1 o’clock in the morning is suddenly a serious physical and mental hazard.
I suppose there’s a bit of solace in that I’m not the only person doing this. A friend shared an article on Facebook all about “Revenge Bedtime Procrastination” and how it’s a growing phenomenon, particularly during Covid-19 times. The long and short of it is that people engaging in this behaviour may lack self-regulation or self-control, or otherwise be shoehorned into a schedule that does not fit their chronotype (e.g., they are simply “night owls”).
Of course, it goes through all the traditional saws about how to overcome sleep procrastination. Having a very rigid go to bed and wake up time, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, restricting your screen time, etc. etc. etc. What is always curiously omitted from all of these “helpful” articles is any critical analysis of why it is exactly that you don’t have enough time during the hours of the day to accomplish the things that are meaningful to you. Well, for most of us it’s because we work forty hours from Monday to Friday.
I think David Graeber’s “Bullshit Jobs” does a really good job highlighting why most of those forty hours are probably wasted doing mundane pageantry disguised as work, for the purposes of appeasing a boss who may as well liken themselves to a medieval landed gentry. But even at a more fundamental level, why do we need to work forty hours a week? The origins of it, as best as I can tell, are that forty hours was set as a maximum during the labour movements of the 19th century, to stop factory owners from working their labourers down to the bone, like a highly advanced stock animal. In other words, forty hours was never seen to be the optimal level of a work week; it was seen to be the maximum amount that a Victorian employer, sweethearts that they were, could exploit you, before the sinews and flesh on your body began to break down.
Now, I don’t want to make a mountain out of a mole hill. I work as a lawyer, I do office work, so I’m certainly not going to physically perish from the work that I’m doing although there are certainly days when it feels like it is crushing your mind, spirit, and your soul. But to even question the fact that your priority in life should not be all the work that you do, makes you be seen as some kind of subversive, or just dismissed as being terribly lazy.
Probably both of those are true at this stage in my life. But given that I live in a country where very few of us do actual work to feed us, or produce the things that we consume on a daily basis, like other durable goods, I really do question the broader social utility of all of us bashing things on laptops and sending data across the Internet back and forth. Kind of like what I’m doing right now, only for money.
So why not just go to bed earlier? Because I have important, utterly worthless things to do.