Does your schedule feel like a race? Hmmm… maybe there is a reason it is called the rat race. Do your kids/pets/significant other see less of you than your coworkers? Hmmm… there is something definitely wrong about that.

The industrial age was supposed to be the start of copious amounts of free time. In the 50s Americans were sure that they were well on the path to the 20hr work week. The information age was supposed to do the same thing… remember? Computers were going to make our lives easier – take care of our mundane functions – give us more time for relaxation and family. What happened?

We are putting in longer work weeks now than workers in the 50s. We work a full nine weeks longer than Eastern European citizens. The average American gets two weeks vacation – the average European gets SIX WEEKS! But, we are the superpower… we are the biggest economy… we are the most productive workforce… what gives?

True, we have created great strides in productivity… the problem is not that we NEED to work harder… the problem is that we WANT to work harder. Think that sounds crazy? …hear me out. Maybe we don’t actually want to work harder, but we do want what harder work buys us. We are trading our increases in productivity for STUFF! Plain and simple.

We put in our 60-80 hour weeks not so that we can put more money away – but simply to buy that next shiny purchase. We are being sold a bill of goods by the television… the bills says that “things” are the answer to happiness. When is the last time you saw a commercial that said… “hey, take some time off – spend it with your kids – walk the dog” Never, unless they were selling a kids play-place or a dog walking service.

Speaking of dog walking – did you know that in major metropolitan areas of the US, that is the fastest growing business? That is crazy. We have pets so we can spend time with them and then don’t even have the time to take them for a walk. Medieval peasants put in less work hours than we do… they had time to sit out back with Rover.

What can you do? Well, it is unrealistic to think that you are going to just walk out of your job and start taking life slower… but there are little things you can do to take back your time.

1 – set aside some “you” time. This can be as little as 15 minutes to start… and it doesn’t mean watching TV – that is not “you” time, that is “them” time. Go to the park and feed the ducks. Play catch with your dog. Play a silly game with your kid. Call a friend. Read a book. Listen to music (just listen.)

2 – cut back your dependence on “things.” As your desire for stuff goes, so will your inclination to put up with crap for the sake of a check.

3 – never buy on credit. Even if you don’t look at the added cost of credit… look at the time costs. You are trading your future hours of leisure so that you can have something now… that sounds a lot like indentured servitude to me. Grandma was right when she said, “If you can’t pay cash for it, you can’t afford it.”

The next time the hustle of your schedule starts to get you down.. think about it… would you trade that DVD you’ve never watched twice for an hour of peace? Now remember that the next time WalMart has a sale on the directors cut of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.