As part of my most recent life overhaul, one thing I wanted to try out was a reduced work week, so that I could investigate that mythical beast called a work-life balance. Luckily, as well as getting a job offer very quickly, it was also a 4 day a week position.  I guess I imagined the eternal 3 day weekend giving me more time to relax and read, garden, get to the end of my to-do list (who was I kidding? It's huge) and go camping and exploring more often. But, as it turns out, there's been more to it...
To me, the life of a 40+ hour week seems to lead to a slow but steady feeling of being consistently flat. Not always exhausted exactly, but a constant feeling of wishing there were just a few more hours in each day. The kind of feeling that has been pretty much normalised by modern society as just 'getting older' - but is it actually normal?

The routine is common. Time spent commuting. The Tuesday night run to the shops for milk. Preparing lunches. The 'not on a school night' lethargy that creeps in when weighing up whether to go out to that mid-week gig. Getting through 4 pages of a book before zoning out. Spending precious weekends doing the more intensive chores that you can't get to during the week, and that two day break just never seems quite long enough to shake off the fatigue of the week before. Dreaming about the next holiday...

When I'm feeling like a large part of me life is committed to a desk, I have a tendency to buy things I don't really need as a reward for....whatever's missing, having something tangible to show for the time I've given to something I'm not very personally invested in. 

So, what does this have to do with the environment?

Coupled with the psychological effects that the 9-5 routine has on consumer patterns, being time-poor has been shown to be a major factor behind making economically and environmentally negative choices. With less time available to explore options, scope alternatives, plan ahead or prepare supplies - the convenient (and usually more expensive and resource intensive) option generally wins out. In short, working more seems to be costlier and more environmentally damaging than working less.

Living a low-consumer lifestyle is infinitely more challenging when there's less time to scout out earth-friendly options; such as buying secondhand, making or mending, growing your own food and cooking meals from scratch.

While choosing to work less can at first be a financially daunting prospect, depending on your  financial circumstances (levels of debt, salary, financial obligations and how many hours you cut back) you may still be able to break even. In my case, working one less day a week has left me in a similar financial situation as working full time. However, voluntarily choosing to reduce working hours generally means also having to make certain lifestyle changes. While some areas balance out, unavoidable expenses such as utility bills, rent or mortgage, insurance, car repairs, medication, vet bills or trips to the dentist won't change, so sacrifices need to be made elsewhere. Choosing to live more simply can mean trading in your TV for books, skipping the latest trends and buying op-shop treasures, learning some DIY skills and having the patience to find a pre-loved version what you're looking for rather than opting for instant gratification from a department store.

From what I've experienced so far, gaining a day has given me so much more than just 24 extra hours. At the end of every week I feel well rested and more relaxed, and much less interested in window (or actual) shopping as a quick pick-me-up.  With more time to poke around tip shops looking for cheap castoffs (especially useful when setting up a garden), visit op-shops to bulk up my winter wardrobe, check out used furniture stores and work on DIY projects at home, I've spent a lot less settling in than I otherwise would have. I have more time to make more food from scratch, with some of it now coming from my own garden. I've also got more time to connect with local networks - particularly resource sharing, swap and gardening communities. Finally, with almost no effort I have cut back my disposable trash output by around another 50% (though my recyclables have remained steady).

While it may not be for everyone, it's worth doing some sums. A little less work can go a long way.


  1. Very interesting blog, I'm always a busy man, this will help me as a reminder on how to handle my time well.

  2. Nice article Nat. I remember all those aspects of the 9-5 you mentioned like hanging out for holidays, spending weekends catching up on chores etc... it all begins to feel like Groundhog day with no relief.
    For the past 10 years we've shifted gear and have been living far more simply, not a huge amount of cash but far less need to fill the emptiness with consumerism.
    Sam the kids and I just spent a week in Melbourne with family where we were constantly reminded how well everyone else is doing for themselves (According to who owns the nicest house, whose got a good job i.e. earning more money and all that) None of them sounded like they were particularly happy but no one can understand why we live the way we do. To us they all seemed trapped on a treadmill tuned into one or other of those smarmy morning TV shows like Sunrise or Good Morning Australia, or even ABC Breakfast. It seemed that every screen in every house we visited, including the caravan park we stayed at, was loyally tuned in to get their prescribed dose of life as we tell you it is!
    See you at a Tip Shop some time.

    1. Thanks David
      Yeah, it's definitely been an eye opener. Most people live with an accepted level of debt anyway - technically someone who is living simply, with low levels of debt is actually richer than someone who makes money, spends a lot on consumer items and has high levels of debt - but the person with the sports car and 300k of debt is perceived as richer by society than the person on a bike who may only owe 15k.
      Every now and then I tune into Sunrise, just out of curiosity. It seems like a parallel world!