For many the traditional Monday to Friday work cycle simply doesn’t work. Charles Handy suggests an alternative
I was getting increasingly frustrated by the way my life was organised around me. You know, a working week of five days, a weekend of two days and an annual holiday of 15 days: how was I to live in this funny kind of truncated world when the working week was too long and the weekends too short? Then I started doing some mental arithmetic. I calculated that, according to my contract, I was allowed, if you added all these things together, 97 days of personal time, fully paid for, and divided up as I said, into weekends, weekdays and holidays.
So instead I said I’d like to have one day off a week, which normally for me would be Monday, but could change. And I’d still be left enough days for 10 day breaks, to travel abroad to another city for fun and frivolity, to restore my spirits. When I started to put this new system into effect – I called it “chunking” – I felt liberated; I was in charge of my own time, my most precious resource. Of course I then had to fill it with useful work, but as Aristotle always said, you’re happiest when you’re at your best, working for the good of others, and that was entirely what I intended to do in one way or another. So, control of my time and happiness at hand.
Now, why don’t more of us do that? Why do we accept the ways that society seems to have divided up our lives between work and pleasure? Why can’t we decide to do things the way we like, not the way society likes?
Yes, I’m all for chunking – in time and in other ways too. I chunk my time between meditation and writing in the country, and socialising and celebrating culture in the capital. My wife and I used to chunk our domestic duties too – I was in charge of housekeeping and cooking when we were in the country, that was my chunk; my wife was in charge of it in London, that was her chunk. And we happily competed with each other to create culinary delights.
So chunk as you please, my friends. Life is yours – make sure you control it.
This is Charles Handy, wishing you happy chunking.