Time in exchange for time

A friend of mine is working in a temporary job. Her temporary boss needs someone just to “be there” at the front desk. There are very little other expectations; she was told she could “bring a book.”

What if, in this situation, all you did was sit there? Not even a book to read? Then you could wrap up your current use of time in this statement: “I sit at a desk at the command of another person from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day in order to pay for how I use my time after 5 p.m. on those days and on Saturday and Sunday.”

My friend does more than just sit there. But there are people who view their time in jobs as “jail time” that must be spent in order to use their “free time” as they want, with the means to do so, meaning surviving (food, housing, medical care) and beyond (travel, movies, material goods, education, philanthropy, etc.).

What makes a job more than just “jail time?” Does paying a person by the hour exacerbate the effects of this mentality? What is the difference between working in a role where you feel “job satisfaction” versus working in a role that you consider your life’s calling?

We see that our “job time” is spent to support our “free time,” but it is also the other way around. We check our work email when we leave work. We stress about a meeting, distracting our full attention from a conversation with a loved one. We work on projects on the weekends. We show up late to a dinner party because work went late. We spend a lot of “free time” currency on supporting our careers… and sometimes buy on metaphorical “credit.”

Where is the balance, and when do you know you are spending your time fully in every moment, so that you never feel you are trading “time in exchange for time”?

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