We are, as a species, nothing more than physical manifestations of The Universe. We are the exact same as the ants of the Earth, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, the plants that sink their roots down into the rich soil. A bird does not need a manager or a schedule or a spreadsheet to tell them when to lay eggs, when to fly, when to eat, when to hunt for food, when to mate. A bird does not need a schedule to order its life; it simply lives.
You and I are no different than the animals and the plants of our Home, Planet Earth. We do not need banks and credit and 40 hour work weeks and 15 minute breaks and 30 minute lunches and 2 weeks of paid vacation and four sick days and two personal days and a boss and a manager and a house payment and a car payment and beyond. We simply need communication and freedom of information to allow us to flourish in all the ways that The Universe has made available in its infinite possibilities.
Psychological Review published a study based upon research performed in 1993 which showed that individuals who only work four-hour shifts are far more productive in comparison to those who work eight hours a day. People’s minds function better when they have a specific task at hand that they can focus on over short periods of time, rather than being required to multitask and spread their energy out over multiple hours and multiple job requirements.
There have been a variety of professionals who back up this claim, including best-selling authors such as Stephen King or Tim Ferris, the guy behind the Four-Hour Work Week book. According to Business Weekly, “While completing a novel, famous authors tend to write only for 4 hours during the morning, leaving the rest of the day for rest and recuperation. Hence successful authors, who can control their work habits and are motivated to optimize their productivity, limit their most important intellectual activity to a fixed daily amount when working on projects requiring long periods of time to complete.”
The basic concept is simple: the brain is most focused during short bursts of energy. And yet despite the research, and despite the fact that multiple cultures around the world have been employing this principle (albeit on a more physical, heat-and-bodily-safety level) for millennia, we continue to see countries such as the United States pressuring people into believing that eight hour work shifts are more productive, and that anyone who doesn’t work eight hours a day is somehow inherently lazy or unproductive. “Take a nap?” your boss asks with incredulity in their voice. “Out of the question. We have a schedule to maintain here, and a bottom line to push. You’re burning daylight, so get back to work!”
I did some initial research on this topic back in February of 2010 for one of my clients, where I took a look at the raw numbers and compared the United States to Italy in terms of productivity. You can read the whole post here, but the gist of the study (another person’s numbers, not my own) was that when you compare the average U.S. citizen compared to the average Italian citizen, the Italians are 76 percent more productive on a hours-worked-per-year basis…yet they are only working half the hours that regular U.S. citizens work! That’s right…half the hours. 20-25 hours per working week, and they are one of the cultures that employs the siesta as part of the regular routine…at least in the Mediterranean regions of Italy.
People who work fewer hours per day, on their own schedule from a position of well-rested happiness and enjoyment of their work, outperform 40 hour wage slaves every day of the week, in every way.
The Cultural Point of View
The first thing I tell people when they arrive in Mexico to take part in one of our retreats (and it’s mentioned in both The Expat Guidebook as well as Beyond Borders) is “throw away your watch”, just as the title of this posts suggests. But it’s not just because they need to adopt a new point of view for the classes and the schedule we work on while living here in Mexico. It’s also part of the culture down here: people just simply don’t pay attention to time in the way that Westerners do.
When a dinner party is set to start at 9 p.m., the vast majority of the guests don’t start arriving until 10 or 10:30. If a person says they will be there in an hour, it could be two or three hours before they actually arrive. The same goes for Colombia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia and dozens of other countries I’ve traveled to and lived in since I started traveling in 1999. Only in The West is there an addiction to time, an addiction to schedules and routine and structure and rules, rules, rules, rules.
A watch will only cause you frustration in Mexico and other countries that operate on a take-life-as-it-comes pacing. You will constantly be glancing at it and cursing the fact that everyone around you is “late”. But late according to whom? You, the “Master of The Universe”, the “frantic Westerner”? Or late according to your watch, which is a simple device that shows you a set of arbitrary numbers that have nothing to do with life or love or passion and evolution and universal understanding.
Cast Off Your Chains
Because you aren’t going to need them where you’re going. The land of never-ending sunsets, endless sunrises, countless days spent wandering the lost paths of adventure in your host country…time simply fades away once you leave the rat race of the Western world and corporate greed behind. When you start traveling the world and exploring other countries you find a truth buried behind the propaganda the Western world tries to spread about them. These are simple human beings doing the same things that human beings all over the planet do: live life. They just do it at a different pace.
One of my favorites is when Westerners try to look at countries where the siesta still functions and term those people unproductive or lazy. In whose eyes? For those of you who have read any of my previous materials you know that I actively preach the siesta concept, or only working a few hours per day and making sure to have plenty of rest including a nap in the afternoon.
The reasons for this are numerous, but the point is that just because people around the world enjoy a relaxed pace and naps in the afternoon doesn’t mean they are lazy. They just don’t rely on Americanized time where everything is broken down into 8 hour work shifts with 30 minute lunch breaks and a 15 minute break in the morning and another one in the afternoon and overtime and double pay and holiday pay and structure, structure, rules, rules.
Take Colombia, for example. Most people in the business world work 8 to 12, break until 2, then work 2 until 6. And there, just like in Bulgaria or Mexico or Uruguay or Italy or Turkey or numerous other countries, if someone says they are going to be there in 30 minutes it might actually be more like an hour and a half. Punctuality is not a concern in most countries outside of the U.S. and the U.K., and that’s something which is very difficult for some people to break away from. It’s one of the leading concerns for first-time expats and digital nomads haven’t yet learned to disconnect.
If you’ve been on the road for any length of time this probably doesn’t affect you anymore. One of the nice things about getting out of the “system” or unplugging from the Matrix is that you don’t need to adhere to the breakneck pace of life anymore. You can take things slowly, one day at a time, and you don’t have to worry about a never-ending tide of stress-inducing factors.
It’s just a shrug-your-shoulders, let-the-day-pass-as-it-will attitude that could be best described as Bohemian if you had to put a term to it. It’s the kind of mentality that says it doesn’t really matter if it’s nine in the morning….I wouldn’t mind a couple of mojitos and a joint while lying on the beach or going surfing or cenote diving. Or at two in the afternoon. Or whenever.
If you haven’t experienced this yet, let me tell you from personal experience: absolute creative and financial freedom is the ultimate experience. No screeching alarm clock telling you when to wake up, no boss leaning over your shoulder demanding productivity from you…there’s simply your own desires to create what you want, when you want, and then using those creations to fund your lifestyle.
That’s not to say it doesn’t take hard work. If you want to get into movie-star shape you have to spend 3-4 hours a day, every day of the week, in the gym pushing your body to its absolute limits. The first few months are incredibly hard. Being your own boss has its own levels of difficulty attached. But once the routine is establish and you are living life on your own terms….
I put more money in the savings in my first three years of being a digital nomad than I did in the ten previous years when I was working in a trade that I grew up in and was earning $75+ an hour. And I did it all by working at my own pace. Drinking beer/wine/whiskey on the clock. Working out of Internet cafes. Without shaving. In the same clothing for two or three days at a time (yeah ok that’s probably not such a great thought, but hey, it’s the freedom to slack off while working that counts!). Having the ability to work on my projects when I wanted, not when someone was telling me to…no matter if it was in the middle of the night, the middle of the afternoon, on a beach, in my bed, on a plane, bus or just out at a restaurant.
So relax. Cast off those shackles. Shred that time-card in half and start living life the way you want and you’ll find yourself with all sorts of free time to just explore your creativity and true human potential…once you throw away your watch and learn to stop worrying about some silly little numbers.