Part of My Time Is Mine


Part Time, and Proud of It

If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.

- Dorothy Parker

One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important.

- Bertrand Russell

by Paula L Green

When I rather warily announced to the world that I was shifting to the realm of part-time work, I was puzzled, amused and even frightened by the variety of responses I received.  The personnel department at my employer, a newspaper, wanted to know if the change was permanent.  It was, and it meant a loss of some benefits.  Some colleagues in the newsroom anxiously wanted to know if the editor had mandated a shortened workweek because of some sort of budget restraints.  For others, envy and suspicion arose, as they wondered aloud how I could have cut such a deal with management.

Many were astounded that I - a single woman in her early 40's, with no trust fund, no wealthy boyfriend and no rent-stabilised gold mine of a Manhattan apartment to fall back on - could afford to leave the traditional five-day workweek.  How could I live with a salary cut?  Or face the insecurity of reduced benefits?  Wasn't I worried about my pension?

Yet the most interesting reaction I encountered, and one that intensifies the longer I remain in the part-time world of work, has been this: "What are you doing with your time?"  Of course, the not-so-subtle translation is, "What happened to your work ethic?"

People seem to be saying that if I'm not raising a child, going back to school or knuckling down to write a potential best seller, then what's wrong with me?  What happened to my career drive?  How am I ever going to get ahead?  Don't I know that keeping my nose to the grindstone pays off and is what makes this country great?

And why was I feeling guilty and anxious and simply embarrassed to say: "Well, uh, I do happen to be working 30 hours a week.  And I am trying to write some essays.  And I have been taking swim lessons to improve my technique.  That's accomplishing something, isn't it?  And I am finally fulfilling a lifelong dream by learning to sing."  Why do I squirm?

Could it be that I am out of sync with a culture that glorifies work with the fervor reserved in centuries past for religious deities?  And, in New York City, where people are obsessed with job titles and promotions and earning power, maybe I'm intimidated to say that work and money are just parts of my life.  I never mention that my health is better, and that I usually get eight, nine or sometimes more hours of sleep on my days off.  That my tiny Manhattan studio is clean and that the closets are organised.  And that I have time to take long walks along the East River or to swim several times a week at the YMCA.

Why do I feel embarrassed to say that I'm simply enjoying my life in a way that I could not have imagined before?  That as I have reduced my working hours, I've gradually pared down my social agenda and discovered a new rhythm to life?  That with enough time and space, I've been able to enjoy even routine tasks?  Simple moments can now be savoured - like talking with an elderly neighbour and finding out why she's upset that the postman is late with the afternoon mail.  In a life that isn't crammed full of appointments, I find that exchanges with deliverymen and the dry cleaners can be appreciated.

But part-time work also means living with a job and an income that isn't going to turn heads at a New York City cocktail party.  It means going to fewer cocktail parties, in fact, because I am not plugged into the same social circles.  And I usually don't have the desire to trade my corduroy jeans and tranquility for nylon pantyhose and noisy rooms filled with smoke and attitude.

It also means learning to live with anxiety as the dollars in my sayings account dwindle.  It means the subway instead of taxis.  It means ordering from the appetiser section of the restaurant menu instead of from the entrees.  And getting away from home now translates into discovering the sand at the Jersey Shore for a weekend instead of a getaway at an exotic beach with a Latin name.  Part-time work can even mean leaving home and considering a less expensive city than New York.  I know that the idea crosses my mind from time to time.

So as my months of part-time work have quickly stretched into a year and beyond - I have since left the paper and now work part time for a magazine - I have felt less and less guilty about not participating in the full-time world.  I don't miss the constant deadlines and the frenzy of last-minute reporting - turning on a dime to knock out 700 words in a couple of hours.  I enjoy being removed from the office politics and meetings filled with outsized egos.  I don't even mind being regarded as someone who is no longer a threat because she clearly isn't serious about getting ahead.

And I am no longer uncomfortable telling New Yorkers with fanatical career drives that I move more slowly - yet more fully - through each day.  Slowly but surely, something new is filling the space that used to be taken by front-page bylines, overseas travel and trendy bars and restaurants.

I think it's called my life.

Source: The New York Times Sunday 13 May 2001, "My Money, My Life" column; Paula L Green reported on international trade and business for The Journal of Commerce for many years.

Submit your account of struggling or succeeding as a worker, consumer, investor or entrepreneur to "My Money", Money & Business, The New York Times, 229 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 1O036, or by e-mail to All submissions become the property of The Times.  They may be edited and may be republished in any medium.

Knowing Values Makes Balancing Work, Life Easier

Real success is finding your lifework in the work that you love.

- David McCullough

by Carol Kleiman

If you're an employer who hopes to recruit and retain quality employees by offering them attractive work/life benefits, how do you find out which benefits or accommodations they really want or need?

Ask them about their values.

"Work/life balance is a manifestation of values - it's the answer to the question of what's important to you in all dimensions of your life," said Kathy Rychel, a partner in PeopleWorks, a business consulting firm in Northbrook, Illinois that specialises in work force development.  "Basic values are at the heart of what influences employees' drives, motivation and behaviour."  As a consultant, one of the things Rychel does is administer values inventory tests to job candidates and employees of businesses, "to help people name and prioritise their work/life values.  It's an ongoing process because values shift."  The tests help employers get a fuller picture, according to Rychel, who has a master's degree in clinical social work and 20 years' experience in the business world.  When she talks about "work values," Rychel refers to feelings about salary, advancement, recognition, decision-making, competition and challenges.  Personal values, she says, are based on "time - time for family, friends, activities, community work and creativity."  Rychel has been with PeopleWorks since 1998.  It was founded in 1988 by her partners, Linda Leahy and Mary Dewyer, and consults with 30 organisations.  "Being asked questions about values sends a message that you are a company that cares about what's important to your employees," Rychel said.

Since 1998, Sandra Norlin, administrator of the Des Plaines, Illinois public library, has been ascertaining the values of her administrative employees - and then doing what she can to meet them in order to attract and retain quality workers.  "The basic question we ask is what is important to you at work and outside of work," said Norlin, who has a master's degree in library science and heads a staff of 130, 12 of them administrative.  "There are many things that we, as a public library, can't do, but we can be very generous in interpretation of sick leave and time off for such things as attending your children's school conferences."  Recently, a staff librarian told Norlin of his values: a strong family commitment to his wife, who also works, and to their daughter, and an equally strong desire to move ahead professionally.  "I kept his career values in mind when making assignments for him," Norlin said.  "Now he has flexibility in taking his daughter to school and sometimes bringing her to work.  In return, he's always available on weekends and evenings when needed.  He's a happy and productive employee - and that makes me happy."  Norlin says enabling employees "is a simple matter of discovering their values.  All you have to do is ask."

Last July, when Claudia Cameron realised most of her waking hours were spent at work or thinking about work, she went to her employer, Hewlett-Packard Company in Cupertino, California, and proposed a change.  Her employer listened, and Cameron, marketing manager for the company's consumer relationship management for North America, now job-shares with Chantal Vivier.  For a decade, Cameron had worked 55 hours a week; she now works about 30 hours and is in the office 3½ days.  "My values had been career-focused, but once I got to the level I wanted, they began to change," said Cameron.  "I wanted more time to explore other career options, to do sports - good health is my Number One value.  Now I have some balance, I'm never burned out, I have an extremely rewarding work partnership with Chantal - and I feel much better."  Cameron, who is 40, said she didn't get in touch with her values until she was in her late 30s.  But when she did, she moved quickly. "I became proactive about experiencing life," she said.  She encourages others to do the same: "Listen to your heart," she advised.

And your values.

Source: The Star-Ledger (Morris County New Jersey edition) Monday 28 May 2001; originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune

Don't Let This Be You!

When you honestly think you can compensate for a lack of skill by doubling your efforts, there's no end to what you can't do...

Source: Funny Times date undenoted

Are You a Workaholic?

by Will Durst

The "How To Tell You're Working Too Hard" Test

Add up the numbers of your answers and check your score at the end.

My idea of getting away from it all is:

  1. Driving an hour, unpacking a picnic spread in the shade overlooking a babbling brook and curling up with a good book.
  2. Turning off the cell phone.
  3. Leaning my head against the carpeting on the side of my cubicle wall while on hold.

In my experience most workaholics are:

  1. Unusually driven.
  2. People running the risk of burning out.
  3. Slackers with a fancy name.

When I need a time out I:

  1. Lock the door and take an hour nap.
  2. Grab a couple of winks at red lights.
  3. Chug a series of double espressos.

A really good restaurant:

  1. Has cloth napkins.
  2. Delivers.
  3. Doesn't force you to speak into a clown's head when ordering at the drive-thru.

Quitting time means:

  1. When every other person has left the office.
  2. My mental fire extinguisher needs refilling after putting out all the fires.
  3. A quiet ceremony in the shade by a babbling brook.

Casual Fridays mean:

  1. Everybody else shows up in sneakers and jeans.
  2. Only one ay to Sunday.
  3. Three entire days before anybody is reachable by phone.

My kids are:

  1. My strength and my solace.
  2. The reason I work so hard.
  3. Reportedly doing much better since their medication was tweaked.

Perks I look for in a hotel are:

  1. Modem hook-ups.
  2. 24-hour room service.
  3. The flat soft thing.


Score: 8-10

You drink de-caf because you can.  Your children recognise you, often speak to you in the present tense and are determined to beat your high Tomb Raider III score.  Co-workers try in vain to emulate your wide-awake appearance with scotch tape and toothpicks.  You have a Palm Pilot and use it to store recipes.

Score: 11-14

You are reachable via four different answering machines, none of which you ever hear ring.  To save the 10 minutes every morning it takes you to put your contacts in, you had your windshield ground to your prescription.  Underlings refer to the period before you've had your 3rd cup of coffee as DKT: Daylight Killing Time.  The school counsellor called again to discuss the "attitde problems," and for a minute there it sounded like they meant yours and not your kids'.

Score 15-18

You shower every four days whether you need to or not.  The Lexus's fax machine is in the shop again.  Your kids just "love" the new boarding school.  Your PDA just interrupted a meeting where you and three others like you seriously considered chipping in to buy an antenna for the elevator, so you are never out of cellular contact, to remind you of your monthly scheduled dinner with your spouse.

Score: 19 or over

Given a choice, your kids will run to hug the live-in nanny and often try to speak to you in Flemish.  The cashier at the multiplex keeps trying to offer you a senior citizen discount even though you're only 30.  You worry your system might not survive the shock if you experience too long of a lapse between nervous breakdowns.

Will Durst scored a six.

Source: Funny Times August 2001

I'm Outta Here!

Apparently, this is an actual letter of resignation from an employee at Zantex Computers, Australia, to his boss, J Pilgrim.  His boss, known as Pilly, apparently resigned very soon afterwards!

Dear Mr Pilgrim

As an employee of an institution of higher education, I have a few very basic expectations.  Chief among these is that my direct superiors have an intellect that ranges above the common ground squirrel.  After your consistent and annoying harassment of my co-workers and myself during the commission of our duties, I can only surmise that you are one of the few true genetic wastes of our time.

Asking me, a network administrator, to explain every little nuance of everything I do each time you happen to stroll into my office is not only a waste of time, but also a waste of precious oxygen.  I was hired because I know how to network computer systems, and you were apparently hired to provide amusement to myself and other employees, who watch you vainly attempt to understand the concept of "cut and paste" for the hundredth time.  You will never understand computers.  Something as incredibly simple as binary still gives you too many options.  You will also never understand why people hate you, but I am going to try and explain it to you, even though I am sure this will be just as effective as telling you what an IP is.

Your shiny new iMac has more personality than you ever will.  You walk around the building all day, shiftlessly looking for fault in others.  You have a sharp dressed useless look about you that may have worked for your interview, but now that you actually have responsibility, you pawn it off on overworked staff, hoping their talent will cover for your glaring ineptitude.  In a world of managerial evolution, you are the blue-green algae that everyone else eats and laughs at.  Managers like you are a sad proof of the Dilbert principle.  Seeing as this situation is unlikely to change without you getting a full frontal lobotomy reversal, I am forced to tender my resignation; however I have a few parting thoughts.

  1. When someone calls you in reference to employment, it is illegal to give me a bad recommendation.  The most you can say to hurt me is "I prefer not to comment."  I will have friends randomly call you over the next couple of years to keep you honest, because I know you would be unable to do it on your own.
  2. I have all the passwords to every account on the system, and I know every password you have used for the last 5 years. I f you decide to get cute, I am going to publish your "favourites list", which I conveniently saved when you made me "back up" your useless files.  I do believe that terms like "Lolita" are not usually viewed favourably by the administration.
  3. When you borrowed the digital camera to "take pictures of your mothers birthday", you neglected to mention that you were going to take pictures of yourself in the mirror nude.  Then you forgot to erase them like the techno-moron you really are.  Suffice it to say I have never seen such odd acts with a ketchup bottle, but I assure you that those have been copied and kept in safe places pending the authoring of a glowing letter of recommendation.  (Try to use a spell check please.  I hate having to correct your mistakes.)

Thank you for your time, and I expect the letter of recommendation on my desk by 8:00am tomorrow.  One word of this to anybody, and all of your little twisted repugnant obsessions will be open to the public.

Never f*** with your systems administrator.  Why?  Because they know what you do with all that free time!

Adrian Barragan

Source: funny site

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