The Mountain Stream Freezes Over
January 26–30, Hunenberg, Switzerland
Seasonal Memoir #52
I am pushing myself to write essays from time to time, especially original thoughts. (Is there really such a thing as originality? I suspect not.). In that spirit, here’s something.
“It’s time to get rid of the weekend”
The colossal impact–good, bad, and ugly–that the industrial revolution has had on society is well documented. Organizing our time (for us, and without our consent) is one of the most obvious effects. Just like schools no longer need to follow an agrarian calendar (where students need to be released for harvesting crops), the technological revolution (aka “the second industrial revolution”) has made the concept of a weekend at best, moot, and at worst, harmful.
What? Harmful! You’ve got to be kidding, one might say. Okay, I enjoy a little hyperbole with the best of them, but hear me out. With blurring lines between work and home, between being geographically close to HQ and living in a beautiful place, and between leisure time and getting stuff done, the weekend has lost its utility, and may be doing more harm than good. Here are three ways:
- The weekend becomes a sort of prison, where we live in constant anticipation of it (thus pulling us away from the here and now)
- Once the weekend arrives, we often flit away the time with little aim or purpose (such as to restore depleted energies)
- The weekend can be like a festival of sensual binging, filled with food, drink, and other consumption, leaving us even more tired and regretful on Monday morning.
The technological revolution allows us to break the model, ultimately benefiting both ourselves and society. It requires, however, both a mindshift and some structural considerations:
- We become responsible for our workload responsibilities, and not our time (with rare exceptions), thus giving us the nourishing gift of autonomy.
- We are allowed to self-manage periods of flexibility and inflexibility, in where we are and what is getting our attention.
- We are allowed to self-manage when to tune out or unplug during any given day, and consequently, when to bring focused attention when inspiration strikes and we’re feeling creative or productive (highly creative people don’t buy in to the weekend concept, as author Alex Soojung-Kim Pang has written about).
- Allowing technology to facilitate communication and collaboration, when needed.
Can you think of one industry or vocation that needs to operate on a 40-hour, 9 to 5 schedule? Surely there are a few, but for the rest, especially for the information economy, we need to ditch the weekend and put people behind the wheel of their own productivity and well being. I recognize that this hot take feels ignorant to the millions who work in the service industry, but I honestly feel there is opportunity for worker empowerment there too, like we’ve seen with young people plugging in and out of that economy, as their Venmo accounts beckon.
Being happy, healthy, and productive (or successful) need not be mutually exclusive, but it will take courage to invest in all three. Killing the weekend honors our chosen vocations as ways of life, and not something to be turned on and off according to an outdated economic model, and not something to be controlled by others who don’t have our best interests at heart.
As an educator, I’m ready to start hacking the school day. Still constructed much like prisons are organized (think about it: brick walls, teacher overlords, tight timetables, constant supervision, and strict rules), learning (especially thinking) doesn’t fit well into a traditional timetable. Childcare (let’s be honest about one of school’s primary functions) is a barrier, but not an impossible one, as are the teacher unions (teachers notoriously love routine and predictability).
Schools thus become places you come and go, literally and figuratively, as needed. You come to campus for certain things (like accessing physical resources, or connecting with people), and you stay home or in the field for other things (like focused attention or research). Using technology, you consume, create, and curate information, locally and globally. You practice self-care, and you get enough sleep. You serve your community beyond episodic events. You are responsible and accountable for your learning, but you have the autonomy to be at the controls of it. Who’s ready to give it a try?