We’ve had some significant overtime for a lot of folks on our team these last couple weeks, which got me thinking about things like overtime, and second jobs, and all like that.
A lot of folks will respond to any financial crisis with the suggestion that the sufferer “get a second job” or “try for more hours at work.”
I’ve long thought that this is pretty rotten advice, on the whole. It feels a lot like telling someone who constantly has dirt in their eye to “go rinse it out,” without ever addressing the fact that they installed a Dust-Devil-O-Matic in their living room and that maybe, JUST MAYBE, turning that sucker off might help keep the dust out of their eyes going forward.
Overtime and/or a second job can be great short-term responses to an immediate need. It can provide a badly-needed jump start for a debt reduction plan, especially if you’re caught in that endless treadmill of “my minimum payments are just about 9/10ths of my average take-home pay.”
Adding even a rather small “extra” paycheck at that point can make a world of difference.
But over time, it just never seems to work out as planned. We get tired. Then we get exhausted. We start back-sliding on all sorts of things. Those of us who are married might start to bicker with our spouses; the spouse who isn’t putting in the Murderous Hours has trouble understanding why the spouse who is doing so is so danged grouchy about everything all the time.
Meanwhile, the spouse putting in the hours is thinking, …seriously, why can’t you people just SHUT UP for a damned minute so I can hear myself think, geeeeez, would it KILL you people to just…HANDLE IT, handle ANYTHING, your damned SELVES instead of dragging me into every.single.thing. that needs doing around here?!?! (<= not that this has ever been my internal dialog, mind you, but I have this friend who has felt this way from time to time…)
We start to make ‘tired’ decisions. We start to buy our way out of dealing with the things that make us feel tired.
And then, we start to become increasingly dependent on that ‘extra’ income.
And since we’re using so much of our time working in “the now,” so to speak, we aren’t working on things that would constitute working “smarter.”
We just keep working harder. And harder. And harder still.
If we’d just stop for a second, if we’d look up and around and realize that hey…I’m getting $10 per ditch I dig…but if instead of digging two extra ditches a day, I put my energy into, say, engineering school…in a few years, I’d be the guy telling guys like me where to dig the ditches, and I’d be making $300 more a day to do it…
That’s moving into working smarter, not harder. Like most things, it’s simply about being aware of how the bigger picture is playing out around you – and reacting to that rather than the far smaller world of “my immediate environment.”
It’s been my experience so far that Life tends to reward attempts to work smarter at a better ratio in the long run than it does “just” working harder.
(And that it’s a lot easier to preach about doing it, than to actually do it. Kind of unfair, really, how ‘obvious’ things will be to everybody EXCEPT us when it comes to Such Matters, ain’t it?!)