Leave Work Early: Making the Decision to Scale Back

What would happen if you decided to arrive at work no earlier than 9:00 in the morning and left at 5:00 every day?

Maybe you already have that kind of job, and if so, you're excused from reading this post. But this isn't most of us.

I was talking to a friend the other day who told me he'd lose his job if he left at 5:00 every day.

His work requires him to handle certain things well after 5:00 — it's simply not a nine to five job.

Many of you reading this article feel an obligation or responsibility to work long hours — well beyond the typical eight hour work day.

You might feel a pressure to perform and be more and more productive just to appease your boss or company expectations. Or maybe you work long hours to earn more money so you can support your current lifestyle.

Americans work longer hours than any of our Western European cousins.

We also take fewer and shorter vacations than most Europeans.

In my research, I learned one explanation for this: the impact of advertising on our mass psyches.

Americans work longer hours so they can make more money to purchase all of the goods and services they see in advertising.

If this is the case, we are working harder for fabricated desires. If there were fewer ads, would we relax a little?

The irony is that we have less time to enjoy the goods and services we are working so hard to afford.

In my coaching work, many of my clients are striving for balance.

They are working long, hard hours at jobs they don't really like.

They don't have much time with their families, and they certainly don't have time to pursue their passions. Many are quite successful, but they are drained and unfulfilled.

So here's a bold idea. What if you made the decision to start cutting back? What if you shut down your computer at 4:45, tidied up your desk, and walked out of the office at 5:00? What if you started with the decision that you would work less and have a more balanced life, and then let all other decisions revolve around that commitment? For some, like my friend, that might mean some big changes — a new job, a simpler lifestyle. It would be a huge shift in thinking. But it would also be a huge shift in living. Life would be a bit slower, with more time to pursue fewer activities — but with focus and intensity.

At first blush, this idea might seem impossible for you.
But I invite you to consider it and mentally explore the possibility. Start with the concept of scaling back, and think about how you could do that and the possible consequences. Think about how you would deal with the consequences and whether the resulting fall-out and change would be more or less painful than the life you lead now. Perhaps you will surprise yourself.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 6 comments

Years ago when I was doing my self work, my therapist told me to keep phone, e-mail and even Blackberry communication to standard work hours. For me that meant a much shorter work day and absolutely no work on weekends. Initially I had so many reasons why this would not work. With much reconditioning, I made changes.
Not sure if you are aware, but my changes during this period (for the better!) lead me away from what I thought was a passion and love for my work. I thank my therapist so much for helping me see how much of life I really wanted I was missing. I hope your clients find your work with them on this as life changing.

Just wanted you to know how much this touched my heart today. In looking back at my own life changing experience, it reminds me that I would not have been open to the new life I made and my husband of 5 years, without this work. I still don't know how I did my old job. I am such a different person today.

Barrie, you must love the work you are doing! You can really make a difference in someone's life.

Russ Hamel

Hey Barrie

A couple of points that I've used in my own rationale – in this era of 'time savers', we find ourselves doing the work of 10-20 people. Used to be we'd dictate our messages to a secretary who would then send our letters down to the typing pool.

Want copies? There's a separate department for that.

Mailing? You guessed it – pass it on!

Today, you add all that to accounting and bookkeeping, plus a myriad of other things it takes to run an office.

Can't keep up? 50+ years old?

There's younger, faster, hungrier, and cheaper, all ready to replace you before you can blink.

Here's the secret (I call it 'ancient wisdom' since I didn't really 'get it' until I passed the magic 50 mark myself!):

Stop CHASING the big dream. As Barrie suggests, slow down the pace. Relax and ATTRACT.

This was all a bunch of B.S. to me in my younger days. I had bought into the 'must work harder' mentality. And like a silly puppy, I chased my tail, never quite catching it.

By comparison, today I've slowed my personal work down to a crawl. And the things I'm attracting absolutely boggle my mind. Things that were 'impossible' yesterday are magically presenting themselves today.

Yeah, ancient wisdom! Stop chasing; slow down, relax and attract. Don't wait until you're ancient to get it! 🙂

All the best from Toronto,

Patty - Why Not Start Now?

Hi Barrie – I clicked over from Belinda's site because I loved the comment you left there. I just wrote about time too, and last week about Americans working longer hours and taking less vacation. So we are definitely on the same wavelength, and I enjoyed reading your post. Thanks!


Thanks Patty! It's an interesting topic. I'm going to visit your blog and get your take on it! I really appreciate your comment.

Belinda Munoz

I work with people with big hearts, with a passion for helping others, you know, lifers and activist-types. And I admire their dedication. But I see them struggling with boundaries and not knowing how to take care of themselves. The kind of work they/we do (fighting for equality, etc.) will never be complete. Some of them get lost in their mission and do their work without joy, completely forgetting that they have the choice to do what they do and also treat themselves kindly. Anyway, just sharing. I enjoyed your post and thanks for stopping by my blog.


When I first started my current job I worked 70-80 hours a week, including nights and weekends. The joke at work was that “Ken only works half-days, just 12 hours.” It finally got to the point where it was affecting my health and my sanity. I did not have a life outside of work. About 3 years ago I made the decision that I was more important than my job. All of the extra effort wasn’t being rewarded and I was killing myself, so I decided to change. I learned to say “NO”. Now I work an 8-hour day, take breaks during the day, and spend time away from work doing things that give me satisfaction and pleasure. My health has improved, my personal life esists, and I am so much happier. I haven’t quite gotten to the point I really want to be at but I am working toward it and hope to be there soon.


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