Check out this article: http://www.raptitude.com/2010/07/your-lifestyle-has-already-been-designed/
The author recounts his experiences backpacking across the world, during which he had more free time and more fulfilling experiences while living on a shoestring budget. Counterintuitively, he spends more money when he returns to Canada, despite not feeling that it buys him the pleasure it did on his trip.
The article contains an especially interesting point about the way we work: the 40-hour workweek was instituted in the early 20th century, but by all accounts our technology has made us more productive, so we should be able to get the same work done in less time. There is strong circumstantial evidence that we are unable to devote deep concentrating to more than a few hours a day. I often feel this way in my own job, where I will go through bursts of intense productivity but will need to recover afterwards by answering emails or doing some other mundane task. This doesn't even factor in the exponentially increased distractions (Twitter, Facebook, Iphone, text messaging, etc.) that we have tugging at our attention at all hours of the day.
So why won't employers allow for a more flexible employment schedule? Because only working just enough to support ourselves would flatline an economy built upon consumers accumulating debt for non-essential excesses. The system forces us to have minimal leisure time, during which we have to spend more money to feel like we are maximizing our enjoyment. It's a vicious cycle that I see every day. Friends are content grinding away at jobs they dislike and having very little useful free time to themselves. They never quite seem to do the things they talk about in their "someday" fantasies (let alone keep themselves in decent shape), but have time to watch TV and appease their girlfriends with dinners at chain restaurants.
The closing words of this article hit particularly hard:
"The perfect customer is dissatisfied but hopeful, uninterested in serious personal development, highly habituated to the television, working full-time, earning a fair amount, indulging during their free time, and somehow just getting by. Is this you?"
So, is it?