Working (just enough) to live


Reduce waste so that your life is not wasted.

Let’s define “overhead” as something you must do as a means to what you really want to do, e.g. brushing your teeth is something you must do if you want a healthy life.

You can also see overheads as a maintenance or upkeep cost, e.g. if you want to have the mobility and independence that comes with a car, you must pay taxes and fuel, repair and clean it.

How many overheads do you have in your life? Get groceries, make meals, wash the dishes, clean the body, exercise the body, heal the body, socialise, earn money, pay taxes and utilities, do repairs…

Overheads are universal to any human. The 2nd law of thermodynamics can be boiled down to this:

The complexity of matter deteriorates gradually over time. If left untouched, everything evolves naturally into disorder. A rock erodes to grains and finally to dust. Entropy is a measure of that disorder.

Simple English: Everything goes to đź’© given enough time.

These overheads delay the natural increase in entropy. If you skip them, one way or another, your quality of life degrades, then your mental and physical health, and eventually you die — sooner than you would otherwise. You are part of the Universe, hence you can’t escape Physics!

Life is like riding a bicycle

You put in some effort pedalling and the bicycle will move forward for a bit. While it is moving forward, you don’t need to pedal, so you enjoy the view. Then you go back to pedalling some more, and so on…

The pedalling is the work, the overhead.

The view is the pleasure, the joy of living.

You know you’re doing something wrong if you have to pedal for most of the trip. Either (1) the bicycle does not multiply your effort, (2) your pedalling is not strong enough, or (3) your terrain is too steep.


How much time do you spend working? And upkeeping your life? And resting? How much time is left after that? That’s the actual time that you live.

Optimistic math: work 8h, commute 3h, eat 2h, upkeep 1h, rest 8h

= 2h per workday of “free” living

Time really is precious, isn’t it?

Do the math

Approximately, a year has 52 weeks. Let’s say in your country there are 13 bank holidays. Let’s assume you’re lucky and all of them are effective and happen during a workday. And let’s say you also have 22 days of vacation given by your employer.

(52 * 5) = 260 max workdays in a year

260d – 13d holidays – 22d vacations = 225 min workdays a year

Best case scenario, you spend ~62% of each year working.

Thus, you live to work. If you trade all your time for money, you won’t have time to spend all that money.

Find a balance

Let’s now assume you don’t work on Mondays, because who likes Mondays anyway? So subtract one day per week in the year, that’s -52. By working one less day each week, you would work 47% of the year. Now that’s a better balance! And it’s not a new idea.

“But I can’t spare one day of salary every week”, you might say.

Remember the bicycle analogy?

  • Change your bicycle
    • ie. find an income source that pays you more for the same effort
  • Change your strength
    • ie. invest in training that makes you more proficient
  • Change your terrain
    • ie. lower the cost of living and align your lifestyle with your goals

Find what needs to change to free more time life to you. Every day that ends is time that you won’t get back. When are you going to enjoy it? When you’re old, fragile and sick?

The current market makes you work more than you should, so that you feel tired and empty, which will make you want to buy stuff and experiences to ease that emotional/physical pain.

Don’t be a hamster in a wheel, giving all your best to stay in the same place.