Embracing the Daily Grind

8th Aug 2018

Remote Working

Something recently flashed up on my Facebook feed.  It was a live video from someone with the title ‘Escaping the Daily Grind.’  The video went on to explain how this person had engineered the opportunity to spend part of their summer overseas.  There is nothing wrong with this, of course, and I applaud them for creating a life opportunity they sought, but it did get me thinking about what the daily grind really is and how it might well mean different things to different people.  It also, of course, is something that changes at different points in people’s lives.

Many years ago I left school with very little planning and even less qualifications.  This was at the time when you could leave school at 16 and I wanted out as soon as possible - my only plan, if it could be called that, was to climb.  I was released into the wide world and perhaps I was already seeking to escape any kind of daily grind even though I wasn’t even aware of the term.  Of course,  this was also a time long before being responsible for financial ties like a mortgage or children.

I did plenty of climbing during this period but also wasted a lot of time too.  I didn’t need to get up early and so found I gradually stayed in bed later and often found that plans for climbing got delayed because, after all, I could always just do it the next day instead.  It was a great time in so many ways and I look back very fondly on those carefree years, but in some ways it also didn’t live up to my expectations either.

In the end I decided I needed to head towards something and went back to college to do A levels. I now found, contrary to my expectations, that my reduced free time actually brought things more into focus.  I only had evenings, weekends and holidays and so, whenever the opportunity arose, I went out climbing.  I was far less fussy about the weather and made far less excuses to ‘just leave it for another day’.  Having more of a daily routine to my life had actually made me more productive.  Less was more.  

I remember the legendary climber Mick Fowler saying a similar thing about his own experiences in one of his books - he eventually gave up on a period as a full time climber to join the tax service and actually became a better climber when he had less time to climb but climbed with more focus.  So,  I might wonder if ‘the daily grind’ can actually make us more productive?  

Someone had added a message on the Facebook posting I mentioned saying it isn’t a daily grind if you enjoy what you do.  That got me thinking too.  I have had jobs in the past where I didn’t enjoy them and they were very repetitive - they felt a bit of a grind at times.  But some people are happy to do a repetitive job day in/day out and they don’t get bored or frustrated - often they actually like the repetition.

As a simple example, a friend of mine is a postman.  While anyone would agree this is a repetitive job, he has done the same thing for several decades and still heads off to work each day quite happily.  He enjoys finding time to chat to some of his customers, he always seeks little ways to make his delivery round more efficient, he enjoys the physicality of his job and he loves witnessing the changing seasons.  

He also cranks hard on the rock in every available second of his spare time. Infact, he is one of the most motivated sports people I know and is constantly pushing the boundaries of what he can achieve.  His job is simply a means to an end and he knows that when he clocks off each day he doesn’t need to give it another thought until he is back at work.

Of course, some people are in jobs that they really do find a grind and they would like to change.  Some know they want to change and actively seek ways to execute a move and some, although wanting a new direction, see that the advantages of sticking with what they have outweigh the benefits of moving.  Depending on the nature of their work, some are finding that remote working offers opportunities to do all or parts of their job from a different location and technology has played a big part in making that possible.  For some people their job is based at a location that can't be changed.    

We have helped several people, for example,  who are keen to move into the outdoor world. They sometimes face a less stable income and see the inevitable drop in pay, but still figure that the lifestyle offered by an instructional career outweighs any negatives.  We see some several years later who have stuck with it and we see some who, for various reasons, never made it work.  Either way,  they have sought a change to something they felt worth pursuing.

I also do meet people who aren’t inspired by their work, but they don’t let that define them.  They do the work and accept that it pays the bills and allows them to maximise their free time activities.  Maybe they could look to change but don’t seek to - maybe the benefits of their job (pay, security, convenient hours or proximity to home) means they accept that it is better to stay put than to move on.  They could describe it as the daily grind, but they are making that grind work for them.

Lastly,  there is a group of people who stay in the same company, or even the same role, but work hard to keep their individuality or find ways to bring a freshness to their job.  In one case this was a client who set up an after work triathlon club which spiralled into a thriving social group that ultimately got financially supported by the company.  

We met another who decided he needed to take his climbing to his workplace.  He kept a length of rope and carabiner in his desk drawer and would grab a few minutes here and there to practice a few knots.  He also bought a forearm trainer and would crank out some exercises while he worked and he set himself a target of cycling to and from work every day for a year.  Lastly,  he was working towards ascending a large mountain during his holidays so he set up a screensaver with some motivational photos of his dream peak.  They were all small but important ways for him to keep his identity as a climber while allowing him to do his day job efficiently.  

So,  I do accept that the daily grind exists and most people need to work to pay the bills and to enable them to live the lifestyle they are seeking.  However,  I would also argue that ‘escaping the daily grind’ doesn’t always need to be some monumental life shift - it can instead be about finding other ways to keep a balance in your life.   Maybe we should really be talking about ‘embracing the daily grind’?

Posted by Paul