We’re bringing you something a bit different this month: a review of the recently released How To Get Away: Finding Balance In Our Overworked, Overcrowded, Always-On World by Jon Staff and Pete Davis, founders of Getaway. We interviewed Pete to kick off our new podcast, You Need To Stop Doing That, so go take a listen and then pick up Pete and Jon’s book if you like what you hear. We did!
Pete and Jon launched their tiny house rental company, Getaway, in 2015 after meeting during grad school at Harvard. Inspired by Jon’s childhood in Northern Minnesota and a desire to truly disconnect from the hustle of an always-on world, they created a new kind of vacation rental company: one where you lock your phone away and hole up in an 8 foot by 20 foot cabin in the woods. Turns out they weren’t the only ones who wanted to get away: they now have a 90% occupancy rate year-round in over 80 tiny houses outside of Boston, New York and D.C.
Tiny houses in the woods aren’t just a marketing gimmick. Millions of American workers are stuck in an endless cycle of “work hard, play hard” (but mostly just work hard) and are starving for a true break. And as we talk about often at MatchPace, it’s time for us to reimagine our workday to restore balance to our lives, not just add more hustle. Pete, Jon and the Getaway team agree.
How To Get Away, released earlier this year, is Jon and Pete’s dissertation on just why the Getaway concept, and learning to truly disconnect and rest, is so important and resonating with so many people. “The digital age has left us unbalanced,” the book begins. “We’re not just connected; we’re suffering from social and technology overload. We’re always on; we never turn off.”
Sound familiar? It did for us, too. The book goes on to explore three areas that have become out of balance in our lives: technology and disconnection, city and nature, and work and leisure. While we were definitely convicted by our utter dependence and yes, addiction, to technology, we found the “balancing work and leisure” section particularly relevant to our work at MatchPace. “The way we are working is clearly not working,” Pete and Jon declare. They go on to discuss how our obsession with productivity has actually made us less productive in the time we do spend working, which continues to take over more hours in our day thanks to constant connection to work via a smartphone or laptop.
Our work week now averages 47 hours (with many working 60 hours or more), we refuse to take vacation, and the “speedup” (our workplaces demanding more output from us without more pay) is making us stressed and sick. We’re left out of balance, our work dominating so much of our lives it becomes our entire identity.
We all agree our modern workday and workplace is the disease. So what’s the prescription? The opposite of work: rest and leisure. And as Pete emphasized in his podcast interview, rest and leisure don’t exist just to recharge us so we can work harder. (We’ll be unpacking this idea more in our next blog.) Taking time to rest and recharge does help us work better, but the activities that fill our true leisure time - creative hobbies, giving back to our community, building relationships - add value to our lives by themselves. They aren’t a means to an end. And that may be Jon and Pete’s most innovative discovery: as they explain, “experiencing real leisure requires being in an environment that allows you to cease effort and analysis, performance and criticism, bustle and worry” (or all the things that define our working hours). They also argue for a shorter workweek and mandatory vacation, but we agree that policies will never create lasting change in our workday. We must reimagine what we want our workday and what we do with the rest of the hours in our day to be.
It’s time to take our conversation about work-life balance to a new level. Instead of seeking balance simply so we can work harder and produce more, let’s embrace the spirit of Getaway and learn to truly disconnect and restore balance to our lives. We’ll be happier, healthier, and yes - more productive. But ultimately, we’ll be better equipped to live as good friends, family members and citizens of the world so we can tackle the world’s greatest challenges together. Picking up a copy of How To Get Away is a great start!