Note: The following is excerpted from Appendix A of Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overwork & Time Poverty In America (The Official Handbook for Take Back Your Time Day) to be published in July, 2003.
What will you do in your community to take part in Take Back Your Time Day? Of course, the options are many. The next two sections look at a couple of possibilities. These ideas are meant to be fun and creative, to get your imagination going. Sean Sheehan suggests one way of organizing a community meeting that can be both informative and enjoyable. You can adapt his plan or create your own from scratch. You'll note that this meeting takes place on Friday evening. It's for all those people who want to support Take Back Your Time Day, but just don't feel brave enough to skip work for even part of the day. What might work best is to hold campus teach-ins during the afternoon, and meetings in churches, union halls, and community centers or libraries during the evening. And don't be afraid to let the events continue the following day -- it's a Saturday, and officially, it's Make A Difference Day. So you might want to make your difference by hosting a continuation of Take Back Your Time Day events -- a community fair with tables, say. Of course, you could also hold your fair on Friday. The point is to make clear that the event is about taking back time. Be sure that it doesn't end without your getting names and contact information for everyone who attended so you can establish an on-going Take Back Your Time organization and continue to work on the issue. -- John de Graaf, Editor
Before you decide to organize a Take Back Your Time Day event at your college, with your religious congregation, in your union hall, or at your local library's meeting room, it would be helpful to get a picture of what one might look like. So, please close your eyes and picture this. Wait a second, unless the Time Day Handbook-On-Tape has already been released, you'll have to leave them open. Well, in any case, please take yourself to . . .
Place: Your place of work
Date: Friday evening, October 24, 2003
Time: 6:42 p.m.
The sound of jingling keys echoes off the walls and you glance up to see a coworker pulling on her coat. You look at your watch in disbelief, and then grow concerned. Whatever could be the matter? A health problem? A family emergency?
Rhonda, is everything OK, you call out.
Yeah, why? she turns, smiling. You breathe a sigh of relief.
Well, it's barely dark. I mean, you haven't gone home before 9:00 p.m. all month, it doesn't look like you're bringing work home, and I know you have some big deadlines coming up.
If it makes you feel better, I'm not going home, Rhonda smirks, and then adds, and the fact that you know my work hours means you should come with me. C'mon, grab your coat -- we're going to a Take Back Your Time Day discussion and I don't want to be late!
Take Back Your Time Day? Something about it must have a struck a chord, because next thing you know you're walking alongside Rhonda toward the local library. You follow her into the library's community meeting room and glance at your watch -- 6:59 p.m. You made it!
Just inside the door, a tall fifty-something man, still wearing his jacket, stands talking to a seated younger couple. At the front of the room, the panelists have already taken their seats. You recognize a city counselor and surmise, based on attire, that two other panelists are a doctor and a minister. The remaining panelists are a mystery to you. Between you and the panel a few dozen people have filled up most of the rows of folding chairs. Who would have guessed this many people would come to the library to talk about time?
A cheerful woman named Florence Gardener, or so you gather from the nametag on her blouse, bounces up to you, offering greetings and handing you a blank nametag.
As a way of getting to know each other, we're asking everyone to write their first name on these name tags. Then, we're writing a word that sums up one thing we'd really like to do if we had more time.
For example, her colleague points out, My name's Drew and my tag says 'Drew Family.'
Your watch ticks a notch and, as if on cue, the MC calls the room to attention. You and Rhonda, now tagged 'Rhonda Cook,' slip into a row and take seats between Jackie Bicycle and Eric Meditate.
The MC enthusiastically announces that this is one of hundreds of such gatherings in cities and towns across the country. Each event is unique to its region's interests and resources, yet each holds the common theme that our overworked and overscheduled lifestyles are crowding out other values and activities we hold dear. She thanks the audience for taking time to attend and thanks the volunteers who pulled it all together. She also points out that while the event was orchestrated on a shoestring budget, three people donated 'gifts of time' to a silent auction to raise the meager funds needed to cover these costs. She encourages everyone to bid on the donated massage, driveway shoveling coupon, and guided backcountry hike at the booth by the exit.
The MC says that we'll be hearing from an array of experts and local leaders about the problem and prospects for solutions, but first she wants to know who has experienced a time crunch at some point in the past year. Every hand in the room shoots up.
OK, we've all experienced a time crunch. That makes us all experts, so let's start by listening to what we all have to say.
She instructs everyone to break into groups of three, preferably not with a friend or acquaintance, and take a few minutes to elaborate on 'your chosen last name,' major obstacles in the way of having time for it, and what it would take to overcome those obstacles.
You take a few paces to your right and pull up a chair next to Dan Drums and Monica Study. Monica starts, explaining that her dream is to graduate from college, but she dropped out because she couldn't handle the study load combined with the full-time job she needed to pay for living expenses and the portion of tuition not covered by student loans. She's now taking a couple of community college classes, though even they've been tough to fit in between her jobs cashiering at a Big Box store outside of town and waitressing at a diner. She adds that she needs the jobs to help pay for her parents' medical expenses . . . and that she's worried about her looming student debt.
At that, Dan says his story now seems pretty petty, and that he's reluctant to even tell it, but you and Monica encourage him to go on. He shares how his greatest joy as a kid came from playing drums in the school band and that he has longed to recapture that feeling for many years now. Last year, he saved up and bought a very expensive drum set, but his marketing job typically works him 8 to 8 and has him on the road virtually every weekend. In other words, he's never home during the hours that his condo complex would allow him to play his drums.
You share your story with Dan and Monica.
The next hour consists of brief yet powerful presentations from the panel. The Doctor talks about hurry sickness and other health risks resulting from overwork, such as fast food and lack of sleep. The minister reflects upon the importance of the Sabbath and how we've lost both that day of rest and the time we need to set aside for spiritual matters. A professor from the university talks about the social impact of our work-and-spend culture, and a representative from the Sierra Club talks about the environmental impacts.
Just when you think you can't take anymore bad news, the final two panelists talk about solutions. A former big shot at the phone company talks about his decision to downshift from the rat race and rekindle his relationship with his wife and kids. He talks about the flextime and telecommuting possibilities with his current job and emphasizes that he's never regretted the time-money trade-off. Then, a soft-spoken immigrant single mom and union steward talks about how she is organizing against mandatory overtime on her job, because she wants to be home when her 12-year-old son gets out of school. She doesn't pull punches about the hardships and challenges she faces as a result, yet she has no doubt that she's making the right choice.
The MC wraps up the event with an exciting description of next spring's Take Back Your Time policy conventions and next fall's 'Billion Hour March.' She encourages everyone to sign up to help plan or promote this next generation of events and also to fill out a pledge card describing what they're personally committing to do for Take Back Your Time Day and beyond. The pledge cards ask participants to make two commitments to themselves, one personal and one external.
These commitments can be as simple as reflecting on the evening's event and discussing it with a friend or loved one. Or they can be as dramatic as looking for a new job and writing a letter to the editor, businesses, or policymakers about time issues. It's up to the participants to decide for themselves, although the MC does point out that pens, paper, and relevant addresses have been provided on a back table for people who wish to take a letter-writing route. The room slowly begins to empty amidst the buzz of excited voices. Many congregate around the letter-writing table and gift of time silent auction booth. You turn to Rhonda and ask what she plans to do.
While the preceding description took place in a library meeting room, it just as easily could have occurred at a college, place of worship, union hall, or even someone's living room. It could have also followed a number of different formats and featured different types of speakers.
There are also two crucial differences between the sample description and reality. First, invigorating events don't materialize from thin air -- they require planning. Secondly, you didn't learn about Take Back Your Time Day 18 minutes before the event; you're learning about it today! Because you're learning about it today, you have the opportunity to help organize an event in your community.
Do you have what it takes? Here's a short quiz to help you find out.
If you answered yes to all of the above questions, congratulations! You're qualified to coordinate a Take Back Your Time Day event.
If you answered no to any of the above questions, it sounds like you might personally benefit from a Take Back Your Time Day event in your community even more. If you can't take a lead role yourself, please pass out copies of this Handbook to leaders of labor, church, family, or environmental organizations and tell them you'd love to see a Time Day in your community.
Obviously, the earlier you begin planning, the better -- both for the event's effectiveness and for your own sanity. For the purposes of this sample timeline, we thought Independence Day was a fine time to begin thinking about our freedom and what we choose to do with it. If you can start organizing in the spring, by all means, go for it. Don't worry if, on the other hand, you can't start until September; you still have time to pull off a solid event.
Goals for the month:
Agenda list for first meeting:
Goals for the month:
Logistics: Finalize details on venue's dos and don'ts and obtain public transit directions, driving directions, and parking instructions. Check in with other members of organizing committee.
Publicity: Talk to local bookstores and libraries about hosting a Time Day Handbook book release event in September and using it to promote your October 24 event. Be sure to post details of all events at www.timeday.org.
Volunteer coordinator: Place a listing in community newspapers, e-mail lists, and bulletins of local civic, faith-based, and other groups, announcing the Time Day event and calling for volunteers to help with baked goods, 'gifts of time' for a silent auction, and event support. Such organizations often publish or meet monthly and may require some lead time to announce the fair.
Organizational liaison: Prioritize the organizations and local celebrities from July's brainstorm and invite them to participate by (1) cosponsoring Time Day and giving employees the opportunity to take the day off, either with or without pay; (2) providing a staff member or volunteer to represent their group on the day of the fair; and (3) helping to publicize the event.
Goals for the month:
Everyone: Attend the September book event and talk up your October 24 event.
Logistics: Check in with other members of the coordinating team and help out where needed.
Publicity coordinator: Fax or mail PSA, calendar announcement, and/or press release to all local radio, television, and print media. Create a local speakers contact list for the media.
Volunteer coordinator: Solicit more volunteers, including live music, if appropriate. Field calls and emails from prospective volunteers and direct them to assist logistics, publicity, and organization coordinators, as appropriate.
Organization liaison: Follow up with the initial wave of invitations and continue to expand list of invitees to cosponsor the event (i.e., help to publicize and provide volunteers). Be sure to reach Rotary Clubs, Women's Clubs, Girl Scout troops, etc. Put interested groups in touch with your publicity and volunteer coordinators.
Goals for the month:
Everyone: Execute the to-do list you came up with in August.
Logistics: Double-check venue details. Check in with other members of the coordinating team and help out where needed.
Publicity coordinator: Follow up with press contacts (see Eric Brown's chapter about getting media for more detailed tips).
Volunteer coordinator: Follow up with volunteers and make sure everyone is clear and comfortable with their assignments.
Organization liaison: Follow up with organizations and make sure they are clear and comfortable with their commitments.
Goals for the month:
Logistics: Organize a meeting of this year's Time Day organizing committee and people interested in being on next year's committee to do a post-mortem on this year's event and set next year's plans in motion.
Publicity coordinator: Send photos and a report of your event to the national Time Day committee to post on the Web site.
Volunteer coordinator: Thank all volunteers for their contributions and catalog their contact information and interests for future organizing purposes.
Organization liaison: Thank all organizations for their contributions and invite them to participate in the Handbook discussion group and future organizing efforts.
Everyone: Pat yourselves on the back and make time for what you want to do.