The statement is almost meaningless because it only deals with the “what” when the real problem is the “how.” You can have the “what” right (“I want to spend less time working”) but still fail at doing it because good intentions frequently run aground upon the absence of a realistic “how.”
Maybe I’m being too generous here, but it seems to me that most people who spend too much time at the office probably don’t do so because they want to (i.e., their priorities are screwed up), but because they don’t know how to do otherwise (i.e., they don’t know how to execute on their priorities). If they were to suddenly start working less, for example, the result would simply be that the work would build up — thereby distracting them, nagging them, and clogging things up so that their entire life becomes more difficult, not less.
In other words, spending less on time on work is not without consequence. It’s not something you can just do — regardless of intentions. Systems and know-how trump intentions. Just because someone toward the end of their life says “I wish I had spent less time at the office,” it doesn’t mean that they could have. The statement ends up making people feel guilty for wrong priorities when the real problem is often lack of knowledge about how to execute on those priorities.
Further, the statement also fails to acknowledge (“no one says…“) that some people should spend a ton of time working and all people rightly and properly tend to have seasons like this. (Yes, I affirm this in spite of my post yesterday that “you don’t have to be busy” — there are different types of busyness, and doing a smaller number of things sometimes still requires lots of time working if the nature of those things requires it.)
The apostle Paul is a good example of someone who often worked “night and day” (1 Thess 2:9) and labored extremely hard over the course of his life. I don’t think that Paul said at the end of his life “I wish I had spent less time laboring for the gospel.” He might have said “I wish I could have spent less time making tents to fund my ministry,” but his preference with that time would probably have been to devote it to his ministry. In part (this is an important side lesson), the reason that it worked for Paul to be so devoted to the work of his ministry is that he crafted his other responsibilities in a way that made this possible (for example, he remained single).
To be sure, I’m not saying the statement is bad. And neither am I getting into the really interesting new reality that doing work does not always have to equal “being in the office” anymore — which really has the potential to change things up. I don’t want to sound like I’m trashing the intention of this statement.
My point here is simply that we need to be people who do more than simply say things like “no one at the end of their life wishes they had spent more time at the office.” That’s not helpful because it doesn’t acknowledge that it requires skill to actually accomplish the “task” of working less and spending more time with family. We need to be people who give the “how,” not just the “what.”