When you're working, you're not out seeing a new city. You're stuck in a room, probably at a computer, churning away.
When you're working, you're not out meeting new people. You're stuck with your coworkers, or possibly no one at all.
When you're working, you're not out in the sun enjoying the weather and the nature around you. You're stuck inside under lights, probably flourescent ones.
When you're working, you're not doing physical activity, strengthening yourself and making yourself more healthy. You're sitting still, typing.
There are a million other good things you're not doing while you work. Work, when executed at a high level anyway, is all consuming. It prevents you from doing things you want to do and things you should do. There's a huge opportunity cost to working.
So when you do work, make it count. If you're slacking, or doing busy work, or allowing yourself to become distracted, or preventing yourself from giving it 100% in any other way, you are cheating yourself. Literally, you're cheating yourself. You're trading some really good stuff for not much at all.
On the other hand, really good creative work that has you fully engaged, and results in your producing something of value for the world, is one of the greatest daily achievements someone can have. You give up a lot for it, but good things are expensive. It's a fair trade.
So next time you sit down at your desk to work, think about the things you're not doing, and decide whether you're going to make it worth it or not.
I'm heading out to Japan super early in the morning tomorrow. On April 6th I'll be having a Tokyo Meetup with Leo Babauta, Nick Gray, and possibly one other special guest. If you're in the area, please come say hi. Info is here.
On that note-- I've scheduled the next three posts after this. I'm taking a week long trip around Japan with nine friends, so I'll probably be really bad about replying to comments.
Photo is me in Wuyi, China. All I can say is that it's a good thing I'm about to go on another trip and take a bunch of pictures!
I am reading this at work... What does that say about me? :-)
I always enjoy your posts, loved your video from Peru. My wife and I hiked the Lares trek several years ago and it was amazing, one of the better experiences of my life. I am looking at your picture and trying to figure out how I can extricate from my work and find myself instead inside your photo. But the grass is always greener in some cases.
When I was younger, before I had two small children it was easier to remove myself from "work" and do as I please. But now I feel more responsible (I am more responsible) for the well being of others... I also have a community full of patients whom I serve on a weekly basis. This complicates things a bit, I am not saying it is impossible, but it complicates things. Those of us who are lucky enough to pursue passions that free us from location and time have an advantage. But there is only room in this space for so many, for the others work is part of the equation. To say otherwise is not to accept reality.
What we need is a society that demands work/life balance. That will only come with policy change that favors employees. I think life as an employee could be wonderful. The fact that 80% of people hate their work has nothing to do with the work itself, but the lack of necessary balance that makes work enjoyable.
Maybe we need to spend less time blogging about minimalism, good sleep hygiene and living our passions (all good things don't get me wrong) and start working to create a healthy society in which the employees who make the world turn for the rest of us can have equal opportunity to spend time pondering such luxuries. It's a socioeconomic, racial divide at work here, one I know you understand. If we don't address these problems our work online pandering to the masses of have's who have the means to download our eBooks and read our email newsletters will do little to make the world a better place.
What if the work you do requires you be outside in the sun, traveling, physically active and/or social. There are a lot of different kinds of work. You just need to be brave enough to pursue them! I'm learning you don't need much. If you're smart, resourceful and willing to take a chance (but which job isn't?) then you could be experiences all or at least some of the things while 'working'.
But I do agree there will be times when you have to sit down, probably behind a computer in an office chair, and you should make those times count. But I hope that you find challenge and creativity in this work (I'm learning mindset has a lot to do with it!) and that you're excited to be there!
This is the first time I'm reading your blog. I'm looking forward to reading more :)
Most of your posts have made me feel really jealous of the life you lead, but this one is different. My job takes me to new cities, lets me meet new people, enjoy nature, and get a really good work out. Sadly, I don't get to enjoy the sun, since we don't have sun in the UK; the Great British summer is one of our many folk myths, like Robin Hood and King Arthur.
Keep posting. You make me smile.
Over the last couple years I've spent way too much time working. It's gotten to the point where it's unproductive and I'd actually get more done by putting less hours in. It's also caused me to become a huge introvert and that's something I'm currently working on. Thanks for this post, it's always good for a reminder to keep me on track.
This post is a great reminder. It is obvious, in a way, but it is easy to forget: If I distract myself while working and need 2 hours to finish something I could have finished in one hour, that's one hour I could have spent on much more enjoyable or non-work productive activities. One hour less of reading great books, learning new things, talking to friends, playing with the dog. Hell, even playing (God forbid!) video games! Even that would be time better spent than the time vanishing in little bits of distraction and inefficiencies. Also, putting it in terms of opportunity cost appeals to my inner economist.
Thanks. I'm gonna take that last sentence as one of my motivational quotes for the week.
I used to dislike to work. I saw how most people lived their lives, slogging through work that they hated, and I was determined not to fall into that trap. I made the mistake of generalizing, lumping all work together in the same bucket.
Since then, things have changed. In terms of monumental personal life changes, becoming a hard worker is the most recent one I've undergone. About a year ago, for reasons I touched on in this post, I decided that it was imperative for me to become a hard worker. I didn't do it because I had suddenly fallen in love with work, but rather because I had began to feel as though I was behind. And believe me, it wasn't love at first sight.
To fall in love with hard work, you must understand why it's necessary. When I was young I was told that sugar was bad, but I never understood exactly why it was bad, so I kept eating it. Only when I learned how it chemically affected my body did I finally give it up. The same is true of work-- if you don't know why you have to work hard and love it, you'll probably never actually do it.
Work is your gift to the world. That sounds corny, but it's true. And believe me, you owe the world a gift or two. Think of all of the various things that millions of people around the world have done for you to enjoy the life you have. They made up languages, invented stuff, procreated at the exact right times to create your ancestry, and managed to not kill each other in the process. We're lucky to be here, and the high standard of living we all enjoy now is only because of those who came before us. Some, like Einstein, had huge impact, but even people you don't notice, like the janitors, are making your life better.
Question from a reader -
One thing that I'm wondering, and figured that I should send before I go to sleep and forget it... For certain kinds of tasks (having discussions about more abstract goal things, writing emails to friends, commenting on LW, etc.) I'm really motivated, and need to be restrained from doing them.
With other tasks, I'm nowhere near as motivated, and have trouble starting them. Since I'm still a student, not doing this kind of work just isn't an option.
In the long term, I'm hoping to just do more of the things I'm motivated for, and fewer of the ones I'm not. I'm willing to buckle down and do work in subjects that I'm less motivated for if I see how it clearly relates to my goals (last year I spent a few hours trying to work out the geometry kinks for a robot part -- it was a mess).
Right now, I'm just reminding myself that its really not hard once I start it, and that it goes quickly if I just do it.