What is Work?

Nice Work if You Can Get it*

small Tiger WoodsWhat is work?  Sounds like an easy question.  Maybe but as I tried to answer it it began to look more complex.  Let me describe some work situations and then I’d like to look at a definition of work to see what qualifies as work.  After all you cannot understand what work-life balance is if you do not understand what work is!

Marcia is a sales manager who works for a prestigious Fortune 100 company.   She loves her job and the sales professionals that she manages.  Marcia’s life revolves around her job.  She enjoys golfing with her clients.  She takes clients to dinner, to the theater, and to sporting events.  Marcia has trouble understanding why anyone would care about work-life balance.  Her job doesn’t feel like work.  If she counts the entertainment she does, she works close to 65 hours a week. For Marcia work includes a lot of her life.

George is an independent software developer.  He is working on something that will take him several years to implement if he works at it full time.  He wants to move quickly on the project so his competitors don’t get to market first.  The work is engrossing but he is concerned that if he did the work that he has to do without a break, he would become depressed, isolated and perhaps stale.  George wants to create some boundaries for his work time so that he achieves some sort of balance.

Phil is independently wealthy.  He doesn’t need a 9 to 5 job to support himself.  He did want to be productive in some way however and so he became the business development director at a nonprofit. He enjoys this aspect of his life and is able to do it, manage his investments and find time for other social functions. If asked Phil tells people he doesn’t work because he believes that work involves making a living.

So again what is work?  The dictionary gives as the first definition for work: “Physical or mental effort or activity directed toward the production or accomplishment of something.”  No mention of money until you get to the third definition.  For purposes of our discussion let’s focus on the first definition.

If we explore the possibilities would you call painting, doing woodworking, or reading a book work?  You are expending physical and/or mental effort and producing or accomplishing something. So again I ask, “What is work?” and for that matter what do people mean by work/life balance?  It seems like we could define everything as work.

Sometimes everything does seem like work – especially if recreation has to get scheduled into a busy day.  A walk or reading a book feels like just one more thing to do.  “I’ll walk or read for 20 minutes.”  When I do it it is an accomplishment!

Perhaps the difference between our recreational “work” and our other work is the intention.  For our daily work we are focused on achieving something for the business, nonprofit, or corporation we work for.  It is goal oriented.

For recreational “work” it is the process that is enjoyable, absorbing and relaxing. It is the focus that makes it work or non-work.

To paraphrase an old saying: One person’s work is another person’s recreation! So for the full time artist painting is work but for me painting is just fun!

My distinction is that work is about ‘doing’/achieving and that recreational “work” is about ‘being’.  Look at the different aspects of your life through the lens of ‘doing’/achieving versus ‘being’.  Find anything interesting

Questions to ponder:

1.   What is the benefit of work-life balance?

2.   Where are the places in your life where the process is more important than the result?

3.   What does life balance look like to you?

4.   Think about times when your life was out of balance.  What had to happen to get it back into balance?


Get Perfect Balance in Your Life

A coach can help you to identify what balance looks like for you and then work with you to attain and maintain that balance.  Coaches can provide easy to use tools to insure that you can identify what is out of balance.  If you want to give up the struggle of work-life balance, call me at 781-598-0388 or email me at asparker@asparker.com


*Song from the musical Nice Work If You Can Get It by George and Ira Gershwin


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