People Who Live to Work, Not Work to Live

hard worker

Just about the best advice I ever got came from a career counselor when I was at Cornell.  She asked about my interests and my hobbies.  She then went through a list of possible professions that might be of interest to me (by the way, “teacher” was NOT one of them), then she said something that stuck with me for the rest of my life.  She said: “You need to find something you love doing, but something you know you can stop doing when it’s time to go home.  Remember, it’s important to work to live, not live to work.”  I have always remembered this and, even though I have chosen a profession that she didn’t pick for me, I have lived those words to their fullest.

I go home when I feel I should go home.  I don’t overwork myself, and, when 4PM rolls around, I pack my bags and leave.  Often, my job necessitates that I stay later (for meetings, parents conferences, etc) and I oblige because it’s part of the job.  But, on normal work days, I try to leave at the allowed time because I have a life outside of work and I don’t need to “live to work.”  I will not check my e-mails in the evening, nor will I EVER have the e-mails rolled over to my mobile phone!  There is a time for working and there is a time for other pursuits.  Of course, like any teacher, I am home in the evening marking papers and preparing lessons, but that’s part of my job and at least I am doing that at home.  I am usually early to work because I feel if I can be productive in the morning (before everyone arrives and distracts me), I will have less work to do in the afternoon and I can leave on time.

teacherThere are many people in the world who did not have my career counselor because they absolutely “live to work!”  These are the people who send e-mails at 11PM and who come in to work the next day with the next 5 months planned out (only to change the plan again that night when they’re working more).  These are the people who send text messages to their loved ones at 10PM that say “just leaving work now.”  The “live to work ” people get frustrated with those of us that have lives and that don’t always have our minds on the job.  These people are the most pathetic people because they can not see any happiness beyond their job.  I meet a lot of “live to work” people in international teaching because of the nature of the job.  Some single people move internationally and aren’t the best at forging relationships.  Their job becomes the only thing that they do, besides sleep and eat.  It becomes their “relationship.”  These people have nothing outside of their work, so they are always working.  I have been at school in the evenings (for meetings or parent evenings) and seen some of these people working well into the night.  These people send e-mails after hours and expect an answer right away.  They think everyone is obsessed with their job as much as they are.  These people are mentally deranged!

As the level of responsibility increases in someone’s career, so does the level of involvement.  This necessitates longer working hours and more things done outside of work time.  This is normal….not deranged.  What’s deranged is the people who are always “at work,” even when they’re not.  These are the people who volunteer for weekend shifts or who complain to you the next day because you haven’t responded to the e-mail they sent at 10:30PM the night before.  These people need to find something that makes them happy BESIDES work.  If you know some of these people, please invite them out for dinner, or to a movie or something that’s non-work related.  When they begin to talk about work during that social interaction, stop them  and change the subject to something that has nothing to do with work.  And, most importantly, if you see them working late into the night or you get an e-mail from them at 11PM, let them know they’re crazy and they need to take some time for themselves.  It’s important and it’s sanity-inducing!


1 Comment

  1. I wish I’d gotten that advice at Cornell. My advisers just kept pushing me into graduate school. Luckily, at the last possible minute, I realized that a PhD in Theatre Lit Crit was going to make me pretty useless as far as getting a, you know, *job*.

    Anyhow — I so very much agree with you on this. Even when I was young and single and had nothing else going on, I still went home at the end of the day. But I wasn’t as good as putting work out of my thoughts, because I didn’t have anything else to focus on. Now I walk out the door and it all drains away until the next time I’m there.

    I’m also a firm believer in the idea that if everyone worked productively, they could work less. I never stay late. I never get there early. But I’m there and ready to work when my workday starts (not 45 minutes after strolling around the office getting coffee), and I work up until it ends (not a half-hour before). During that time I do a great job, and I get a lot done. More than some who stay late. So I don’t look back when the whistle blows, because I know I’ve put in good time already.

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