Do You Work to Live? Or Live to Work?

Humans are creative beings – and work is one way of manifesting this innate creativity. Work allows us to earn a living so that we’ll be able to buy food, pay the bills, and, when possible, afford luxuries like vacations. Moreover, it is work that gives rest meaning – something jobseekers understand far too well. Conversely, it is rest that reenergizes us for the following day’s work, thusly, both work and rest are important aspects of life that must be balanced in order for our lives to be good and productive.

The danger of working too much

What does life look like when we’re overworked? In Japan, people actually die from it. In order to make a good impression on employers and climb the corporate ladder, Japanese white-collar workers are expected to come to the office early and leave late. This extreme level of industriousness has led to instances of “karoshi” or death by overwork. Due to excessive stress, some workers either commit suicide or suffer heart failure. One such instance of karoshi is that of NHK journalist Miwa Sado. She reportedly clocked in 159 hours of overtime in one month before finally succumbing to heart failure. Such deaths are as tragic as they are ironic, considering that work exists to support life, not end it.

Work is a part of life

In an important way, the term “work-life balance” is misleading because it implies that work is outside of life, when in fact work is an integral part of life. What the term is actually pointing at is the balance of life at work and outside of work, so with that in mind, let us look at ways in which we can achieve such balance.

Leave work at the workplace

If business is booming, then work ultimately entails serving customers. If business is lean, then the work entails finding customers and finding innovations to become more cost-effective. In short, there is always work to do – it can never really run out. What this means is that work priorities must be set for the day, then leaving unfinished tasks to be done for another day. Render overtime if required, but after every workday, do leave work at the workplace – don’t let it take over family time, time with friends, time alone, and time with your God. Drawing the line will mean the difference between making work “work” for you or making yourself a slave to work.

Do the work that gets the most results

The Pareto principle states that 80% of results are gained by 20% of the work that we do. The trick, then, is to identify that 20% and then focusing on that so that you’ll always get results that are disproportionately larger to the time and effort that you put in. To illustrate, busy people find that cooking for themselves individually is inefficient as compared to cooking for a group of five. This is because, among other things, one will roughly do the same amount of cleanup in either case, yet the amount of meals produced is vastly different. That is why efficiency-driven individuals dedicate a day of cooking to produce meals for an entire week. This saves up a lot of time and effort in the remainder of the week since all one must do then is to reheat servings in the microwave.

You do you

No one can be everything to everybody. The same is true at work: focus on the things that only you can do. Competencies make individuals effective and efficient, so to save yourself some time and effort in doing things that aren’t your thing, either delegate, outsource, or simply ignore extraneous tasks. Less stress at work means less headaches spilling over at home.

Balancing life is a matter of prioritizing activities at work and outside of work, being efficient with our time and effort, and being effective by being true to ourselves and trusting in the competencies of others. A greater balance means lesser stress and more satisfaction in life – which in the end is the point of working in the first place.


written by Kelvin Cabrera