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Out of Our Minds
Monday, June 06, 2005 9:52 AM
What Counts as Work?
Anita Sharpe on Passionate Work

Whenever anyone says they work 80 hours a week -- which, of course, is more than 11 hours a day, seven days a week -- I don't believe them. But on reflection, I think the reason I don't believe them is the word 'work' for me refers to things I hate to do (sit in meetings, read contracts, pore over administrative minutia) and I have a limited tolerance for those things.

The things I love (virtually every part of the editorial process of putting out a magazine as well as big-picture strategy, etc.) don't count as work. Nearly every night, I carry home armloads of books that have been mailed to our offices and read through them in search of story items; that also isn't work. When I'm not doing that, I'm usually thumbing through magazines or talking with people who, more often than not, are somehow associated with Worthwhile. I don't call that work, either. But by that measure, I easily work 80 hours a week.

When I have to spend more than two or three hours a day doing stuff I hate and am not particularly good at, I find it totally ruins me for the things I am best at and should be spending my time on. Indeed, Margaret Heffernan, in the July/August issue of Worthwhile (on newsstands in the next couple of weeks) makes a strong case that that kind of work, while often glorified, is in fact, terrible for us personally and bad for business in general.


Paughnee - 6/6/2005 2:36:22 PM
Marcus Buckingham spoke at a Maximum Impact conference and touched on this. 'The one thing you need to know about sustaining individual success is: Find out what you don't like doing and stop doing it!' He went on to give some strategies for eliminating those activities from your work. I talk about this a little in this blog entry: http://paughneemoore.typepad.com/blog/2005/05/that_thing_you_.html .
Kevin - 6/6/2005 11:57:18 AM
In our social lives, we increasingly are getting away from the exact types of disliked tasks you are talking about. Don't like to do yardwork? Hire someone. Not good at cooking? Eat out. (In fact, I have a friend who ate a home-cooked dinner a total of 5 times all of last year.)

Another friend calls this 'The Servantizing of America,' but to me it makes sense -- if you can afford it. Do what you do best and those jobs where your passions lay. Leave the other stuff to those who might get more enjoyment from those things.

Or is that a spoiled brat view of the world?


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