What is the definition of work?

April 17, 2012

Authenticity, Self-discipline

There’s a lot of talk right now about what constitutes “work.” I’m not going to weigh in on the political issue, but the definition of work is something I’ve considered daily since I left my corporate job.

When I went to an office from eight to five, the answer to “What did you do today?” was easy: I worked. Pretty much anyone with a full-time job works all day.

How much actual works gets done during those nine hours? Just turning up tends to get counted as work, especially in a corporate environment. I’m not saying people in the corporate world don’t do anything. Certainly, many do great things. And many coast.

I wrote about Automatic Productivity last year: how going to a job everyday can allow you to not think about whether you are actually producing anything.

Now that I am a part-time, freelance, independent, no-one-to-report-to designer, writer, student, I have a whole new idea about work.

Each of us knows what good work looks like for us. Even in a job, where it may seem like work can be defined by someone else, among us knowledge-workers, it’s really up to us.

Today I have no one to answer to but my mean old self, and I really struggle, always wondering, worrying if I’m working enough.

I look back on each day and consider specifically what I did. How many hours were billable? How many hours were spent writing, or practicing photography, or adding to my knowledge of WordPress? These are intense hours. These are not at all like my old nine-hours hours.

My definition of work these days does not include a salary component. Some of my work is paid and some is not. Some is investing in my self-improvement and career-change.

Work is not necessarily related to getting paid. When I worked for a corporation, it wasn’t either. The difference was I got paid whether I worked or not.

What I’ve decided is: You know what work is for you. You know when you are doing work and when you are not, when you’re coasting and should be stepping it up. You know when you’re not doing right by your employer or the government or just yourself.

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2 Comments on “What is the definition of work?”

  1. Nick Says:

    Work , the consuming of ones life for others.
    Love, the consuming of ones life with passion.
    Play, the consuming of ones life with laughter and fun of others.
    Friendship, the consuming of life together.
    Anger, self consumption.


  2. introvertedblogger Says:

    “What did you do today” Yes, I know that question well. I thought a lot, is a great reply. It makes peoples eyes roll back in their head.


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