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What do you do after work?

A few days ago, one of the most junior people on my team: a bad-ass, intelligent, driven woman asked the team what we do when we’re not working.

I half-jokingly said, ‘do more work.’

The team laughed (thank god), but their laughter seemed to acknowledge that there was more than a little truth in the boss’s line. The laughter spoke to me that for the most part this is a team of vets. We all work really hard, none of us measure our productivity in hours, and therefore you’ll often find us going above and beyond to get where we feel we should be. Hitting world class isn’t free.

Which sometimes means we work after work.

But I believe in work and life being integrated. I was actually joking when I said do more work, at least in terms of more work on the “day” job. I believe that creativity and insight at work require dedication to things not constrained by that work. I believe that as a leader of my team I have an obligation to model this to someone six months into their career.

So here I was, a day later, and I wanted to provide an explanation for “doing more work.” Pieces of the above plus what follows are from an email I sent to the team the next day.

The premise behind my joke is pretty simple:

You do work by not doing work (see my other post inspired by the Dao de Ching on looking by not looking).

  • You do work, by making sure you restore your energy and maintain your health (the irony that I finished this email at 1:22 in the morning and I have an 8 AM call tomorrow is [was] not lost on me)
  • You do work, by building and strengthening relationships. Friends, families, and your professional network matter, and they matter more than your next deadline
  • You do work, by remaining aware of what is happening in the world
  • You do work, by constantly improving yourself.

Now if that sounds like work, it is. And it isn’t.

So what is, in fact the difference between work and “not” work?

Paycheck aside and excluding both the basic things you need to do to maintain your household, take care of your family, or the lost hours staring at Netflix, two things define what I frame as work and what falls into the “not working” bucket.

The first marker of NOT work is that what to spend your time on is unequivocally your decision

The second is the sense of play that often drives that choice.

Choosing to play means finding something that gets you going. I can’t tell you what that is for you.

You need to scratch your itch.

If you do that, it isn’t work. You’ll maximize the chances of arriving at a flow state.

That said, at least when it comes to professional success, some itches are more productive than others. There’s a real balance between instant gratification (Netflix) and spending your time on things that compound over time to increase your quality of life.

To wrap this up, I feel like it’s only fair that I give you a sense of what I actually do after work (note: no kids as of yet which I imagine changes this list in many profound ways). I:

  • Read– Read in your field, read in related fields, read classics, read business books. Learn mental models.
  • Learn or better develop a skill – Doesn’t have to be directly relevant right now. If you’re really good at a few things, that combination of attributes can be a key differentiator for you. There’s also general skills like public speaking that will serve you well across all aspects of your life.
  • Develop Mindfulness & engage in the inner journey
  • Build alternative income streams – Side business, investing
  • Play Sports / be healthy
  • Cook

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