This probably seems odd from someone who “works” as much as I do, but … work isn’t everything.
It’s also not nothing.
As with everything, it’s not black and white.
Work is required to pay the bills. It’s how we house ourselves, feed ourselves, and take care of our loved ones.
For others — perhaps even a lucky few — work is also a calling. It’s a thing we love to do that we happen to get paid for. It’s something we’d do even if we weren’t getting paid (assuming we had already met our basic needs).
For some, work is near the top of Maslow’s hierarchy: it’s a form of self actualization.
I believe I’m fortunate enough to be one of those lucky few.
The old adage is that on their deathbed, no one ever said they wished they’d spent more time at work.
No one? Not one person? That’s an absolute, and there are no absolutes. Life isn’t black and white.
I’d claim that there are those whose work was their calling, made a difference to the world, and they knew it. Those for whom a lifetime wasn’t enough. I could easily see many such people wishing they had more time for, or had spent more time on, their life’s work.
Sometimes our work is that significant, even if only to ourselves.
But it’s still not everything.
Life is a balancing act, and your work is simply one side of the scale. Friends, family, even leisure all rest on the other side. They all warrant time and effort and investment. (Even that’s oversimplification. It’s more like a disk balanced at its center point, with roles and responsibilities scattered along the circumference.)
Once again, for a lucky few, the sum is greater than its parts: investing in non-work activities can often positively affect the work as well — effectively raising both sides of the scale.
I will not say we should spend less time at work. There are no simple platitudes here.
What I am going to say is that it’s easy to lose track of priorities in the pressure of the moment. If that pressure comes from your work, you might neglect the other side without realizing it.
The reverse is also true, but work seems to have more formal feedback mechanisms that remind you — sometimes gently, sometimes not — that your priorities might be out of balance.
What I am going to say is this: be mindful and aware of how you spend your energy. Be intentional about the balance you create in your life. If it’s out of balance, for whatever balance you think is appropriate, the sooner you recognize and correct it, the less likely you’ll have regrets on your deathbed.