Work: The Long and the Hard of It

Seth Godin makes a great point (when does he not?) when he draws a distinction between long and hard work.

Long work contains the number of hours one puts in at the office, such as the lawyer that bills a fourteen-hour day. Hard work is the effort put forth by the lawyer who synthesizes four disparate ideas to come up with a closing argument that wins the case — in less than five minutes.

If taken further, this idea reveals that effectivity has nothing to do with the amount of time one puts in, but rather with the ingenuity one has when spending the time one has.

That is not to say that hard work is not the direct beneficiary of long work. We all know we have to have moments of toil to get places. After all, I wouldn’t be working in German television if I couldn’t speak German. It took more than a Berlitz class to perfect my language prowess. Neither does one become President overnight or, in most cases, a star (although some network programming would have us believe that is true, too).

What does it take, then, to catapult oneself onto the hard work stage?

You may be tired of hearing me say it, but with Memorial Day in the near past already, the official summer season has begun. In full power of slow style, I tell you ingenuity can only live if you do, too.

In a word: vacation. Time off. Siesta, baby! A holiday for a week or two can work wonders, moving your mind from the long of it to the hard of it. You can, indeed, rejuvenate and then create when you’ve had a bit of a respite.

Benjamin Lichtenwalner’s blog reveals how little time off Americans have. According to his sources, only 57% of Americans use their allotted annual vacation time, while one out of four US workers does not have paid vacation at all. In fact, there is no US regulation mandating paid vacation, something Take Your Time Back is combatting vigilantly.

So live a little. No, live a lot. And in that life you can work, play and breathe. The best minds are those that are rested, clear and focused. Without vacation, you can have none of it. Passion alone cannot feed your fire. A little vacances can go a long way so that your long work is less and your hard work pays off.

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  1. Suzanne

    June 1, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    So true, so true! We Americans are terrible at vacationing. But, I do believe the younger generation is pushing us to reevaluate. I know my two stepsons (both in their 20s) have a vastly different viewpoint on work than I do. They believe in more balance, with job satisfaction rated the highest. It’s isn’t just about money for them. So, maybe we are changing after all? One generation at a time!

  2. Dave

    June 2, 2011 at 5:38 am

    I excel at vacationing! I’ve found that the longer and harder i push myself at work, the less effective I become.

    When exhaustion starts to take over we switch to coping mode and need to do more and more to just manage our energy through the day, which means less and less time spent focused on the work. Employers who limit vacation time to 2 weeks per year or less are not doing themselves any favors at all.

    1. powerofslow


      June 2, 2011 at 7:44 am

      Love your insights, Dave! Please spread the word of slow and thanks for all you do!

  3. willowdrinkwater

    June 2, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Yes, indeed. Vacations are paramount in my ability to accomplish anything in life. I take them periodically, like a few minutes ago out on the picnic table reading an article on the discovery of George Washington’s original Mount Vernon gardens. Now back to work, refreshed. Love your blog, Christine!

    1. powerofslow


      June 2, 2011 at 4:46 pm

      Thank you! Love yours, too! 🙂

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