Do you need work or would you love 100% leisure time?

#2 and I were talking the other day.

She is happiest when her money needs are taken care of but she doesn’t have a job.  She reads.  She rides horsies.  She plays with kittens at the animal shelter.  She enjoys life.  Employment requires a higher dose of anti-depressants.

Her DH is the same– he enjoys not working.  He has no work stress if he has no work.

If they were independently wealthy they’d never work again!

I, on the other hand, vacation very badly.  I hate not working.  I mean, I love not working on weekends except to read novels, do chores, and hang out with the fam, and probably a 30 hour work week would be ideal if I could just get everything done I needed to get done in that time, but I like having a job.  Depending on where I am and what the activities are, after a week or two weeks of forced vacation I start getting depressed.  Whenever I get 3 months off, I start writing a (very bad) novel.  Thankfully a summer is the most I’ve ever not had either school work or research to do.  These days, summers mean I get to work on research with fewer interruptions.  I’m happiest when I have a manageable to-do list that I can just crank through.  It is true that I prefer having done things to getting things done, but it’s hard to have one without the other.  And I love the feeling of flow.  I like helping people and things grow.  I like getting checks for things I would have done anyway.  I love money and income so much.  I love not having to think about our expenditures.  I don’t know that I’d do this job without this paycheck, but I would be doing something work-like.

My DH needs work too, but his reasons are that he needs regular feedback and validation on what he’s doing and he needs to feel as if he’s making the world a better place.  He doesn’t actually need paid employment, but he does need a regular occupation.  It is no surprise that whenever he shows up at a non-profit meeting (be it activism or DC1’s former school) he’s immediately given assignments which he carries out faithfully.

What about you?  Do you need work or would you be perfectly happy entertaining yourself non-productively?  Or are there productive things you’d like to do outside of the work framework?  (To be fair, petting shelter-kitties is both enjoyable *and* productive, though not lucrative.)

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41 Responses to “Do you need work or would you love 100% leisure time?”

  1. NZ Muse Says:

    hmm, good question! I think that I would need to work, but I’d love being able to do that decoupled from the need to earn. I did SOME freelance work during the 6 month travel stint but that was from necessity.

  2. monsterzero Says:

    I would love 100% leisure time! But I would spend a lot of that time writing code.

  3. Solitary Diner Says:

    I would love to be financially independent so that I wouldn’t have to work. If I were still young when I stopped having to work, I would probably keep doing some of my physician work, but I would choose my work based on what has the most impact and what is most enjoyable to me rather than on what brings in the most money. I’d also work a lot less so that I would have more time for fun things (sleeping, reading, going to the theatre), and I would likely also pick a volunteer position or two that was meaningful to me.

    Ahhh….to dream!

  4. Mr. Millionaire Says:

    I would love to do uninterrupted research, but I would need a university affiliation to eliminate costs (e.g., journal subscriptions). If I didn’t have to work to have that, I would volunteer more, especially at an animal shelter.

  5. Mary Says:

    Honestly, I’d be perfectly happy with either scenario. I like my job, like earning a living, like the work I do. I’d be equally happy to not work and fill my days with other things, even if they weren’t particularly productive.

    Or, put in a more negative light: work causes a certain amount of stress. However, prolonged leisure causes a certain amount of stress.

  6. xykademiqz Says:

    I need to work, but I would like the ability to binge on it, and generally to binge on everything in my life. For instance, I love writing proposals because everyone leaves me alone as I work 12-hour days 7 days a week for weeks on end and spend most of it in “the zone”; it feels great! I would like more of the ability to do nothing for a stretch, or binge on movies, and then go back to work like a maniac for a while. I am a creature of extremes (all or nothing), but with a family you have to live a normal, somewhat balanced life; what I dislike is constantly having to interrupt work or leisure to go pick up kids, make dinner, etc. I love the kids, but I hate all the interruptions and chores. Honestly, if I could have my way, I would do what I want to do until I drop from exhaustion and/or boredom, and then move on to something else. Obviously, this is not feasible in any scenario when one has dependents. But when the kids are off to college, binge life, here I come!

    • First Gen American Says:

      This is totally me and it took years to understand my periods of extreme productivity could not happen without my vegetative down times.

  7. Cloud Says:

    Hmmm. I would love to be able to choose my work without regard to money, but I do think I need to do something work or work-like. However, I have no problem vacationing, but find I need to be traveling to really relax and not just wander around the house feeling like I should be doing something useful. I have not yet been on a trip and missed work, and my longest trip was our four month circle Pacific trip. I missed cheese by the end of that, but not work. If I suddenly became independently wealthy, I think there would be a lot of travel.

  8. chacha1 Says:

    I vacation brilliantly. And I am never, ever, in the position – when at leisure – of feeling like I have nothing to do and itching to get back to my job.

    I actually like the *work* I do to make a living, but I really increasingly hate the *environment* in which I do it. There is apparently no law firm that does not suck. I have worked in enough of them now to feel confident about that. Therefore, since I don’t have the financial option of not working for a wage, I am exploring places that may provide an opportunity to do similar work in a different environment.

    If I did have sufficient independent wealth to not need the wage, I would drop the job in a hot second. I would write all the books and stories that are piled up in my head, I would play with beads till my eyeballs fell out, I would volunteer with the state parks, I would have the most gorgeous garden, I would have more cats.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I don’t know that I would be doing this same job if I were independently wealthy– it depends on my wealth levels. I think I’ve mentioned before that if I were rich enough even though I don’t *want* to start some kind of foundation like Bill Gates, I would feel morally obligated to. (I guess if I were that rich I could piggy-back off Bill Gates himself and be like, hey could you help me out here with turning all this money into good deeds. And then keep my dayjob. Or find a different dayjob I prefer.)

  9. jjiraffe Says:

    Great question. I seem to perform best (in all ways–mentally, physically, emotionally) when I have a super demanding job requiring a lot of brainpower with constant deadlines. I also am terrible at self-pacing, I need external pressure and deadlines otherwise I get lazy.

  10. delagar Says:

    If I had an “income,” like in a Jane Austen novel, I think I might still teach a writing class or two. But I’d love to be free to give more time to writing and editing — this summer I have seven weeks off between sessions, and I’m doing nothing but that, writing and editing. (Also reading mountains of books.) It’s bliss.

  11. becca Says:

    I’ve always thought reading novels and not making any money was tremendously more productive than being a cigarette company lobbyist and making tons of money.
    In that sense, I reject the post-hoc test of some economic ideas about “productivity” (i.e. “that which makes money is valuable”). I’d even argue we only pay people for the specific small subcategory of productivity that is marginal. The *truly* productive stuff, raising good kids, making art, being good to those around us, that stuff doesn’t have to be financially compensated. In short, I don’t believe laziness is real.

    According to that framework, I’m not sure *anybody* can be truly unproductive, with or without a job. I’ve certainly never met anybody. Which is not to say that people don’t benefit from jobs and the framework for productivity they have- I certainly benefit from having my academic jobs, and some other jobs still had some redeeming factors. And my internal drives don’t match up well enough with the subcategory of productive activity of creative-stuff-adjacent-to-economically-valued-activity (like being a self-taught programmer who makes cool things, or a painter who actually produces a lot) that taking moderate length gaps in employed activity result in a feeling of enhanced value. But I do think a longer term gap, in the absence of financial concerns, might be different. I was productive enough as a young person who didn’t have school that I’m inclined to think so. But it takes a while to decompress from external rewards/punishments, and maybe I’m different now than I was then, so I don’t know for sure.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      the lobbyist thing is a negative with negative spillovers
      I think we can make the baseline assumption that our commenters are not in the business of evil. We’re not an attractive site for Trump supporters.

      We did, you can see, note that petting shelter kitties is productive even though it is not lucrative.

  12. Rosa Says:

    I need structure, but it doesn’t have to come from paid work – I’m pretty happy at both my paid work and my unpaid work, but I’m kind of terrible at self-organizing even when it’s paid work. I need accountability to someone else to keep me focused.

  13. Flavia Says:

    I think I like and need time for both inner-directed and other-directed work; I’m happiest when those things are in balance with my leisure time (say, a work-week where I feel good about my teaching and my student interactions, but where I also have maybe 15 hours of good, focused writing time, and a weekend where I can putter, go out with friends, read the NYT, etc). I could not be on a perpetual vacation, but I also could not be just researching/writing, either.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      me too! I need variety. I bet a lot of people do, though the amount of structured vs. unstructured time I bet varies a ton.

      This is one of the reasons I seriously resist suggestions that I should add more structure to my free time. If I had less structured work time, I’d probably need more structured leisure time. (In fact, back in school when my summers were mostly unstructured, I would do that– hang laundry, read a novel from this pile of novels, cook dinner, wash dishes, etc.)

      • Omdg Says:

        I love unstructured free time. Yes, I do need activities to get out of the house, but I also love reading, movies, hanging out. So many things are possible when every moment is not scheduled.

      • xykademiqz Says:

        I also viscerally reject adding more structure to my free time. The idea makes me itch.

  14. Omdg Says:

    I need to work. I really wish that weren’t the case, but it is true. I need it for my sense of worth, for social interaction, and just to get me out of the house. but yes, 40 hours a week would be far preferable to what I normally have to do.

  15. contingent cassandra Says:

    If I became suddenly wealthy enough not to need to work, I’d definitely quit my present job, but that’s partly because it’s a pretty decent full-time non-tenure-track job (with benefits) and I should make it available to someone else who needs it. In fact, I probably need to keep that in mind as I think about retirement dates (which are probably still fairly far in the future). In any sort of in-between financial scenario, I’d hang on long enough to become a young emerita (also available to people with my status), mostly for the library privileges. Of course, if I were very rich, I could simply pay for the library privileges, at my own institution and/or one of my alma maters.

    But I’d definitely quit the present job if I could, since it’s both monotonous and overwhelming, which is a really bad combination (and efforts to make it less monotonous make it more overwhelming, and vice versa). There’s some hope that it will improve over time, since my institution is beginning to think more actively about how NTT faculty fit into the university, but I don’t think those changes are going to come quickly enough or be large enough to make my present job into a significantly more satisfactory or satisfying one. So, yes, I’d like to get out, and failing that, I’d like to start taking summers off again (that’s a more realistic near- to mid-term possibility).

    Once I quit, I’d definitely just vegetate for a while, mostly by reading, sleeping, and walking a lot, then see what I felt like doing next. That would almost certainly be mostly writing (with the research and reading necessary to support that), a good deal of gardening and walking, and probably some volunteer work (in fact, I’d probably need to be careful not to become a full-time volunteer at church, or at least not a permanent one). I’d probably also resume or find some artistic outlets in addition to the gardening (sewing, maybe something else). I like to create tangible things, as well as texts, and would probably be happiest doing a combination of the two. I’d probably need to know that someone was reading and in some way enjoying/profiting from most of the writing, but it needn’t be a lot of someones.

    I can imagine doing some teaching, or teaching-like activity, but almost certainly on a voluntary basis. I can also imagine accepting a position on a Board of Trustees/Visitors/whatever for a higher ed institution, because I do have some ideas about what is going right and wrong in the academy. I don’t need a lot of human interaction; church on Sunday probably isn’t quite enough year-’round, but a couple of church committees and choir and a small group and getting together with friends and family periodically would be enough (and I’d like more freedom to travel to family, or to their vicinity, with other plans as well).

    And yes, if I found myself with a *huge* amount of money, I’d feel the need to figure out the best way to give it away (but I’m not sure I’d rely on the Gates, because, from what I’ve read, they have a tendency to meddle in education without knowing what they’re doing. One of my criteria for giving would definitely be to support solutions devised by the people who live most intimately with a problem, rather than those who swoop in from outside with big ideas — though I admit that people in the latter category often do much good. One thing is clear: giving away money effectively is one item on the long list of things that is harder than it looks — and not only because buying giant portraits of yourself at charity auctions doesn’t really count).

    So, yes to doing something with tangible results, but no to a job per se, except for financial reasons.

  16. Debbie M Says:

    As my currently lifestyle shows, I love 100% leisure time. Of course I still brush my teeth, do laundry, etc., so it’s not quite 100%. And I currently like it to be very unstructured. This may all change a bit after being retired for longer. In the past I have greatly enjoyed having lots of fun things scheduled (ideally, something every day).

    I do not get cabin fever or need to get out of the house. It’s a good thing I go for walks or I might never properly appreciate spring (it smells so good!), etc. Again, this is partly because I currently have a boyfriend as a roommate. When I have boring roommates, I do want to get out of the house more.

    As for productivity and/or projects, mostly I just read (fiction, nonfiction, and social media), play video games, and sign petitions.

    My boyfriend prefers work, though now that he’s known me, he thinks 20 hours per week would be ideal. Well, apparently there are two common options these days: way more than 40 hours per week and a living wage or less than 20 hours per week with a non-liveable wage.

    My happiness depends on me doing things in all of the following areas: intellectual, social, physical, creative, and spiritual. If I’m not quite happy, it usually means I have been neglecting one or two of those areas a bit too much.

  17. Katherine Says:

    I don’t need work, but I do need projects. I need to be productive and I need structure and purpose. Mostly I see this playing out in a volunteer role, or with learning a new trade. But work: Ugh. No thanks. Generally, I am so unfulfilled at work that I do other volunteer stuff to supplement my lack of happiness from work. And it’s not that I don’t want to work, I just don’t want to have to work. So yeah, I can’t wait to pet kittens or walk dogs just because.

  18. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    I used to think that I’d hate to be retired or vacation long term but I’ve spent some short stretches not working and my assumption might not be true. It might be that I only need several months of working per year as long as I still have income. I do so love having regular income and money!

    There are a lot of things I want to do that don’t produce income or make the world a better place in any significant way (except one kid or dog at a time), I get that particular thing from my job. The trouble is I’ve never had enough leisure in my adult life to know if I truly need that box ticked. I think the longest I’ve gone without working or trying to work in the last 20 years is maybe 9 days which isn’t nearly long enough to know what’s necessary for life satisfaction.

    A sabbatical would be amazing for that, I think.

    I would always be doing something money-related, that’s too much a beloved interest to stop doing it.

  19. First Gen American Says:

    I can easily fill my day with non-work activities. I never return from vacation thinking it was too long…I always want more time off, but my job is intense so a week isn’t always enough time to recover from burnout.

    I do wonder if I will miss the identity part of my job. I do like being an engineer and using my brain daily. I’d like to think I can still be and do all those things without having to work for the man. I have also always held a job continuously since high school so I imagine I will still work for myself someday.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      are your non-work activities productive?

    • Rosa Says:

      I think you totally can keep the professional identity and most people do. My mom is a retired teacher who is still pretty active with her teachers sorority. Locally we have a number of local nonprofits that seem to be retired engineer’s clubs. Among them there’s an engineering museum for kids and a group from 3M that builds Habitat houses. The various Lego and robotics programs attract a lot of engineers & programmers as judges and coaches. The VITA tax group I volunteer with has, unsurprisingly, a large retired accountant contingent – even bigger if you expand the professional identity to include retired IRS employees and tax lawyers.

  20. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    I’ve been more or less at leisure for years (except for, you know, keeping the children alive) and I am definitely happier when I am doing something else which I feel has value and meaning. I hate being a full time stay at home parent and four years of it nearly caused a nervous breakdown. I think I’d always do some kind of work, even if I were wealthy- at the local botanical garden, or tutoring in the schools, or something.

    • Rosa Says:

      SAHM feels like the opposite of leisure to me. All of the interruptions/deprioritizing myself of a job, with none of the helpful structure, money, or people thinking I’m valuable and skilled.

      I mean, it’s good that my kid takes me for granted, he hasn’t ever experienced neglect or hunger or anything else that makes me think I’ve failed at parenting. But it is really NICE to go to a job and get thanked when I exceed expectations.

      • Jenny F. Scientist Says:

        I guess I’m at semi leisure; I do work, but part time. They pay me and everything!! I would have free time!!!…. except instead I have children. (Typo: should have said I *hated* being a sahm! I did!)

      • Rosa Says:

        yeah I’m working 20 hours a week right now (only for another week, then school gets out!) and it’s pretty great except for not having free time. Or having to choose between house/yard work and social time – this week, we just aren’t doing laundry or cleaning, turns out.

  21. Dame Eleanor Hull Says:

    I was going to say that I need work (or work-like substance, regular volunteer job for instance) to make me get out of the house regularly and interact with people. Otherwise I might never talk to anyone but the cats and I get weird. But something one of your commenters said made me wonder if I would still need that if I lived in a place where I had a lot of friends, such that most days I could get together with one or more people I knew and liked (like when I was in college, though I had a job then, too). And I don’t know. It has been so long since I had a lot of good friends really close by that I can’t really imagine such a situation. It sounds nice, though.

    • JaneB Says:

      Yes, given the local social life, then work or a work-like substitute would become irrelevant for me – I do stuff, I like doing stuff, and we don’t NEED to be “productive” in a modern western society sense to be virtuous, I believe – just being a decent person, sorting the recycling, caring about friends and family, making craft and art and not actively hurting people is a pretty useful contribution!

  22. SP Says:

    I don’t have enough data to say conclusively, but I think I could be happy without a career. I like to think I’d still need projects and goals, but it is possible that little hobbies would be enough, at least at first. I had 40 days off when we moved, overlapping with a vacation and the Christmas holiday. https://stackingpennies.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/why-do-we-work-so-hard/ It was super nice. I wonder if that would wear off as it became routine.

    But, I’m in “work mode” generally, and I do really enjoy working. Which makes it the most economically efficient way to spend time, since it also provides $$$

  23. Linda Says:

    If I had enough money to live on, I would not work. Most of the time it feels like I am busy enough with just self care — preparing and consuming healthy meals, getting exercise, doctor/dentist/physical therapy/therapist appointments, PT exercises, meditation/mindfulness time, and getting enough sleep — and taking care of my house and elderly dog. I seriously could fill up most of a week this way. The rest of my time I could use visiting and helping neighbors and friends and volunteering. Sadly, I am not independently wealthy and so I work and then juggle the self-care and home/pet/community care as best as possible. I often don’t get it all done and then feel bad.

  24. Link love (the #fittech edition) - NZ Muse Says:

    […] Would you choose to work? […]


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