The labour movement in the early 1800’s had the following as one of their slogans:

8 hour work. 8 hour recreation. 8 hour rest.

More on the eight-hour day movement here.

The day is divided in 3 sections. Work, play and rest. All three are given equal weight. Which I think is awesome. But herein lies the source of confusion.

8 hour workday

8 hour Recreation?

Three observations:

Observation 1

It is safe to say that this 8-hour work day was a reaction to the then-prevailing conditions: factory workers (including forced child labor) were being treated worse than beasts of burden. The 8 hour work day was an attempt at bargaining.

The situation was very grim if you were a factory worker in the 1800s. Some would say that the situation hasn’t improved much in many factories around the world. But the point is: the 8 hour work day was a “middle ground”, given the pathetic situation at the time.

It was not the ideal solution, not even close.

Observation 2

Everyone has a fair idea on the amount of time they “work”. If you don’t, you can easily calculate your time spent at the office or the factory or the field.

Also, everyone has a fair idea on the amount of them they “rest”. If you don’t, just look at the number of hours you sleep.

But how many of us have an idea on the “recreation” part of our day?

Quick, answer the following question:

“What will you do if you have eight hours of YOU time everyday?”

Most people can not give a half-serious answer to this. Eight hours?

I know I can’t answer that question. Can you?

My default answer to most questions these days is “just add venture”. And I think that answer is a good start.

But, what areas of life should we be spending our time on?

Family? Community? Our selves? Health? The spirit? What? And how much?

Who provides the structure for our recreation?

We sure as heck are being provided the structure for our work, aren’t we? The biggest advantage of doing a job is that you always know “what’s next”. The boss is there to provide you structure (and the boss takes the blame if there is not structure). This structure is a very, very good thing. And a very important one (see the article “5 big time mistakes”, especially mistake # 1 ).

Observation 3

We clearly recognize the need for this thing called recreation. We understand that even as a species, we need a break. Work provides the break from Recreation, and Recreation provides the break from Work.

Watching TV is considered “recreation”. So is watching paint dry, if you’re into that type of thing. Many of us don’t even plan their work, much less their recreation.

In fact, we have no mechanism to calculate the 8 hour recreation. We would not know what to do if we were given eight hours and the instructions were “just play”.

But because we are almost trained to consider “having fun” as a waste of time, we do not take it seriously. Therefore, we do not find it important to plan our Recreation.


Why are we trading off between work and recreation? Why are we adamant on creating this work-life balance, where work is balanced against the rest of your life!?

What about integration? What about Total Life?

This post is part of the Work and Profession sections. To read more on these topics, click here

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