If you’re digging a hole or otherwise doing manual work, it’s obvious when you’re working and when you’re not. The same is true, to a great extent, when teaching (my former occupation).
Doing what I do now, which is broadly under the banner of ‘knowledge work’, it can be difficult for others to see the difference between when I’m working and when I’m not. This is one of the reasons that working from home is so liberating.
The funny thing is, sitting alone thinking doesn’t “look” like work. Even more so if it’s away from your computer.
I recently had a conversation with a long-time colleague, someone I know and respect. I found it interesting that even he, who has worked in software since the 90’s, still felt odd when he wasn’t at his computer “working”. After decades of experience, he knew and understood that the most meaningful conceptual progress he made on problems was always away from his computer: on a run, in the shower, laying in bed at night. That’s where the insight came. And yet, even after all these years, he still felt a strange obligation to be at his computer because that’s too often our the metal image of “working”.
Image: Charles Deluvio