Work Smart, Play Smarter?


Since arriving at Carolina, I have heard many people on campus say that the Carolina Way is to “work hard, play hard.”  This has become a common adage at universities and businesses across the country, but the more I think about it, the less convinced I am that this is a positive philosophy to live by.

Generally in life we strive for balance. As college students, this “balance” ends up being a day-to-day struggle to get all assignments done, study for a test, hang out with new friends, fit in phone calls home, and somehow still eat well and exercise.  Often one or more of these areas gets ignored or thrown out completely.

The “work hard, play hard” philosophy only increases the pressure to maintain this unhealthy “balance” of pushing oneself to excel academically and devote equal energy to social endeavors.  What does the “work hard, play hard” philosophy look like? Probably this:

Or maybe this:

In other words: not good.

Why not approach life with a “Work Smart, Play Smarter” philosophy?  This approach offers a more balanced and healthy approach to life  Rather than staying up all night studying one night and staying up all night partying the next, a person with a “work smart, play smarter” philosophy would employ what is called the 80/20 rule, in which 20% of your inputs provide 80% of the value in your life, by, ironically, recognizing that the relationship between how much energy you put into life and what you get out of it is rarely equal or balanced.

The key to this philosophy: simplicity.  The 80/20 rule is commonly used in business: “80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients” to encourage employees to direct their efforts rather than exhausting themselves by investing time and energy in too broad a field. The 80/20 rule can also be applied to your personal life. This is done by identifying the important aspects of your life and devoting more energy to them, rather than expending great amounts of energy trying to do everything and getting little in return.

For example, a night out drinking at a party might help you detress after an intense exam week, and it can be really fun in the short term.  However, drinking to excess for a few hours one night probably won’t have the best long term results- hangovers, too tired to work on assignments the next day, resulting in a lower grade (which, ironically you were trying to avoid by spending your whole week studying).  That crazy night out will provide some fast entertainment in the little free time you have, but that one night may make your life MORE stressful in the long run.  The 80/20 approach allows you more time to yourself, taking away the need for a quick fix.

In other words, the “Work Smart, Play Smarter” philosophy can help you look like this:

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