Thursday, November 17, 2011

Step 17 - Work to Live, don't Live to Work

Day 17 of the National Blog Post Month challenge where I’m writing a blog post every day along the theme of 30 Steps to Happiness and Contentment.

There have been many times in my life where my work has been my life.  Not so much by choice, but because circumstanes have made it that way.  Being self-employed you often have to work long hours, especially in the early days of a new business.  Since coming to France 7 years ago, we've started 3 new businesses.  The whole idea was to have more 'quality' time as a family, but about a year ago I realised that our working lives were taking over again.  We were living to work, rather than working to live.

The French have a healthy attitude to work.  Their home life is sacred.  They have 2 hour lunches every day - there's no point going to a shop for advice at 11.45, because they're getting ready to lock the doors for the midday dash to the local restaurant or home for a family meal.  Sundays are sacred and NOTHING is open.

At first coming from a 24/7 culture, I found this extremely frustrating.  it was often midday before I'd get to the shops and then I'd find them shut.  'Don't they know they're loosing money' I used to think.  Everything shut on a Sunday - even Garden Centres? Unthinkable!  Sunday at a Garden Centre in the UK is the busiest day!   So when we started up our Garden Cetnre 3 years ago, we decided to open 7 days a week and not shut for lunch.  Not one of our better ideas really!  Firstly, opening 7 days a week meant one of us had to be at the shop always, which meant we never had time together as a family.  Secondly, we had hardly any customers at lunchtimes and Sundays as the French are busy living, so there really was no point opening!

There comes a point when you have to stand back and look at what's going on in your life.  What is the point of continuously working if you're not able to live some of your life spending time with your friends and family.

We've become more relaxed about our opening hours now and close on Sunday and Monday, we don't open until 10am (which gives me chance to dash round the house before I get to work) and we close for lunch, when I either do some writing, go for a walk with a friend or anything but work.  I'm not totally rigid about it.  Sometimes I'll go into work on a Monday if we have a particularly busy week and sometimes I'll stay open for lunch, but generally we do stick to these hours as it's important to have time to live outside of work.

It's always a battle to find the right balance between work and home life.  If you're working from home I think it's even harder.  We've run businesses from home before (our first landscaping business in the UK was from home, we then ran a B&B and now we have holiday apartments here in France) and have found that it's easy to just continue working in the evening.  It's hard to relax when you can see the work on your desk that needs dealing with.

A good aspect of having our Garden Centre in a different premises is that at the end of the day I can lock the door, go home and (try) to forget about it.  Not always possible completely, but easier than when your businesses is run from your house.

Holiday's are so important and I know they're not always possible, but we always try and take one a year if we can. We live in a lovely area and we have 3 holiday appartments where people come and spend their summer holiday.  You might say, why take a holiday when you live in such beautiful surroundings.  It's true it's a lovely place and I often think how nice it must be to be here on holiday, but we can't totally relax here.  There's too much to do, it would be too tempting to cut the grass or do some painting or one of the other 1001 things needing doing.  No, the only way to totally relax is to go away somewhere different.  Not only does it give you the opportunity to share valuable time with your family but it also enables you to have a different perspective on your life.  We often come back from holiday filled with new ideas that we may not have thought of if we hadn't taken time out.

We are getting there, we are spending more time together and that's important.  The work does still take over sometimes as there are certain times of year (like now) where there are just not enough hours in the day to get everything done.  But, our business is still in it's infancy and I know that it will get better - it already has!

So, take a good look at your life.  Are you living to work?  If you are, take a break and consider how you can turn it round - you'll be glad you did.

You may be interested to read the other posts in this series:
Step 30 - The Key to Happiness and Contentment
Step 29 -You are the master of your own destiny
Step 28 - Don't give up on a good relationship
Step 27 - Don't Judge , Live and let live
Step 26 - Don't Worry, by happy
Step 25 - Never give up
Step 24 - Get by with a little help from your friends
Step 23 - Go with the Flow
Step 22 - Enjoy the moment
Step 21 - Love what you do
Step 20 - Forgive and Forget
Step 19 - Unconditional giving
Step 18 - Smile and the world smiles with you
Step 17 - Work to live, don't live to work
Step 16 - Surround yourself with Positive People
Step 15 - Always look on the bright side of life
Step 14 - Where there's a will there's a way
Step 13 - Silence is Golden
Step 12 - Feed your Soul
Step 11 - Follow your Dreams
Step 10 - Use your time wisely
Step 9 - Don't be too hard on yourself
Step 8 - Consider what you value most
Step 7 - Find time for Yourself
Step 6 - Make time for Family and Friends
Step 5 - Don't take yourself too Seriously
Step 4 - Feel the Fear and do it Anyway
Step 3 - Love what you Hate
Step 2 - There's no such word as CAN''T
Step 1 - Find the Best in Every Day


  1. It sounds like you have exactly the right attitude even if it's not always possible to follow it through.

    I love the French lifestyle - taking time to be with those you love not just occasionally but EVERY day - that's what it's all about :)

  2. Thanks Sarah, yes the French have got a lot of things right I think!

  3. The Frebch way of life sounds idyllic. we used to have lunchtime closing from 1 - 4pm and then the shops were open from 4 - 7. Now they are open all the way through to 7 and sometimes later. I miss that midday dinner thing.

  4. Really interesting post, Im really enjoying reading your posts for NaBloPoMo. They do the same in terms of closing everything at lunchtime and its something I dont understand but you have put a good point and although I like the choice of having things available every day, the french way is a good way to give 'time to live'.