“Unpopular opinion: the best thing young people can do early in their careers is to work on the weekends,” tweeted a woman named Jordan Kong, who reports working in tech and splitting her time between San Francisco and Miami.
“Disagree. Deadlift. Take long walks. Read fiction. Listen to music,” responded yours truly.
The truth, of course, is a bit more complex.
Are you working on the weekend because it feels like a compulsion—either external (someone is making you) or internal (like an addiction; you don’t really want to but you can’t not)? Or, are you working on the weekend because you are choosing to from a place of freedom and love? The former never ends well. The latter can be a wonderful source of nourishment and energy.
Also, how do you define work? If you define it broadly, as a contribution to the world, per se, then doesn’t just about everything connote work? For example, this past weekend I took my kid and dog on a 4-hour hike. I came back very refreshed (at least intellectually; my legs, not so much) and better able to see and think clearly. Was that 4-hour hike “work”?
If you are working from a place of freedom and love, or if you are resting and recovering as a part of your work—because you define work broadly; maybe even as broadly a life well-lived—then yes, sure, work on the weekends. But I’ve never met someone who goes about work this way that feels the need to boast about it on social media or to their friends or colleagues.
Generally, if you have to boast about something it is not coming from a place of self-confidence and security (i.e., freedom and love) but more so from a place of doubt and insecurity (i.e., compulsion). At its worst, working on the weekend becomes a sort of heroic individualism: a game of one-upmanship against self and others; a race and competition to see who can grind the hardest. These races all lead in one direction: to burnout. Perhaps the grind takes you to top of your friend group or corporate ladder or whatever for a period of time, but eventually, it ends badly.
In the final analysis, work probably should not be a moral thing at all. Working more is not better. Working less is not better. Getting ahead is a lousy goal. Being where you are and freely pursuing what energizes you is great one.