Here’s Nigel Marsh’s TED talk on that very subject (thanks, P).
He’s an ad guy who realised he’d been working too hard, then worked out that it’s the little things that really matter.
I know I’ve written about the subject before, but I think it’s worth revisiting.
I’m sure there are many careers that demand time outside working hours, but it was only the other day that I realised how it happens:
You start off in your career and the whole darn thing is super-duper exciting: your stuff is on TV/billboards/the pages of newspapers and magazines; you’re making movies (sort of); there seem to be ample opportunities for free alcohol; there are at least a few people of whatever gender you find attractive to perv at in the corridors; you feel part of a family (however artificial and spurious that construction actually is) of bright and interesting people; you are getting paid, possibly for the first time in your life etc. etc. etc.
And you almost certainly do not have a spouse or kids, so there is practically nothing stopping you putting in those extra hours at that enjoyable place you work and mucking in together like you’re all in the trenches at Paschendale (except with less mud and bullets and more Corona and layout pads). Then there’s the idea that more work in the early days will pay off later, kind of like compound interest: if you win a few awards in your early twenties and step up to a decent salary early then you get that salary for more years, and therefore make more money overall.
So that’s your early mentality, and it soon becomes habitual; after all, where do you draw the line that separates your non-working life from your working one? When you find your significant other and have to go to his or her best mate’s wedding? When his or her family are down in London for the weekend? When you’re on your tenth row about the time you’re spending at the office?
Up to you, really.
But it’s a tricky one, and some people never draw that line. They think it’s like putting toothpaste back in the tube. How can they work less when they’re earning more? They have to protect that bigger salary because now there’s a family depending on it, so it seems to make sense that you earn a lot of money to maintain the lives of a bunch of people you never see.
Anyway, there’s no right or wrong to any of it, but it might be worth ending with the lesson I once learned from a very high-powered CD: I asked him what it was like juggling being a father with running a big department. He told me that he has no recollection of a couple of years of his kids’ lives. He literally could not remember anything about their existence between year A and Year B.
But during that time they did live in a fuck-off big house, and you should see how many D&AD entries his department got.