Do you live to work, or work to live? It’s one of those LinkedIn type icebreakers that help you get an understanding of someone’s inner psyche (and see how much capitalism has taken over their identity).
The past two years have given way to a reshuffling of how we define work. The Great Resignation, widespread burnout, anti-girlboss sentiment and the pandemic have all contributed to (or are a result of) changing lifestyles, changing priorities and our changing world.
As a result, some people are quitting their jobs, others are changing workplaces in hopes of higher pay, or turning to freelancing in the gig economy.
TikTok has another idea. Several creators have started popularising a different solution to deal with the lack of the elusive work-life balance. Rather than a complete lifestyle switch or career change, this technique is just a matter of switching up your thinking.
“I’m on a mission of reframing how I think about work. [I’m] considering my full-time job to actually be my part-time job, and life to be my full-time job,” TikTok user Kimi, a tech start-up worker, shared with over 327k viewers.
“What am I going to do for myself tomorrow? Am I going to work out? Am I going to talk to a friend? Am I going to go on a walk?” she says.
@hullokimi First of many weekly updates on how I’m reframing my life as my full-time job! Come join me on this learning journey💪 #9to5life #corporateamerica #techtok #techie #9to5 #fulltimejob #wfh #remotework ♬ Clouds - Luke Faulkner
Rather than spending her out of work hours thinking about what she has to do the following day and what’s on her work agenda, Kimi is instead prioritising her personal life.
While it may sound simplistic — and not as revolutionary as TikTokers using irony as a form of motivation — it’s something that’s resonated with thousands of people.
“I’ve been doing this for about a year, and my mental health has greatly improved. I schedule my hobbies like they’re work! It’s tough but doable!” reads one comment. “Last spring i started thinking of my full time job as “one of my clients” now i’m fully self-employed like i dreamt of. mindset shifts WORK,” reads another.
In a follow-up progress video, Kimi spoke about decentralising work from conversations with others too.
"When I ask someone, 'how is your day going?' I should expect to hear things outside of work. If they only give me [answers about work], I'll also ask about other things that are happening in their lives," she says. "Basically what I'm trying to do here is decentre work from people's lives and think of their lives more holistically as I'm trying to be with my own life."
The end goal — to make space for and prioritise one’s wellbeing and life outside of work — is anti-capitalist in its objective, but the method relies on capitalist conditioning. Through this mindset shift, we are encouraged to invest our time, energy and productivity into ourselves, rather than the workplace.
In Western culture where "work is like family" and the line between one's job and one's purpose is significantly blurred, it can be hard to remember that productivity is not only about output at work. Because we've been fed the myth of meritocracy, we've learned to embody the idea that our jobs are the most important aspect of ourselves. In turn, work has become something that demands our respect, our attention and our best selves.
If we take that logic and apply it to our own lives, treating our relaxation, hobbies and self-growth with the same urgency, who knows what could happen?