Paid Work vs. Real Work

Define what you consider your real work – which doesn’t always overlap with your paid work – and make time to do it.

Before we dive into our episode, here are a few recent listener comments:

  • Julia said that she’s really enjoying our Instagram feed, that it’s honest and real about “the stuff of life,” like the fall Gill took down the stairs.
  • And another listener wrote to Kristen Ley to say that she was almost in tears during her interview and really took to heart the advice that “You don’t have to be the best to do what you love.” She said, “Boom. I’ve kept myself from doing so many things from the fears you described. Thanks for sharing so openly!!”
  • We’ve heard from listeners who also struggle with writing thank-you notes, and who have decorated for holidays. For Valentine’s Day, Megan and her husband decorated the door of their kids’ bedroom with big personalized hearts and wrote a bunch of things they love about each one.
  • And Gill has caught up with a few friends recently who have independently phrased their personal updates as Get It Together / Got It Togethers.

As always, thank you for letting us know what you’re enjoying about the podcast, and what you’re trying out yourself!


Paid Work vs. Real Work

This topic came up a couple of years ago when we were recording the beta season of Semi-Together (hear more about that in Episode 1: False Starts & Fresh Starts).

Gill was talking about a roadblock she was facing while working on a creative goal. She said she was having trouble making time for the creative project because, “There’s always real work to be done.” Melia pointed out that she said “real work” and not “paid work” – a distinction that has stuck with Gill and totally changed the way she talks about work.

We play the clip from our beta season (our sound quality has improved a lot since then!) and unpack how each of us now thinks about our paid work and our real work:

  • Paid work is easy to define: what you make income doing. Whether you call it paid work or a day job, it’s helpful to realize that what you do to earn a living doesn’t completely define you.
  • Real work is more open to interpretation. Melia defines real work as what you consider important, meaningful and core to your identity – heart work, the kind you lose yourself in and would do even if you won the lottery. Your real work may not ever make you money, and it doesn’t have to, unless you want it to.

Quick preface: We both do full-time paid work in content marketing, writing and editing – Melia at an agency and Gill freelance – and we want to be clear that we value our paid work and enjoy helping our clients achieve their goals. It’s fantastic to do work with small businesses, nonprofits and public agencies making positive change in the world. And we’d ultimately like to do the same kind of work to move our own creative projects forward and earn a living at it.

Melia’s Real Work: Making sense of her experiences, sharing them and hearing back from people who relate (usually other women, but some men, too!). Giving people ways to understand their own experiences so they can be happier and more fully themselves. Sharing her gifts through 3 P’s – podcasts, publications and products.

Gill’s Real Work: This podcast – sharing what we’re learning about personal development, happiness and health in ways that can be useful to others. Investing time in bringing people together, nurturing relationships and welcoming visitors, as well as anything that has to do with food, drink and travel (often those things are combined).

We each talk about different strategies that help us make time for our real work. Melia has young kids, so her creative time usually happens in short bursts, often in the early morning hours. Gill has to make space for real work when she feels like there is always more paid work to be done. She treats creative projects as a reward after getting paid work done.


What Do You Do?

We also talked in our beta season about the question, “What do you do?” This is often the first question people – Americans, at least! – ask when they meet you, and the answer can feel limited to your paid work. It’s an uncomfortable (or boring) question for those who feel like their paid work doesn’t define them, or who don’t work outside the home.

We listen to the clip and continue our discussion of alternative, open-ended questions that don’t feel too awkward or personal when you don’t know someone well.


Get It Together / Got It Together

We each share something that’s going well for us at the moment and something else that needs work.

Gill’s Get It Together: Being active while traveling

Gill’s Got It Together: Finding a balance between work and time with family and friends while traveling

Melia Get It Together: Using a kind voice when irritated or frustrated

Melia Got It Together: Using Command strips and hooks around the house (see below!)


Listener Takeaways

Consider that your real work might be different from your paid work. And try out the questions, “What are you up to these days?” or “What’s keeping you busy?” instead of, “What do you do?”

Keep a list of the projects that move your real work forward, and keep an eye out for little pockets of time that you can dedicate to them. Remind yourself that there’s no “should” here. Make time for what fuels you personally and don’t worry about what you “should” be doing.


Get In Touch

We love to hear your thoughts! What do you consider your paid work and your real work? Are they the same or different for you? How do you make time for both?

Email us at podcast[at]semitogether.com or leave a comment on Facebook. You can follow us on Instagram at @semitogether, and individually at @meliadicker and @travelingtotaste. And please subscribe, rate and review this podcast wherever you listen.