I used to eat breathe sleep work.
My job was everything. It defined me. I had big fat job title. I was the youngest-ever marketing director. I would puff up with pride when I talked about it at dinner parties. My BlackBerry would flash red during the starter and I'd jump on it smugly - the chairman needs me for something, I said irritatingly.
Yet the reality was less rosy. I was miserable as sin. I worked literally all hours, even through the night - I even slept with my BlackBerry and checked my emails as soon as I woke up.
Panic, rush, sweat were my routine first thing. Then email firefighting and shouting at agencies. I was a ghastly mixture of Devil Wears Prada and Maggie Thatcher. Short hair, crisp expression. Toughened up and defeminised by politics and male bosses.
Ten minute lunch spent gobbling a sandwich as I caught up on emails or panic buying birthday presents I had forgotten.
Then I'd cram more meetings in til I could hardly stay awake. Sugar-fuelled my creaking brain for late night conference calls. My reward after it all was multiple glasses of bad white wine and a badly digested pizza.
All resulting in a divorce, living with parents and zero future boyfriend prospects.
Then out of the blue I lost my job. I then got spat out of the system. I thought that my world was falling apart. I was like a submariner coming up for air - sick to the stomach but I could breathe again.
The way we work today is decidedly bizarre. If aliens existed and they could see how we worked they would think us inhuman. Five days a week we all cram into one tight airless space, with bad lighting, all sitting in rows, glued to screens. Meetings are the worse - hours of listening to people trying to outdrone themselves. Out of that creativity is meant to be born.
After leaving my big fat job. I decided to work in a very different way. No more slavery to a corporate empire. I set up my own freelance company. Offering simple marketing advice. Without the bulls@it politics. With people that are smart and open-minded. I also wanted the freedom to do new stuff. When you are in one job you are limited to one vocation. But when you're out of the system you can be a master of all trades. I am now also producing a TV show and writing features - as well as doing what I used to do before. They require similar skills it is just I never applied them to new areas. My days have more time in them as I am way more productive. Less water cooler moments, endless coffee runs and blank staring at my PC screen.
I get to work now with some brilliant people who all feel the same way about work/life balance. I just had the most eye opening few days on one project last week. It was all about innovation. Everything from new types of chocolate bar to renewable energy.
Yet unlike most they recognise how best to activate the imagination. Not by being chained to a desk but by getting out there. They took suited and booted clients on a creative retreat to an old abbey - now a working community. There we could dream and invent. There was brainstorming and yoga, drumming and writing. At the end of it a raft of new ideas and a bunch of revitalised businesspeople.
There is a new way for business. The old model was based too much on the rational. Structure and routine alone lead to dry and dull thinking. This is the age of logic AND magic. It is time to do great things and enjoy what we do.
One of the biggest regrets of people later on in life is having sacrificed too many hours to a job they dislike. Do we live to work or work to live? I say love to work and to live.
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