Outside of the psychopathic, this question is what everyone is trying to figure out as they wind their way through life.
Is going to college up front, making more money and then retiring earlier the definition of working the least?
Is working the least hours each week with just enough left to scrape by working the least?
Is getting paid for something you love that doesn’t feel like work at all working the least?
The answer is different for each individual and it is also a bit of a gamble with no single solution.
What happens if you go to college and salaries don’t keep up proportional to what you paid in comparison to someone who didn’t go?
What if what you love doing is disrupted by a new piece of technology and you can no longer do that?
The only thing you can do is think about, “What is acceptable to me right now?” Then as you work, you figure out what you don’t like and what you do and find work that is more and more acceptable as time goes by.
One thing people point out generationally is, “Boomers seem to love to work.”
The reality is as you age, most people are naturally figuring out what they are good at, what wears them out, and what they are willing to sacrifice. As a result, by the time you are late in your career, if you’re doing it correctly, you shouldn’t be hating your work life. I’m mid-career and while things aren’t perfect, they are much more enjoyable than my early career.
It’s all decisions all the time. You have to know yourself and make decisions about what is best for you, no one else can do that.
Some may consider work to be an expenditure of energy. That’s certainly a physics definition. Often amongst people, work comes with a connotation of effort against your own will. I enjoy running, I don’t find it to be work, but it is an expenditure of energy. So depending on your definition, running for me is work or it isn’t.
When I’m “working” hard at the thing I want, it doesn’t feel like work. It’s not fighting against myself to want to do it. For me the paperwork, taxes, the IT fixes that I don’t feel add value are the “work” and I always do my best to minimize that. To someone else, those things are easy and not the work. To them the work is the sales, the marketing, the strategizing.
Nearly everyone wants to minimize “work” and maximize fun. Plenty of people can have fun getting good at a skill, such as sales, that may come along with a job. I don’t know nearly as many people who have fun digging ditches for example, or scrubbing toilets.
If you think anything you are paid for your time is work, then you will want to work as few hours as possible (either every week, or by retiring as early as possible).
If you think certain administrative tasks are work, and the other hours you spend are enjoyable you’ll focus on minimizing those.
Nearly everyone is trying to minimize the stuff that they don’t get satisfaction for doing, and most often we call that work.
Getting past the wording and the semantics, everybody is trying to do more of what they like and less of what they don’t. You should routinely question if you’re doing too much you don’t like and what the fix is.