Are You Using Work As An Excuse To Avoid Life?

How many times in the past 90 days have you said:  “I can’t, I’m sorry, I have to work.”

Is it more than 10? 20? 30? Anyone up over 50?

Raise your hands. Don’t be shy. No one to see you but the folks at the cafe who have no idea why you are raising your hand in a cafe, but they don’t know you anyway so who the heck cares what they think!

If you are working a serious hustle in your world, chances are you have to sometimes miss out on the fun stuff in life. It totally sucks.

While all your friends are at the bar watching the game, you are stuck behind a screen researching keyword solutions. During family dinners there is sweat forming on your brow as you hear the incessant “Ping Ping Ping” of your email notifications. In the middle of making out with your boyfriend you fight the urge to ask him to wait right there because you just thought of the perfect tagline for your newest product and you want to write it down before you forget.

I know I’m not alone in these things.

Some of us are fortunate to have surrounded ourselves with family, friends, and peers who understand that we are often the lamest friends at the party. They even choose to love us, in spite of our ability to often ghost out of most every social situation they go out of their way to invite us to.

Which is great because there is a super important business thing that has to be completed in the next thirty minutes or it will self-destruct and no one else on the entire planet but you can do it.

Still sounding familiar?

Now, think back on all those 10,20, 30, 50 times you’ve politely (or maybe not-so-politely) declined a social situation or begged out early and ask yourself these two questions:

  • For how many of those situation did you seriously have to work?
  • For how many of those situations did you just not want to be there?

For entrepreneurs and side-hustlers and digital nomads, it seems that “I have to work” is the new polite way to say what we really feel “I’d really like to, I just don’t want to.”

I noticed this when I was home this summer and on vacation with my parents in Canada. I didn’t really want to do what they were proposing, so I’d tell them I had to work that morning. They knew I was working during the trip (they know I’m always working) so it was an easy way out of things.

Until I realized something.

The first morning I had to work, my parents changed their plans to wait for me to finish so we could go out and look at a cemetery (no they aren’t creepy, my Dad is big into genealogy.) As I sat finding stuff to do, they sat reading the paper or taking a walk around the property of the hotel.

In short, they were ruining their vacation for me, and I was just finding stuff to do.

Besides being a bratty child at the age of 33, that’s just not proper behavior for anyone. In fact, the only people who get away with things like that are bratty children.

I relied on work as an excuse to avoid life rather than having an adult conversation about it.

So I walked out of my room in the suite to them and said “Ok, I’m done working, but I really don’t want to go wander around cemeteries on this trip. If it’s important to you I’ll do it, but I’d rather find something else to do.”


The House Of Green Gables on Prince Edward Island, Canada

They took me to the House of Green Gables, featured in the young adult book series for girls, Anne Of Green Gables. Chalk one up on the Lifetime Bucket List for A Childhood Literary Dream: Achieved.

In this lifestyle and business path, we have to work sometimes when we wish we didn’t. Even more of those times we have to force ourselves to choke out the words “I can’t, I’m sorry, I have to work” when we would really rather be doing whatever it is they are doing.

That doesn’t mean that we should allow work to become our excuse for doing things that we simply don’t want to do.

It especially doesn’t mean that we should let that become such a default excuse that we miss out on the things in life that matter.

There’s too many great things happening to make the mistake of missing out on all of them.


  1. Matt Kress

    I find myself using the work excuse more often when I’m invited to go out for drinks or to some party that I don’t want to go to. Instead of just saying I’d rather not go, I give the work excuse like I have a big deadline to hit.
    I also had a friend traveling through Thailand and I gave the work excuse instead of meeting up with them for a day and enjoying the sites to be seen. I look back and wish I would have just gone, but I know at the time I thought I had these super urgent deadlines that I imposed on myself.

  2. Hannah Pearson

    I’ve definitely been guilty of this: ‘working’ is definitely an easy excuse to give. Lately, though, I’ve been pushing myself to go out more, even if I’m not sure I really fancy it, as I decided that this year will be one of serendipitous encounters. And those don’t usually roll around when you’re sequestered at work!

  3. Shayna

    Great post. I’m guilty, and the fact that I’m an already an introvert doesn’t help. I find this so tough, though, because since I control my own schedule, workflow, and deadlines, I DO technically have the flexibility to go out whenever invited… yet I can’t accept every invitation otherwise I’d never make much progress… so, where to draw the line?

  4. Jeremy Ginsburg

    Great article. I agree completely and think it’s best just to be REAL and HONEST with people. It makes life easier for everyone. It’s all about finding the right balance between work and play (for me, at least).

  5. John Peden

    I’m getting better at this but it can be really tricky as an entrepreneur. To be honest, I find I’m worst at it when the money starts to run low and I feel like i *should* be working all the time to bring in cash when in reality, sitting for another few hours in front of the computer isn’t going to do all that much.

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