How to Work Hard Play Hard

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AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger
July 23, 2024 at 9:42PM UTC

Work hard play hard — it's a phrase we hear often but one that's easier said than done. Who has the time to play hard when they're working so much? And, vice versa, who has the energy to get anything done when they're always having fun?

Contrary to popular belief, you can work hard and play hard so long as you use your time wisely, work efficiently and play responsibly. And you should — because all work and no play is no way to live life. (And, unfortunately, all play and no work isn't possible when you're an adult with obligations and bills and responsibilities). 

Where did this idea of working hard and playing hard come from? Well, barring the fact that work hard play hard is the chorus of Wiz Khalifa's aptly titled song "Work Hard, Play Hard," which he released in 2012 — and the fact that it's the name of a podcast by For the Love of Money founder, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Chris Harder — the phrase has been around for a while. 

While its actual origin is uncertain, the phrase can be traced to at least 1884, when it was written in an advertisement for Racine College — a 19th Century Episcopal preparatory school in Racine, Wisconsin. It's attributed to its first Warden, James DeKoven, who famously said, "Work hard, play hard, pray hard."

"The traditional inference involves a work ethic, with the principal focus on virtue in hard work, and connecting this (secondarily it seems) to associated value in play or leisure — enjoyable free-time pursuits," according to Professor Lonnie Aarssen, a biologist at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. "An interesting question is whether this is meant merely as a kind of prescription or manifesto for a cultural norm or lifestyle — effected through social learning — to indulge in leisure following (as an earned reward for, or to motivate additional) hard work. Perhaps it serves to extol a kind of 'work-life' balance or blend, thus recommending (for one's well-being) against 'all work and no play.'"

Aarssen also suggests that the term could refer to "an assumed, perceived or expected association between two fundamental human penchants across a range of phenotypic variation (without any particular precedence of one necessarily needing to follow or to be evoked/triggered by the other)." In other words, there may be deeply ingrained personality traits that drive us to work hard that are correlated with personality traits that drive us, equally, to play hard. 

Whatever the case, today the phrase "work hard play hard" basically sums up the whole "work-life balance" thing we all strive to achieve in our careers.

What Are Some Work Hard Play Hard Quotes That Sum up the Phrase?

Here are 15 quotes that make sense out of the phrase "work hard, play hard."

1. "You don’t have to make yourself miserable to be successful. It’s natural to look back and mythologize the long nights and manic moments of genius, but success isn’t about working hard, it’s about working smart.” ― Andrew Wilkinson, founder of MetaLab

2. “Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them — work, family, health, friends and spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls — family, health, friends, and spirit — are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.” ― Brian Dyson, former vice chairman and COO of Coca-Cola

3. “Don’t confuse having a career with having a life.” ― Hillary Clinton

4. “I believe a balanced life is essential, and I try to make sure that all of our employees know that and live that way. It’s crucial to me as a manager that I help ensure that our employees are as successful as our customers and partners. I also think that employees these days expect less of a separation of work and personal life. That doesn’t mean that work tasks should encroach upon our personal time, but it does mean that employees today expect more from the companies for whom they work. Why shouldn’t your workplace reflect your values? Why is ‘giving back’ not a part of our jobs? The answer for us is to integrate philanthropy with work.” ― Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce

5. “I spend most of my time thinking about how to connect the world and serve our community better, but a lot of that time isn’t in our office or meeting with people or doing what you’d call real work. I take a lot of time just to read and think about things by myself.” ― Mark Zuckerberg

6. “Women in particular need to keep an eye on their physical and mental health, because if we’re scurrying to and from appointments and errands, we don’t have a lot of time to take care of ourselves. We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list.” ― Michelle Obama

7. “So find your rhythm, understand what makes you resentful, and protect it. You can’t have everything you want, but you can have the things that really matter to you. And thinking that way empowers you to work really hard for a really long period of time.” ― Marissa Mayer, president and CEO of Yahoo

8. “Take care of yourself: When you don’t sleep, eat crap, don’t exercise, and are living off adrenaline for too long, your performance suffers. Your decisions suffer. Your company suffers. Love those close to you: Failure of your company is not failure in life. Failure in your relationship is.” ― Ev Williams, co-founder of Medium and Twitter

9. “You will never feel truly satisfied by work until you are satisfied by life.” ― Heather Schuck, The Working Mom Manifesto

10. “A time for everything: a time to relax and a time to be busy, a time to frolic and a time to labor, a time to receive and a time to give, a time to begin and a time to finish.” — Jonathan Lockwood Huie, The Philosopher of Happiness

11. “You’re probably wondering what I mean by ‘The Pillars of Your Life,’ right? Well, this is simple. It’s the things that make your life what it is. The things or people that make you, you. There’s work, family, your hobby, your art and your traditions. Except some of us have wonky pillars. Some of us give one pillar too much to hold, and the others not enough. One’s too tall, whilst the others are too small. Therefore we become unstable, and sometimes everything comes crashing down.” — S.R. Crawford, My Suffering: 25 Ways To Break The Chains Of Anxiety, Depression, & Stress

12. “Most people chase success at work, thinking that will make them happy. The truth is that happiness at work will make you successful.” — Alexander Kjerulf, The Chief Happiness Officer

13. “We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead of the quality of time we put in.” — Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post

14. “When you’re gone, would you rather have your gravestone say, ‘He never missed a meeting’? Or one that said, ‘He was a great father.’” — Steve Blank, The Startup Owner’s Manual

15. “Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls — family, health, friends, integrity — are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.” — Gary Keller, founder of Keller Williams Realty International

How Can You Work Hard and Play Hard?

You can work hard and play hard if you follow these steps.

1. Ask for Flexibility or Telecommute

A report on telecommuting in the United States from FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics, 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce, found that 3.9 million U.S. employees who make up 2.9 percent of the total U.S. workforce work from home at least half of the time. In fact, there’s been a 115 percent increase in telecommuting between 2005 to 2015 (up from 1.8 million in 2005). Perhaps the increase is because working from home is an attractive opportunity, never mind the fact that the average annual income of telecommuters is $4,000 per year higher than those who work on-site. 
Forty percent more U.S. employers offered flexible workplace options in 2017 than in 2010, which has given employees a lot more freedom regarding both work location and work hours, plus more flexibility to balance work and personal obligations. Working from home also makes a lot of people more productive in that they don’t have to waste time commuting to and from the office, and they can handle their daily responsibilities devoid of workplace distractions. A report released by the company Chess Media Group found that 90 percent of workers actually believe that an organization offering flexible work environments is more attractive than an organization that does not offer any opportunities to work remotely.  

2. Set Your Priorities Straight

Know what your priorities are so that you can make time for each of them. If you have to, write out a list of your priorities on a palpable piece of paper. This way, you can see them clearly. You can even organize them in order of value. 
Once you know what your priorities are, you can remind yourself of what's important. If your priorities are to make a lot of money or get a promotion, you may want to work hard and say no to some of the friends outings that aren't hugely important. If you know that a priority of yours, however, is being there for friends' and family members' milestones, make sure that you get your work done on time to be able to make those events.

3. Use Your Time Wisely

When you use your time wisely, you can make time for more things. Most of us spend a lot of time procrastinating while at work. We spend more than 11 hours per day watching, reading, listening to or simply interacting with media, according to a  study by market research group Nielsen, for example.
Cut out the social media when you're trying to get work done. Make a to-do list and check it off. And then use all the free time you wouldn't otherwise have to "play hard." 

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog,, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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