I'm trying to find words to best differentiate attentions such as jobs, free time usage, and goals into two categories.

There are tasks that serve some level of reasonable necessity and most often provide some sort of tangible result.
And then there are instead tasks that are adopted for joy, interest, or expression.

Jobs like construction, farming, education, store stocker, or even table maker fall in the first category I'm visualizing.
Jobs like artist, clown, DJ, sports coach, or advertiser tend more towards the second category as a whole.
And fields like research, web design, typist, custodian, and city planner sit more upon the fence in what I'm reaching at, being less\not tangible in product and perhaps more marginal\varying in necessity typically.

I can see even now looking at those lists that some might find a few comparative groupings a bit perplexing, so perhaps further clarification of this "tangibility" would help?
The first class would involve primary connections... either creating objects (generally of at least some utility) or bearing central responsibility to allow it's existence\usage [manufacturer, airline schedule maker, architect].
The second class would serve as somewhat-less required intermediaries or be tasked with alleviating tertiary concerns to their existence [salesman, parking maid, waitress].

But despite how I can give some real boundaries to the distinction I speak of, I just cannot find great words to embody the ideas fully, especially the first group. The best words from each set I can come up with are:

Productive, tangible, constructive, practical, purposeful
Entertaining, frivolous?

Most of the words come off weak and so broad that they miss most of the idea. Positive\negative connotation words are fair game (like frivolous), as it seems there's possibly some generally implied comparative benefit built into the first category versus the other, but non emotionless objective words are also of great interest.

Sample usages could be: George is more interested in [more] _______________ disciplines. or Tom is more ______________ while Jerry is ______________.

Perhaps my standards here are pretty obscure or subjective, or I've found the best words, and so there's just not much left to find. But if you do have any help I would greatly appreciate it, as it's a question that has plagued me for a long time!

  • I work hard and I play hard. Work is no fun. And so on.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 14:58
  • Utilitarian - being of a practical or useful bent. Didactic- intended to convey instruction or teach Technical - of or concerned with sciences
    – Thor
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 19:03
  • 1
    Utilitarian - being of a practical or useful bent. Didactic- intended to convey instruction or teach Technical - of or concerned with sciences. George is more interested in utilitarian disciplines whereas Tom leans towards the didactic or even the technical side.
    – Thor
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 19:10
  • I think you've given yourself an insoluable problem by trying to grade all occupations on a single axis when, in reality, occupations sit in a plane, or possibly even a higher dimentional space. For example where would you put film set carpenters, musical instrument makers and people who work in christmas bauble factories? They all produce tangible products but none of their products is of "reasonable necessity" in the way that you suggest. Though I'd suggest that we wouldn't like to be without any of them!
    – BoldBen
    Commented Sep 25, 2016 at 15:31

1 Answer 1


Perhaps you can use essential vs recreational.

The jobs in the first category mentioned by you like construction, farming, education, store stocker, or table maker can be viewed as essential for our daily life whereas the second category including artist, clown, DJ, sports coach, or advertiser are more of recreational nature.


essential adjective

: extremely important and necessary : very basic

recreational adjective

: done for enjoyment

  • That's pretty good. And has reasonable connotation levels to it indeed! Tangible still seems perhaps just slightly above essential, but it's well close. And recreational is a much better comparison word than I had, which really helps frame both sides. Thanks Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 16:00

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