After I finished writing yesterday’s post at almost 8:00 in the evening, after a full day of massage appointments, I reflected on a conversation I had had earlier in the day about work-life balance.
My conversation was with a new client, a young guy, a computer programmer who had recently come to the conclusion that years of long hours at Silicon Valley start-ups, working into the wee hours night after night, just wasn’t doing it for him. He had decided that a lower-key job in a mellower part of the West Coast would suit him better. “I would rather work to live than live to work,” he said.
Do You Live to Work? Or Work to Live?
If you haven’t thought that idea through, it’s worth pondering.
Do you live to work? Is your career paramonut? Does professional ambition drive most of your major decisions? Do you take your laptop with you on vacation? Do you revel in 24/7 connectivity? Are you OK with the relentless, ever-accelerating pace of change in our culture?
You don’t have to answer yes to all of these questions to be out of whack in your work-life balance.
Do you work to live? Do you regularly enjoy quality time with your family and friends? Do you leave work at a reasonable hour most days and take weekends off? Do you use up your vacation time? Do you regularly enjoy hobbies, sports, and other leisure-time pursuits?
If you answer yes to most of these questions, then your life is way more balanced than the typical office worker’s.
The history of work-life balance is pretty short. The term “work-life balance” was created in the 1970s in England and first used in the U.S. in 1986. The two-day weekend was adopted in the 1920s. The shorter work hours that employers had adopted during the Great Depression went by the wayside as economic production picked up during World War II. In the 1950s, social scientists were worrying about how we’d deal with all of the leisure time that automation was sure to create. They needn’t have worried. As we know, the trend is shifting back to longer hours and more expectations. We’re all working more, and we’re working harder.
It’s probably a good idea to get on top of this – or to at least give the topic some serious thought – before we all find ourselves at the brink of burnout.
This Wikipedia entry on work-life balance is not particularly well written, but it’s a good starting point if you want to think more about this.
I’ll write much more about work-life balance in future posts, but for now, here are a few articles that offer some advice on coping with an unbalanced life:
- Tips to Reclaim Control, Mayo Clinic
- Basic Steps Toward Work-Life Balance, Forbes
- 5 Tips for Better Work-Life Balance, WEbMD
In late-breaking news from the “great minds think alike” department, I just read a blog post that my friend Curt wrote today with yet another perspective on work-life balance. In his post, Curt argues that you can’t truly “manage” work-life balance since so many of its elements are out of your control. I’ve heard this same argument applied to time management: How can you manage something over which you have no control. Good points, on both counts.
Closing thought. I can’t find a definitive source for this quote, but it’s a good one regardless of who first said it: “No one on their death bed ever wished they had spent more time at the office.”