It was a long night.
You groggily open your eyes, wondering where you are. Your neck and back are killing you, as you slowly orient yourself with your surroundings. Reaching under your head, you pull out a balled up sweater. What the? You finally realize you’re in your office. This is the third time this week. You excitedly jump up and head to your computer to keep working on your projects. You love it!
What if you like work?
Not quite the ending you expected? Well, that’s because there are a lot of interesting assumptions about what constitutes a good work-life balance. Things like that you should only work a certain number of hours. Or that if you enjoy work, you might be a workaholic. Yup, too much work gets you a pejorative label. But why?
If you truly feel fulfilled and happy working that much, then why is it a bad thing? Why do we impose our values on the lives of others. If you enjoy working 70 hour weeks, who am I to stop you? My understanding of work life balance isn’t about how much you work, it’s about figuring out what works for you.
How much do you actually have to work?
I understand full well many people are working an amount they don’t prefer. Some of you might say, well I have to work this much and I hate it. Let’s dig a little deeper. Why are you working that much? Do you actually have to work that much? Or are you boxing yourself into the life you already have so you don’t have to taste the discomfort of change.
For those of you working long hours, why do you have to? To afford a house and a car and trips and vacations? Are those things bringing you joy? Are there any alternatives? Could you survive with a less expensive car and live in an apartment? Would you like that? Are you work hours worth what you’re buying with them?
We can dig pretty far into this. You only have to do as much as you decide you have to do. The real question is what do you actually value? Are you overworking because you want a fancier car? Are you staying at a job you don’t like because you don’t feel like looking for a new one? These are choices you get to make. You can put your life in balance, you just have to figure out what you want and make a plan.
When it gets difficult.
Sometimes it’s more complicated. If you’re in a trickier position – like you have a family and you have to provide for them – then you especially need to step back and evaluate what you value most. What do you care about most? Do you need that much money or not? Could your family be just as happy with less or even happier with you working less? Do you have to work as much as you do to maintain everyone’s happiness? If you do, then your mission should drive you through the more difficult times while still looking for new opportunities. Remember who you’re doing it for and why. You’re working long hours for a reason.
It’s not easy, but it is possible.
I know it’s easier said than done. We all want life to be easier. We want access to more money with less effort but feel trapped in certain positions and routines. It’s hard to know where to start to even make these changes, but the key is to start. If you know your life, especially as it relates to work, isn’t how you want it to be take one small step towards a better future.
You have to realize there are infinite opportunities. Don’t think you’re trapped and don’t be complacent. You don’t have to stick with your current type of work. It might be hard to transition, but people make career shifts all the time. If that’s what you need to be happy, work on that. You can make more money, too. You can live somewhere else. A lot of these changes are within reach, you just have to make a plan and start taking steps toward it. It may take time, it could even take a lot of time, but it’s possible. For your own well-being, take one step. Today.
Work Life Balance: Reflect On What You Want – ANSWER THE EXERCISE IN THE COMMENTS:
1. Take some time to think about what you value and how work and your other aspects of life play against each other.
2. List out exactly how much money you need to make and why? What do you want to buy, how does it add value to your life?
3. What are you going to do balance your work and your life better? Be Specific.