How do you manage the give and take between work and life?
It’s easier said than done and I’ve seen every approach be touted as the right way to handle it. I find the bigger challenge is of course making sure to enjoy life, amidst the call for constant work.
There’s the conventional approach, where an individual goes in at 9 and leaves at 5, day after day, for 30+ years. They live life in small doses, but not as fully as they could. Instead, they wait till the spry age of 65, where retirement finally offers them the time to fully enjoy life.
That’s a big chunk of years to stop yourself from experiencing the world and I can only imagine how different that trip to Europe would have been during your 30’s.
On the other hand, you have the more extreme workaholic, that can’t help but be constantly productive. There’s the silicon valley mentality, where you try to squeeze your professional career into a handful of insane years, where you work non-stop, in the name of a better future.
The problem is that after you survive such a gauntlet, you’ve programmed yourself to love work and always prioritize it. It becomes a habit. After a few days on the beach, you don’t know what to do with yourself.
I certainly struggle from this sort of thinking. To tell the truth, I hate myself a little bit whenever I waste a day watching movies or playing video games. It just doesn’t feel right. It’s something I’m working on, but it has also led me to an important realization.
The key to work life balance is balance. This may sound a bit meta, but let me break it down for you.
1. Balance must be a habit
I think it’s easy to forget, but balance between work and life needs to be a regular occurrence for it to truly take hold. Going too far in one direction or the other, makes it harder to be in those spaces.
On one end you have the overworked individual that no longer knows how to have fun. On the other is the person who doesn’t know how to stop having fun. The goal is to find that happy middle ground, where each part of your life can feed off of the other.
To achieve this balance, we need to immerse ourselves in both parts on a regular basis.
This can occur over different lengths of time, but the idea is always the same. Work hard during the week, but enjoy your weekends. Work hard for a month, but indulge in a long weekend getaway. Or if you want to follow the lead of Stefan Sagmeister, you could work hard for years and take a sabbatical to recharge.
What’s important is to give both sides adequate amounts of quality time.
2. Balance is relative
I think there’s also a gray area when it comes to the idea of dividing work and life. Sometimes that thing that is your work is also what brings you happiness and peace.
This is a fine line to walk, as it becomes hard to differentiate between the two sides, but I also believe it’s a valid argument. When an individual is that passionate and truly gets happiness from what they do, then the balance skews a bit.
The challenge is to be able to realize whether this is truly the case and when you’ve gone too far. There’s still a need for balance, at least to avoid burnout and capture inspiration.
The point is, the split is never really 50/50, as things are never so clear cut. What is essential though, is to actively keep some semblance of balance, no matter how you feel about your work.
Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.Unknown
Work life balance is a challenge for our generation today and into the future. How you handle it is ultimately your choice.
Just know that your choice comes at a price. You could antagonize your friends and family, but be super successful. You may not know how to enjoy life, but you’d be awesome at your job.
Or you could be drifting from job to job, but be stellar at your relationships and having a good time.
I think the ideal scenario is finding the happy medium between the two. The key is finding the right balance that works for you and everything else in your life.