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Work Life Balance                                                                                     Print this essay

Posted at: Sep/25/2009 : Posted by: mel

Related Category: My philosophy,

Have you heard the term Work-Life-Balance? This is a very stylish thing to talk to these days. There are books on the subject, professional speakers who purport to be experts in the field, corporate training sessions, so what is all the hype? The noise is about how you live your life. Are you in control of your destiny and your time, or are others.

Work-Life-Balance is the balance we seek between our professional lives and our private lives and time. Sounds pretty great doesn’t it, we achieve success, advancement, and recognition in our professional lives while having ample time to travel, do things with our kids, get our laundry done and mow the lawn in our private lives. It’s my article so I get to create the definition. Now for the reality check, I don’t really care how tired you feel, the work part of work-life-balance is not generally a challenge for very structured or hourly based jobs. If you get to go home and truly leave your work behind, driving a beer truck, retail check out, stocking shelves you don’t have a work-life-balance issue. This about the professional career with the challenging or competitive situations that often lead to recurring 60 and 70 hour weeks. This means that my focus is on the careers where there is pressure to do extra hours beyond the normal 40-45 despite the fact that you will not get extra pay for this effort.

On almost every aspect of work-life balance the finance and consulting industries look the worst. People who take time off in those fields suffer large penalties, both in terms of money and career opportunities, once they return to full-time work. There is a significant amount of pressure to accomplish more and more despite being on a fixed salary. This push to do more is all the more prevalent when seeking advancement opportunities. The end result is that your professional life begins to consume more and more of the time you had previously allocated to your personal life. So where is the balance?

I have come to realize there is no balance, if you have ambitions, or you work in a competitive environment your professional life will consume more and more of your precious personal time. You may find yourself making sacrifices and deferring vacations or canceling family events to get done things your work leadership are looking to you for. This flies in the face of all the fine words from these teachers and speakers, but the news is not all bad.

In the professional community where I work the reality is that you cannot have a consistent division between work and life. All of this sounds pretty depressing but I do have some good news. I have found an alternative way to find some balance between work pressures and private expectations.

For me the balance is not split across a day, it is split across groups of weeks. I have times when I need to throw a maximum effort at career challenges for 3-5 weeks at a stretch. During this same time I am doing the minimum to get by in my private life. All things go in cycles and work is generally no exception. Busy periods for me at work are followed by periods at work when I can commit the minimum hours and devote myself to adventures and challenges in my family life. The trick to all of this is to recognize when the cycle is shifting and not hesitate to change your priorities.

If there is a lesson here it is about your goals in life. You need to decide if you want to “live to work”, or “work to live”. When you boss is pressuring you to help with a special project over the weekend, and your family want to see you at a soccer match it all comes down to a simple question. 10-15 years from now, will your boss remember that you gave up your weekend for the project? Conversely, will you kids remember that you were there for their activity. Don’t let your professional life pressure you into sacrifices you will regret years later.

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Appius Claudius
Every man is the architect of his future.
 
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