Applying Investment Theory To Work / Life Balance

There has been and still is a huge focus on Work / Life balance. People attend seminars to learn how to better organise their lives to become more productive and more structured so they can manage their balance between Work and Life. Companies also boast themselves by having great Work / Life balance.

Tobias van Schneider mentions in his post “Work/Life balance is bullshit”, that the concept defines the two as opposite and automatically give Work a negative connotation, as this is what has to be balanced.

The whole discussion about Work / Life balance is anchored in a public opinion that working a lot is bad and more time should be spend on other things. While I personally do not want to spend all my time working, I disagree with the premise.

“There is only Life and Work is a big part of that.”

Here’s how I see it. Life is like an investment portfolio where time is the capital and what you spend it on such as family, friends, Work, sleep, exercise, commute etc. are the various investment opportunities.

You are the portfolio manager of your Life and it is up to you to invest your time where you get the biggest return. The return characteristics however vary for each investment opportunity from person to person. You may love your Work and get great personal satisfaction from it, which means that it is time well spent — none to judge. Someone else may get that same kick from exercising and therefore allocate proportionally more time on that than Work or family.

So luckily it is not just about dividing your time between Life and Work and feeling inadequate about trying to prioritise both, but choosing between an infinite number of opportunities to improve Life, by thinking seriously about to get the greatest return from the time you invest.

As with any investment, there are external factors affecting the allocation. An income is needed to live, so some portion has to be allocated to Work. If you are in a relationship, the way your partner invests his / her time, may constrain how you invest, and will require compromises. You may have an interest in expensive cars, which means that you may have to invest more in Work, than you actually like in order to buy those cars.

Just be careful not to become one of the people Nigel Marsh describe as those that “work long, hard hours at jobs they hate, to enable them to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like.

Taking it a step further I also believe that the economic law of diminishing return, apply to investing in Life.

Spending every waking hour exercising won’t necessarily make you happy as a clam. So don’t quit your day job and invest all your time with your family and friends, it may at some point even yield a negative return, not just for you, but also for those around you (no teenager wants to spend all their time with their happiness hunting dad).

I realise that Life and feelings are more than a numbers game, but considering how much we organise Life through our calendars and how much we are slaves of numbers, what I describe should for many not be peculiar.

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