Photo by Cindy Tang on Unsplash

What the fuck is work-life balance?

At times in life, it can feel as though all you do is work.

Work, eat, work, eat, work, sleep, repeat.

Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. This may look like a copy and paste of Rihanna lyrics, but it could in fact, be representative of your life. Live to work, work to live. The never ending cycle of working just to live, resulting in an existence of living just to work.

We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list.
Michelle Obama

The solution? Finding a work-life ‘balance’.

Work-life balance is essentially the prioritising between ‘work’ (for example your career, and the ambitions you have) and ‘lifestyle’ (your health, leisure and pleasure, family etc.) This notion has been around since the 30’s, but became prominent from the 70’s onwards. It is now a buzz word of sorts, especially amongst the more flexible, startup culture of modern day work.

This balance is the ability to seamlessly juggle the responsibilities of work, with the responsibilities of life. Work all day. Party all night. It is being able to contain your work hours, allowing other hours to free up, so you can cook nice meals at home, watch movies, meet friends, spend time with loved ones and maintain some form of social life. In an ideal world, we would all live with a perfect work-life balance, and no one would have a single grumble.

Unfortunately, most of us have a poor work-life balance, that of course is heavily weighed towards work. It is maybe that careers have become the most important goal to people. It may be the demands of trying to reach the top in hierarchal companies. It could even just be increased passion and dedication. Another reason could be that, like my own, many jobs now fall outside of a 9–5 boundary, and this lack of restricted hours means working on-the-go, most of the time. As a founder of a startup, I can assure you this is common place, and the concept of leaving work at work, does not apply.

Most people chase success at work, thinking that will make them happy. The truth is that happiness at work will make you successful.
Alexander Kjerulf

People have you believe good work-life balance is easy to achieve. If you do not have it, it is a failing on your behalf. You are not managing yourself correctly. You have the wrong priorities. I would beg to differ. It is a really difficult thing to manage, especially if you are starting your own company, or working within a business that expects total devotion. I would guess my work to life ratio is at least 60% — 40% in favour of work, and at times this ratio widens further. The problem with this is a burnout is never to far away. You cannot work 60, 70, 80% of your life and not eventually hit a wall, and crash and burn. Of late, I have learned the importance of some time off from the job. The ability to be able to switch off from it will be vital to your long term success, and happiness.

My work-life balance is far from perfect. But I do have some advice that might help to get your ratio slightly more balanced.

Leaving work, at work, is difficult for many. So if you take work home, try to draw a line somewhere. There has to be a limit to what you can do. A little, not a lot. No late nights on pro-plus, smashing out thing after thing, and turning up the next day on a hours ‘sleep’. You have to learn to just say ‘no’, whenever the line has been passed.

Condensing hours is a neat trick to get some time to yourself. Where possible, try to do your hours over less days, so that you can take a shorter day. Or if you control you working hours you could, god forbid, take a day off. Flexitime and other flexible working conditions are designed to allow some leeway in working hours. Use it to your advantage.

A hugely important part of finding this balance is having periods of time completely switched off from work. One way to do this is to set work day hours for emails / calls. (This will probably be ignored if the matter is important). Make clients and colleagues aware that you will respond within said business hours. There is nothing wrong with that. Sitting up at night, writing work emails that could easily wait till the following morning is sure to disturb your sleeping, and ramp up the stress.

A time for everything: A time to relax and a time to be busy, a time to frolic and a time to labor, a time to receive and a time to give, a time to begin and a time to finish.
Jonathan Lockwood Huie

In the dream world, we would all have loads of time to ourselves. Unfortunately, the bottom line is that for most of us, you can’t not work. So you have to accept it will consume a lot of your life. But on the flip side, you need time apart from it. It is healthy. It will make you happier. And that can make you more successful. Take a look at those work-life balance scales, and try to even them out, whenever possible.


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