Sunday Question – Do You Believe In Work/Life Balance?

First, I hope everyone survived the New Years celebrations. I assume we’re all ready to push forward and do great things in 2011. I know I’m ready for it, and thus we get to today’s question.

Balance by Brent Moore

One of the things I’m not really good at is relaxing. As you know, I work for myself, and that’s both fun and mentally draining at the same time. I haven’t taken a vacation since 2001, the last time I was employed. I sometimes am at this computer upwards of 18 hours a day or more. I don’t think I produce enough based on that kind of time, but I get stuff done here and there.

The thing is, I don’t have a true sense of my own work/life balance. I tend to believe it’s a real thing, and it’s something I have to get a better handle on because I think if I can ever get there, I’ll probably have a much better output and be way more successful in time.

Yet, this past week I read two posts that offered contradictory statements on work/life balance. The first came from Mitch Joel, who wrote a post titled The Myth of Work Life Balance. The second was a post by Jimi Jones titled Achieving Work Life Balance.

What the hey? I mean it was literally minutes between reading each post, and that wasn’t planned either. Now I had a conundrum; who do I believe, and why?

I went with both, which might seem a little strange, but here’s my thoughts on the matter. Jimi totally got it right; Mitch got it almost perfectly right either. His main statement is that he feels the term implies that work isn’t part of a healthy lifestyle. Yet, everything else he writes fits right in with what I consider as the tenets of trying to achieve what’s known as this work/life balance that most of us strive to achieve. In my mind, we all believe in the same thing, just maybe not the terms as much.

But I’ve seen other posts or articles over the years that lament this phrase as well. So I thought I’d put it out to the masses to see where you stand on this concept. I hope you check out both posts as well, but I believe it’s a good topic to explore in some fashion, especially since we’re all being pushed and pulled beyond belief these days.

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39 thoughts on “Sunday Question – Do You Believe In Work/Life Balance?”

  1. Happy New Year, Mitch!

    Thanks for the mention, friend.
    I hope you had a wonderful holiday season.

    What a circumstance, coming across two post like this on the same surfing trip. πŸ™‚ I’ve not read Mitch Joel’s but that’s my next stop.

    This topic does make for good conversation due to the various views on the matter.

    Wishing you all the best of success this year and beyond.
    See you soon!

    1. Same to you, Jimi. Both posts give people plenty to think about, for sure, and I thank you for writing it.

  2. Mitch Joel’s piece takes the approach that work is just one part of life, and not a separate activity. But most people go to a job five or six days a week. That job occupies the major portion of awake time, and the part of the day when the person is well-rested and has the most energy and greatest ability to pay attention. Life, for those people, is what they can manage to squeeze in during the evening or on weekends. I can see how seeking a balance becomes an issue, and a necessary one. For those of us who are self-employed, that balance is easier to attain — or it should be — because we have greater control of our time.

    1. You’d think so, wouldn’t you Charles? But I’ll sit here and admit that I’m missing out on the “life” balance part, and I need to get some of that into my life. It’s not a new thing, so I really can’t blame it on working for myself.

  3. I think it just depends on the person. For me, work IS my life but everyone is different. Just find something you love and do it as much as possible! At the end of the day, those putting in the work will see results.

    1. That’s pretty much the way to go, Tony, but even if work is our life, every once in awhile it behooves us to step away from it to get a new perspective before charging in again. I don’t do that often, but lucky for me I’m doing so many things that my diversity is kind of my step away.

  4. I think both posts actually offer some insightful ideas. I think of myself as one of those plate spinners at a circus or sideshow. I’m often so busy that I feel like I’m just running between the sticks keeping the plates spinning. I don’t think there’s ever a way to maintain a daily balance, at least for me. It averages out over time, though.

    1. Jessica, I sometimes think people that have kids have a better opportunity at balance, although it doesn’t work out for some of them because it turns out to be more about the kids than about themselves. I like that spinning plates analogy; I think I feel that way myself. Great stuff!

  5. Achieving balance for work and life is indeed a challenge, Mitch. Both Jimi and Mitch’s blog have something to offer to this issue. I am just glad that I was able to establish a schedule early on that allows me to spend time with my kids, my wife and my friends and at times, just for myself.

    Hope you enjoyed your New Year’s celebration.

    – Wes –

    1. Thanks Wes. And I’m glad you’ve got that balance so you can spend time with your family; kids can grow up so fast. I’m going to be searching for ways to have more time to do other things myself in 2011.

  6. I think it is really difficult to achieve work and life balance when you are self employed. When one is self employed, he most of the times think of bettering his own business and works for long length of time like for example 18 hours etc but in a 9-6 job one has to work only for the schedules time and the rest of the time he/she squeezes in his life part, it is kind of automatically balanced

    1. You’ve absolutely right, Shiva, it is hard. Yet, it’s something to strive for in some fashion, and that’s going to be something I’m going to take a shot at this year.

  7. I agree… balancing your time with work and life is hard but if you have set your goals and priority, I believe this is not hard to do.

    1. Let’s hope it’s not all that difficult, Charlene, but history seems to indicate otherwise unfortunately.

  8. One has to be really smart to achieve this balance, which means he has to prioritize everything very well. Of course that you can’t achieve this balance daily, because there are busy days and more relaxed days, but at the end of the week you need to have an = sign between work and life.

    Also, support and having an understanding family helps. You can’t have it all, but it’s worth trying!

    1. Exactly Mia, great points you’ve just made. There will be days when you just have to push to the max, but other days where balance of some kind hopefully will be achievable.

  9. I know that I am not balancing my life and business recently, but I feel pleasure working. There are few things that I enjoy, like coffee, writing poems and composing music. I just remembered a quote from a letter of classic poet, when I was thinking to write the next sentence. He have wrote “First I have love my country, but the most I love you”. Going on holidays from time to time really can reduce the stress and fill you with a lot of energy for work. I quire like road trips with my girlfriend.

    1. Carl, I must admit I’m not feeling as much pleasure these days, which is why the subject came up. A new year might be the way to at least get me thinking about it more.

  10. Mitch,

    Aside from the semantical quagmire (“When does life begin”?) and lexical ambiguities (“I love what I do, so it’s not ‘work’!”), I think that the two articles properly touch on that core of our being which responds to questions like, “If I had a million dollars, what would I do?”

    Just as each of us would have unique answers to that question, each of us have unique “weights” that we use to balance the scales of our lives.

    Essentially, I believe that each person defines what it means to be balanced. 20 grams of work could be balanced by 10 grams of family time, 5 grams of community time and 5 grams of “me” time. Naturally, there are multiple ways of achieving balance in that scenario – but that’s MY scenario. Nobody else even has to agree that we treat these areas as weights to be placed on an imaginary scale of life.

    The important thing is not to let anyone define balance in YOUR life.



    1. Great stuff Mitch, and you’re right, it won’t be the same for everyone. For me, though, I’d probably have to say my life is 95% – 5% work/life, and that’s got to change. Hmmm… if I had a million dollars… lol

  11. I think those of us that work at home do get a bit unbalanced..and like Mitch said, we usually miss out on the “life” part.

  12. Surely, it is a matter of defining life!

    “Each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”
    Viktor E. Frankl

    The key word there is “responsible”. Once you have accepted responsibility for anything, it becomes your life. The problem with this ‘balance’ is an unwillingness or inability to accept responsibility. My definition of ‘responsibility’ is being able to respond to any stimulus with courage and concern.

    In other words, I never had any problems with my work/life balance.

    1. Interesting take, Rummuser. I can’t disagree with anything you said, which must mean that I haven’t really taken responsibility for my own life, and neither have many other people. To a major degree I can’t say it’s untrue; I’ve taken control of parts, but other parts are out there waiting for me to take charge.

  13. Mitch Allen always takes it to another level eh lol He is some wordsmith.

    I agree, it’s what is right for each individual. If one has family committments and it neglecting them for work, then that isn’t balance.

    For those of us who don’t have those responsibilities, we can work as long or as little as we choose without really impacting too much on others.

    I love the fact that I can be flexible. Fit it all in, cos I now work from home. Some days are very long. But if needs be, I can switch off the laptop and do other things.

    Must say I am enjoying it so much it doesn’t seem too much like work most days πŸ™‚

    Patricia Perth Australia

    1. Pat, when you do it right then you’re correct in all that. But I’m someone who rarely takes vacation (last one was in 2001) and sits at the computer all the time unless I have plans. That’s hard getting away from, and certainly not balanced at all. And I know I’m not alone; some people think they have balance but aren’t happy. My thought is that if you’re happy and content, then you may have balance, but if not, then it’s time to at least think about changing some things.

  14. The danger with today’s technology is that work will play a bigger and bigger role in our everyday life, willing or not. We’re constantly checking emails with out smartphones (if not having it pushed directly on it), we’re constantly reading content, or writing it.
    Marking a line of separation will become increasingly more difficult, I wonder if we’ll ever get to the point not to have working times anymore. You know, plugged in 24/7.

    1. Interesting point, Gabriele. I’ve taken care of that plugged in thing. I don’t have a smartphone, and I give very few people my cell phone number. But with all the time I usually spend on the computer, I’m easy to reach anyway if people know how.

  15. Loving your work and being engrossed in it is admirable but it’s just like all good things.. you need to do it in moderation. Sleep is great, but when you sleep too much it’s bad. Exercise is great, but when you do too much, your body breaks down. Same with work.. when you do too much, you ignore other aspects of your life like health, relationships, leisure activities, and socializing.

    1. Good stuff, Henway. Seems too much of a good thing, whether it’s good or bad for you, is just too much period. But we probably all do it to some degree. I’ll say this, though; I’d like to try that “too much money” thing one of these days. lol

  16. I am of the camp that life is the whole pie and work is one slice of that pie, other slices are things like recreation, quality time with loved ones, time for ones self, and time to eat chocolate. As others have pointed out; work is by far the biggest slice of the pie for most folks, both those shackled to indentured servitude (emploment) and self-employed (until we become so successful we don’t need to work ALL the time). The trick is in taking the portion of the pie that is not work and making the most of it.

    Many of the minimalist blogs point out that one goal of reducing stuff and eliminating debt is so they can work 3 or 4 days a week and live well on a part time income. If you need less you can work less and “live” more. In that respect, I tend to agree with them, though I am not a minimalist, just sort of minimalistic.

    Yes, I know… you’re a maximalist, I’m just sayin… πŸ™‚

    1. Yes I am, Allan, but you know, I think you’re one of those guys who really took a major chance by moving from where you lived, moving across the country so to speak, and starting up a different life and business. I’m bettig a part of that was to try to find a new work/life balance.

  17. I’ve not had a full time job for more years than I can remember because of my health issues (too many to go into) but I also spend a lot of time on the computer.

    Nevertheless,I’m appalled that you could spend 18 hours at your computer, work or not. What happens with your marriage, then? Me and mine like to have quite a lot of time on our own, but we still get together during parts of the day and spend time together. What about food, eating, socialising (offline, I mean), family, exercise, health, Mitch?

    As for the two articles, there’s nothing in either of them that I haven’t read before. There’s an old book I sometimes use if I feel my own balance is out, called ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ by Susan Jeffers(very well known book). It’s intended for people with anxieties and phobias but I find that the stuff in it is useful for normal, everyday stuff too. One of the thing that it does do is have a sort of life-map divided into sections. The idea is that your life is mostly operational in just one section and then that section is suddenly removed (ie, an obsession with work and suddenly there’s no more work, or marriage and suddenly your partner leaves or dies) then you tend to feel like your whole life is going to fall apart. She has ideas to get all the parts working instead of just the one.

    There’s a question I want to ask you, Mitch. Imagine for a moment that you’ve made all the money you need and bought all the things you wanted, live how you want to live – what would you be doing then? What – other than money and success – would you find fulfilling?

    1. Val, I have absolutely no idea. Truthfully, the most fulfilling thing I do these days is write in this blog; how’s that for fulfillment? Here’s the thing; with more money you really can dare to dream because at a moment’s notice you can do whatever you want to do. Pretty much I have no major dreams or visions of stuff I want to do other than write; I might finally finish those books I’ve been working on for years. But the ability to decide to do whatever one wants to do… that’s what I want.

      And don’t be appalled about the time I spend at the computer; I’ve been doing that for years. My wife and I go out and do things, but otherwise we’re very independent people who keep much different hours. However, there are times when I do feel like the computer and I have merged together, and that can be stifling. But I have things to do, money to make, bills to pay, food to eat (I eat at my desk), desserts to crave, glucose to control, muscles to build, stuff to buy and just plain ol’ fun to have. πŸ˜‰

  18. I was going to say “Oh gawd, you eat at your desk??” and then looked round at the crusts of bread and glass of water just to the left of my keyboard. I don’t eat ‘meals’ as such here, but I do snack here…

    Post over on mine right now (not the one that’s showing up on commentluv so I can’t check it) that’s mostly for you…

    1. Val, I figured as much. Had to leave for awhile but I’m going to go over and respond in a few minutes.

  19. Hi Mitch,
    If we are happy and totally at peace at the amount of hours we spend working then I believe that is when we have achieved work/life balance.
    I have a journal where I write out what is the most important goals in my life. Then I carve out time for each thing. That keeps me grounded. Writing everything down.
    I can clearly see where I have spent my time and if I am beginning to get “unbalanced”. We all need time to feed our spiritual life; to take care of our health and our relationships. How we go about doing this is an individual and personal thing (since everyone is different).
    All the best,

    1. Great stuff, Eren. I found that type of thing didn’t work for me because I couldn’t keep up with my time in that fashion, as far as limiting myself or maximizing myself in that manner. I’m not sure I ever could. I do task lists and such so that I get to everything I need to, but that’s about the best I can do.

  20. I believe that is when we have achieved work/life balance.
    I have a journal where I write out what is the most important goals in my life. Then I carve out time for each thing. That keeps me grounded. Writing everything down.
    I can clearly see where I have spent my time and if I am beginning to get β€œunbalanced”. We all need time to feed our spiritual life; to take care of our health and our relationships.

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