I don’t have a life and then work or work and then a life. I have a life. And work is part of my physical and mental health, family, relationships, spirituality, passions/leisure, studies, and finances. It’s all life.
We’ve all seen different ways to breakdown down the components within one’s… life. And we all know that for a healthy life, each one of the components requires balance. For example, when someone is too heavily focused on physical health (e.g., running like madman), then relationships might suffer, as could other passions like a love for drawing. This, in turn, could affect that person’s career, studies, spirituality, and finances. That person might also experience adverse physical side effects, such as imbalanced hormones, blood sugar issues, abnormal heart rhythms, and excessive wear and tear on the body. We’ve likely all experienced the domino effect when one area of our life is off balance – it eventually causes disruption in the other areas as well.
In progressive companies, we often hear the term “work life balance,” which is essentially the notion of having the freedom to live your “life” while maintaining a career and/or not allowing your (personal) life to affect your work too much. I am not necessarily opposed to this idea, however, that would entail that I believe my work is separate from my life and vice versa… and I don’t. My life consists of work and all those other things listed above. I work at Wazee Digital as a marketing manager. I am also an aunt to six awesome nephews. I have a wonderful boyfriend and great friends. I practice yoga, meditate, love to fish, hike, write, read, binge Netflix, travel, go to farmers’ markets, and cook. These are many of the components of my life. Not all of them – but a good portion of them.
It’s Saturday morning, and I am sitting in my kitchen with the sliding door open, listening to the birds chirping and enjoying the crisp morning air before the heat of the day. As I mentioned, it’s Saturday morning and “my weekend.” I don’t have to work. Yet here I am, writing this blog to be published by me as a Wazee Digital employee. Why would I do this on a weekend, you ask? Because it’s a relaxing morning. I feel refreshed, unhurried, and my mind is clear. My boyfriend is at his place of work right now and the only sounds I hear are birds chirping, Ryan Bingham Radio on in the background, kids playing, and my neighbors mowing their lawns. This topic has been on my mind and I am feeling in the mood to write, so I am using this time to do so – and I don’t feel guilty about it. I don’t feel like I shouldn’t be working because it’s not the workweek. I don’t feel as though I have better things to do today. Because today, I don’t have to do anything. I skipped my yoga class this morning to sleep in, made glorious blueberry pancakes topped with peanut butter, eventually I’ll make my way to Whole Foods for some groceries and a few other errands, and then I plan to work in the yard and garden. I don’t feel like I must write this blog right now. There is no one breathing down my neck insisting that I produce a blog post. And there certainly isn’t anyone telling me that I should “work” on a Saturday.
I put work in quotation marks because isn’t much of life work?
It’s work for me to hike up a mountain. It's work for me to keep my body in good physical condition. It’s work for me to keep my garden healthy. It’s work for me to keep my home comfortable and clean. It’s work for me to have strong relationships. It’s work for me to provide nourishing and wholesome food for our household of two. And it’s work for me to have a successful career. In fact, it’s a lot of work.
Math is not my forte, but in a quick calculation, I figure we spend about 30% of our time focusing our efforts on our careers. We also spend about 30% of our time sleeping. That leaves about 40% of time to focus our efforts on the other components of our lives. I’m going to say about 20% of that time is spent on leisure activities (loved ones, hobbies, travel etc.) and the other 20% on things that ensure our life does not come crumbling down and that we are active members of society (upkeep of our home, chores, responsibilities, etc.). Given that we don’t enter our careers until later in life and most people retire around the age of 62-65, then the only thing we do more than work … is sleep. This makes sense, as we are, in fact, creatures.
If you aren’t fond of my breakdown and want to see another way to look at the situation, here’s a nice graphic, which I assume has been vetted a bit more than my quick analysis:
My point is that my work — my career, my job — is a significant part of my life. I spend a lot of time and energy on it. Why would I want there to be a negative connotation associated with something that I am so dedicated to and that supports my livelihood? When you hear “work life balance,” let’s face it — most people have the mindset that the work is the part they need less of — the part that drags them down. It’s the negative in the equation. Look, I am not saying I don’t have days where I wouldn’t love to be outside “playing” or using different parts of my brain rather than being inside on my computer or in meetings. But I also don’t go into work thinking that the best part of my job is my exercise ball for a chair. Thinking about my job in a positive light allows me to accept it as part of my life, versus something separate. (Again, how is something separate from your life? It’s all life!)
When my boyfriend and I are headed up to the mountains to fish, I don’t feel like I am doing something “bad” when I talk about my work. Likewise, there have been times when part of our day off was spent delivering a piece of equipment to his workplace so that it’s there for his counterparts on their workdays. Doing that makes everyone’s lives easier, and it eases his mind. We both feel free to discuss work outside of work because we both have similar viewpoints when it comes to what work is and why it’s important. (Have you ever been out of work? To put it mildly… it sucks. There’s a lot of psychology behind that fact, which I won’t get into in this post). We enjoy hearing about each other’s days, and a big portion of that day is our work. We seek each other’s advice, share stories, and celebrate milestones. Don’t worry, we still watch plenty of episodes on Netflix, eat delicious meals, go for evening walks, and do other fabulous couple-y things, (and I turn off my electronics around 8 p.m.).
My sister-in-law gave me this piece as a holiday gift, and I hung it in our kitchen:
Inevitably, those measurements will change – and that’s where the balance comes in. But you don’t see work separate from that recipe.
If I have something I just need to get done to sleep better that night, then I don’t have any quandaries about opening my laptop to work for a bit in the evening. And I’m not scolded for it. I’m also not scolded if I send an email out on the weekend (although, I don’t expect a reply). On the other hand, I have no quandaries about leaving the office a bit earlier on occasion for a hair appointment or taking a few minutes to hop online and book a getaway, or take a bit longer on my lunch break to buy some cute jeans.
It goes both ways, and rather than trying to balance work out of my life equation, I choose to integrate it as part of my life.