The puzzle of work/life balance

I’ve been to countless forums and meetings on the topic of work/life balance. I’ve even met Professor Stew Friedman of the University of Pennsylvania, an expert on the topic. I knew that working hard is important but that you have to limit the hours you work to a healthy balance. That much I knew. I never really understood what work/life balance entailed, and although I’ve gained a better understanding of it now, I realize it’s very much a process, similar to other processes like career development.

When I started my position, all I wanted to do was work. I would wake up extra early so I can get to work an hour to an hour and a half before I’m supposed to be there. I would stay extra late too, especially when assigned projects that involve complex systems I’ve never even encountered before. I wanted to prove myself. I wanted to finish my work. I wanted to be seem as motivated enough and a dependable producer even in times of shrunken timelines and short notice assignments.

On the weekends, all I could think of is work. I would spend hours reading about the latest in the industry or how I can even be more productive. I would read HBR articles on a Saturday night, and Wall Street Journal essays on Sunday morning. I didn’t let other areas in my life subtract time from the hours I’ve allocated to work. Which was, 24/7.

The most important thing I learned about work/life balance is to know yourself– the things that excite you, the things you are naturally drawn to, the people you want to be surrounded by, the type of lifestyle you want to live, and the type of person you want to become, at and outside of work. It involves a 360 examination of yourself. I had to list all my passions outside of work and allot time for each of them. I began to give writing a few hours, a few minutes for reading and a portion of the day meeting friends. I had to create a schedule for all of these things. It may sound counterintuitive at first, to establish a schedule for all other non-work activities, but it’s the only way I can make time of these. Without a schedule, most of my time can easily be put towards work, errands or other non-essential demands of the world.

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