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Work-Life Balance And You

It’s a problem best solved by what works for the individual.

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Insider
Nir Bashan
Illustration of a man sitting crosslegged, with a computer.

I get a ton of emails from around the world on different issues affecting people at work, and one of the most common is a question from folks wondering how to create the best work-life balance possible. It turns out that they come from all walks of professional life – from Fortune 500 companies all the way to independent contractors who run their own small business. It seems that everyone today is concerned with striking a balance.

But far too often, the focus of work-life balance is on the failures of a company or institution to implement a useful program to address work life balance. And the stories are strikingly similar across all companies, sizes and industries. Stories about companies that institute incorrect work-life balance measures such as unlimited PTO still have people missing out on personal life events such as birthdays and kids activities. Plus, people are still burning out despite the companies’ best efforts.

So, what can be done? I have a few tips in this area on how to creatively achieve that coveted work life balance: 

1. Saturdays and Sundays

I have noticed that all the successful people around me have one thing in common: they all work Saturdays and Sundays. Now you may be thinking that this is not a healthy approach especially in an article about work-life balance, that this is the recipe for burnout, and many other such things. But that misses the fundamental insight that creativity can bring when we look at this issue:

It’s all about the individual.

Every approach to a work-life balance is individualized. There is no one size fits all approach. Its success rises or falls depending on the individual and their ability to determine their own work life balance. Usually, when a rule is made by a company (or government) it is too late – the rule is there because someone already ruined it for the rest of us. And breaking the chains of a mandate intended to help is necessary. 

It’s like the old adage, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” – and so here it is the same with a company mandated work-life balance. Instead, do what is right for you – and control the work life balance on your own terms to emerge stronger in the long run.

 

2. You Can’t Get Something for Nothing

Everything in life involves a tradeoff of some sort – and it is no different here. We are blessed to live in a county where hard work equals results in the long run. And that amount of hard work is determined by us and us alone. You literally get what you give. Yet most work that must be done occurs outside that time frame we deem as traditional or normal working hours. And choosing to work those hours instead of keeping to the 9 to 5 is increasingly important.

So, what can be done?

Well, you can’t really get something for nothing. Nothing really comes without affecting the balance of something else. If you work all week and you work the weekends, then you may get burnt out. Or you may not. 

But the key here is the balance. So, if you find yourself working weekends consistently, try to balance and recalibrate your schedule to do less during the days you are not so busy. I found this works great for me and allows me to be flexible – therein making my own work-life balance. 

Now I know you may be saying that you can’t do that! You work a 9 to 5 with strict hours, and you get calls or emails or texts outside those hours and your work-life balance is off. Well, you have the power to do several things to reinstate that balance. For instance, you can choose not to text back after hours. You can choose to turn off your phone after a certain time each evening (I do this– it costs me work sometimes but is better for my personal work-life balance) or you can choose not to attend each and every meeting on your calendar to help balance that work life approach. The choice is yours – and it will involve some compromise. 

3. The 1890s Are Calling

Today’s work hours are anchored in the 1890’s industrial revolution days that pre-date modernity in many ways. But this was an era of kids working in mines and people routinely dying on the job. It took many, many blood-soaked decades to get to where we are today. Take for example the Homestead Strike. One of many in that era.

In the 1890s hundreds of steel workers went on strike in Homestead, Penn., after receiving a slash in their pay. So, they walked out and were met with armed resistance trying to break up the strike. Many people died as steel workers and scabs fought a gun battle because of the lower wage demands of the plant owner, who happened to be Andrew Carnegie.

Today stuff like that doesn’t really happen anymore in the U.S. Employment disputes are handled in a far more civilized way, and yet this Homestead Strike paved the way for the modern unions we have today. You see, we stand on the shoulders of giants. Great improvements thought history, some are really not that old like this one from 140 years ago – have paved the way to the work life we have today. 

The point is not if unions are good or not – it’s that someone at some time in history has ushered us to the here and now where we can even debate issues such as work life balance. These workers in 1890 were fighting a very real life and death battle. Today our stakes are far lower. 

We live in some of the best times humanity has ever seen on earth. Mobility, health, entrepreneurship, and many other conditions of humanity have never soared as high as they fly today. So, instead of looking to others to help solve the work-life issues you face, look within. Set limits on what works for you as an individual and you will find that your contributions will surprisingly improve your day-to-day bottom line.

This article was originally published in the Mortgage Banker Magazine October 2022 issue.
Nir Bashan headshot
Nir Bashan

Nir Bashan is a Top 100 nonfiction book of all time author and speaker. He helps folks become more innovative and creative at work.

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Oct 18, 2022
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