Balance: Myth and Reality

Ugh, if I read one more article about work-life balance that doesn’t provide any useful ideas or solutions I may have to vomit.  Seriously people, I understand we are all very busy but can’t the media take a bit of time to come up with something useful for the average person.

It’s interesting that we tend to paint ourselves as the hero (or heroine) of our story, we are suffering in our daily struggle, but that is to be accepted.  After all, there really isn’t anything to do to improve our work-life balance.  Technology has invaded our personal life and now work won’t leave us alone even when we are at home.  Then there are the constant cut backs at work that squeeze more and more effort out of our remaining time there so we have no choice but to work longer to keep things up.  Yet there is one big problem with this paragraph: it is utter bullshit.

So without further ado let’s deconstruct the myths in that last paragraph:

  1. Technology has invaded our personal lives – This is so common of a myth that people complain about it on their bloody personal phones as an issue.  So here is the reality, take some control and ownership of the issue.  First disable all those horrible notifications on your apps.  You don’t need a ping noise every time someone likes your last Facebook post so turn it off.  Then turn off all the other ones except perhaps the ones you do actually find useful…like when someone texts you.  Then proceed to develop some healthy habits with your phone…like it is ok to ignore it while driving.  The world won’t end if the other person has to wait 10 minutes until you are home to answer a text.  Then also learn it is ok not to read your work email after hours.  I glace at the title of my emails and unless it is in all caps saying “ANSWER THIS NOW OR YOUR ARE FIRED” I will get to it tomorrow.
  2. We have no choice to work longer to keep things up – I really hate statements like this, but in fact just because the choice is not very pleasant doesn’t mean you can’t make a choice.  I personally choose to put in my agreed 40 or so hours a week and then forget about it.  I do the best I can, but realized years ago that I’m NEVER getting caught up on my work.  Because even if I managed to do that they would just give me more to do.  So by working longer hours all you are doing is putting a band aid on a gun shot wound.  Face the fact that you don’t have enough resources or you are doing things you don’t need to do. Learn to say to requests, “That’s nice, but I can’t help you.” or go with the classic “No!”.  By working longer, you are just making things worse for yourself.
  3. We are suffering in our daily struggle, but that is to be accepted – Dear lord, what the hell is wrong with you people that you thinking suffering is to be accepted or normal?!?! Suffering isn’t normal and frankly a lot of your issues are of your own making.  You worry what others think of your work (ie: should I put this in the report, will they get mad at me for telling them someone bad?), you don’t want to be the guy that leaves early or comes in late or you think that if you suffer long enough you will get some sort of reward.  Screw all that you can’t control what other people think of you so stop worrying about it.  I personally always put the bad news in my reports (otherwise how do management know about it?), I occasionally come in late because of traffic or leave early because I have nothing I can get done in 10 minutes anyway.  Then lastly, suffering never results in a promotion, sorry to shatter your illusions.

Then of course there is the ultimate solution to work-life balance…work less!  Shocking I know but the majority of people I know really shouldn’t be working full time based on what they have going on in their lives.  So either get rid of more of your life or get rid of more of your work.  Then you have a hope to hit a balance point but the in mean time stop beating on your head and complaining about the headache…instead try something novel like do something about it.

This rant was brought to you by coffee, too much work and inspired by the Globe and Mail.

9 thoughts on “Balance: Myth and Reality”

  1. The rant was an enjoyable read with my coffee. I agree that we arent victims, we are the product of our own choices…..end of story

  2. Thank you!

    If work-life balance really matters to you, stop trying to sabotage yourself! If the world will end if you don’t answer that email or don’t come in on the weekend, I’d bet you deserve to be paid a lot more than you are and your face deserves to be on the cover of a lot more magazines!

  3. Can’t agree with you more. I’m sometimes guilty of checking my phone when I’m at home. Once good solution is turn it off completely or turn the data & wifi function off so you’re cut off from the internet completely.

    One way to avoid working longer hour is to be more efficient during the 40 hours. Stop browse the internet and actually work. 😉

  4. Tim, Re, Myth #1: I just finished the book, “A Deadly Wandering,” by Matt Richtel. The book is about a deadly 2006 car accident in northern Utah which killed 2 rocket scientists. The driver was a 19-year-old, Reggie Shaw, who was repeatedly texting while driving on the rain-slicked road just before he crossed into oncoming traffic and caused the deadly crash.

    Richtel wrote in the book about neuroscientists who hae done research about the brain and how the use of new electronic devices (cell phones and smart phones) have overloaded the brain and prevented people from being able to multitask as well as they think they can (i.e. not being able to pay enough attention to driving if also texting or yapping on a cell phone). Richtel also writes about how the use of these devices hasbecome so widespread and addictive to a point.

  5. We’ve done it to ourselves. Blackberries can be set to automatically come on at 8am and shut off at 5pm. We can choose to go home instead of hang around the office, looking like keeners and competing for the stupid prize – who put in the most hours in the office this week. Duh. If we focus and concentrate on our work, enough gets done in regular hours.
    I have known far too many people who put in many extra hours per week, getting numbers like 50, 60, 70 and 80 at times. Lucky them? Not so much – many of them were let go when it came time to reorganize. Duh.

    Tim, thanks for your post.

  6. Great rant!

    I solved the life/work balance (went I was working a looong time ago) by working contract – I was compensated on an hourly basis.

    Surprisingly :), I was rarely asked to put in extra hours or weekends and when I did I was remunerated accordingly. Same thing for answering emails/problem solving after hours at home (or as I saw it MY time), as each intrusion was a minimum 1 hour billable, as per contract. Amazing how a little cost incentive clarifies the management decision making process as to what is high priority and require immediate resolution (managing your manager :).

  7. I actually had this argument at work with someone recently – I’m a firm believer in setting your own boundaries, checking email and answering calls when it suits you and your own values and lifestyle. He felt obligated to be responsive to anyone who wanted to reach him. We all have our own priorities and values in life, it’s all a choice, so we can’t go blaming anyone else for our circumstances. Great post Tim!

  8. Agree with gcai on contract work magically limiting OT. If I do have to do it to get something done in a certain time frame (did so this week), I bank it to take extra time off in future.
    I’ve worked with a few workaholics and find they don’t have something to go home to / be home for. Or they do (ie. kids, chores, spouse), but they’re avoiding it.

  9. @ Jacq – totally agree. My experience has been, barring all hands on deck situations, that most people who come in early and work late / weekends etc do so because they want to.

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