Thursday, June 11, 2009

Work-Life Balance

Are you a workaholic? I am, and sometimes I worry that I'm shutting myself off to the rest of the world. A recent article in Business Week by Bruce Weinstein, Ph.D. really hit home for me. Mr Weinstein reminds us that"...managing your life wisely means giving due time not just to work but to family, friends, community, self, and spirit. You wouldn't think of spending most of your work day talking with one client on the phone. Why, then, is it OK to devote so much time to your job when you don't give non-work-related things the attention they deserve? "

I am a writer and I love to write. I spend at least 3-5 hours every day writing, even when I don't have an assignment. Besides the actual act of writing, I am constantly engaged in research and reading. I have a craving for learning stuff. Now you may ask 'what's so bad about that? Seems like there were be plenty of time left over for friends and family.' Well, I forgot to mention that I also run a successful business out of my home, which eats up most of the rest of my time during the day.

Now, this week was a slow one and I had five days off to do what I wanted. And what did I do? Did I call my friends and do something fun?go out to dinner? to a concert? to a play? No, I sat and wrote and accumulated 4 or 5 extra saved articles, to use in case I didn't have the time to meet my article writing obligations. Oh, and I started playing around with poetry. I used to write a lot of poetry years ago and am just getting back into it.

Yesterday, I spent the whole day (I mean the WHOLE day) writing an Ode to Barbaro, a horse that had a terrible accident during one of the Triple Crown races in 2006. I suppose this qualifies for "time with self", as Weinstein suggests. But what about family, friends, community, and spirit? I really think Mr Weinstein is right. But I'm so addicted to writing right now that nothing else seems to satisfy that urge. But I'd like to give it a try.

He offers a list of popular reasons for working too much. They are: to make sure you keep your job, to make more money, because your job is just so demanding you have no other alternative, and you just love to work. I guess I fall into that last category. I really do love to work. But as Mr Weinstein points out, "...A fully human life is a life in balance, and that means giving due time to all of the things that enrich us, fulfill us, and make our lives worth living. When Freud said that work and love were essential components of a happy life, he didn't mean that these were one and the same thing."

If you have gotten in the habit of working too much, you might want to consider getting better balance between your work and your life. Okay, just what does work-life balance mean? According to experts, we know what it does not mean. It does not mean striving for equal amounts of work and personal life activiities. This would be unrealistic. And you will probably not have the same balance all the time. It will vary from day to day. Finally, because we have different lives and priorities, work-life balance will vary from person to person.

No matter how you acquire balance between the two, you are dealing with the same issues: productivity vs enjoyment. Looking at it this way makes it a little easier to understand. Another gauge is to ask yourself if you're happy. If the answer is no, then you might need to either step up the work side of your life, so it satisifies that need for productivity, or increase the time spent with friends and community in pleasureable activities, or soothe your spirit with yoga, massage or other spiritual endeavors

How do I know all this? Well, all I can tell you is that I'm speaking from experience. I am in my seventies and I am very happy. I have had to address the balance in my life many times, as I tend to want to work all the time. In order to do that, I've registered for various classes, become more active in my church, joined a health club, taken yoga, made regular monthly dinner dates with a close friend, seen a play, gone to a museum, and engaged in various other activities which got me out of the house and increased the time spent with people. My activites varied from time to time, but it all made a difference in my feeling of well-being and happiness. I still write a lot, but some of that writing belongs on the "pleasurable" side of my live-balance equation.

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