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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  1. Thank you for your kind words about my article! I hope to have the pleasure of visiting your B&B some day.

    Bruce Weinstein, Ph.D.
    The Ethics Guy
    Author, "Is It Still Cheating If I Don't Get Caught?" (Roaring Brook Press), a book on ethics for teens

  2. Hi, Nancy, I've never been a workaholic but when I do work it's in an intense flurry, sometimes for a prolonged time - more of a project to project working style as opposed to dogged hard work all day every day that creates burnout (and angry friends, family and pets when you don't pay enough attention to them!).

    Meditation and prayer is a must for me and it doesn't take long to realize when the balance isn't there between outward and inward work. Often I find that writing is a type of meditation and you may be experiencing the same as it may not feel like work to you either. Especially since you are in your seventies you have a lot of wisdom and learning to share with all of us!

    I'd be most interested in hearing what you have to say about cognitive functioning and learning. Who knows? Maybe you would enjoy writing some guest posts on my The Soul Calendar blog - as I love to hear about the cognitive science. Be glad to have you weigh in on this subject for which you have a lot of experience!

    Another blogger over at writes a lot about how to use our minds efficiently. Take a look at what he has and tell me your opinion. He's from Brazil, a classical musician I believe, and over the past couple of years has built quite a large following. Really great guy too! (Luciano Pasuello)

    Now if I could just get past all this left brain tedious IT work to just enjoy writing and leaving comments for all my friends on their blogs...! :)

  3. Denny,
    Thank you for the lovely comments. I can completely relate to the need for "outward and inward work". Both my mother and my grandmother meditated and , throughout my life I have as well. But I've recently gotten away from it and, now that you mention it, I do think that my need to meditate is satisfied through my writing. And, yes, it does not seem like work. Many times it exhilerates me.

  4. Denny, in case you're interested, this article on hubpages is about the women in my family and how they contributed to my positive outlook on life:

    I am working on some artivles on cognitive functioning, learning, OCD, and ADD and how to use these conditions to your advantage. I don't like labels, but it is easier to use them when you are short on time and space.

    Finally, I would love to write a guest post on your Soul Calendar Blog. I am going to check it out, as well as the work of Luciano Pasuello at

  5. Hi, Nancy, apologies for taking so long to get back to you. Thanks for taking me up on the guest posting! Let me know when you are ready, make sure to include links to your writing, sites and blogs, maybe a short bio to explain how you came to know so much about these areas.

    Or, if you are placing these articles on HubPages, I can just link it to the blog, your choice (though only with a short exerpt as HP would be unhappy with duplicate content - sigh). Let me know and have a great day! Going to check out your other article. :)

  6. I got a little bogged down and have to catch up on some of my other sites. Have done a little research on the cognitive/brain topics, also on an article about Migraine...but have nothing outlined or formatted yet. Thanks, Denny, for getting back to me.