It’s an ongoing struggle and an endlessly trending topic in all industries. There are books, podcasts, and articles galore exploring the topic of Work-Life Balance. However, there’s more to it than that. It’s not enough to say “I want to only work 40 hours per week and make a decent salary”. To get to the root of what your balance looks like, you need to look beyond the 40 hour work week toyour hobbies/priorities.
There’s more to having a balanced life than work-life balance. There is work balance. There is life balance. Then there is work-life balance.
What aspects play a key role in deciding what you’re willing to accept when it comes to salaries and benefits? For some, pursuing a highly profitable salary with great benefits is work the oftentimes heavy, stressful workload. In ‘Creative Confidence’, brothers Tom and David Kelly, founders of Ideo, discuss this aspect of a teeter-totter. Both had been faced with choices in their careers- make hearty incomes in a positions where they were “expected” to be, but they where they were only moderately excited. Eventually they chose the lesser traveled path of pursuing something they were wildly passionate about, but making much less money.
Are you willing to take a pay cut to have a more lax, flexible schedule? What about a remote job that allows you to never battle a commute and work anywhere in the world? Would you sacrifice a bit on pay to have ultimate freedom from location?
How do you rank the things important to you?
- Flexible work hours
- A normal 40 hour work week with only occasional late nights
- Health/Dental/Vision Insurance
- 401k contributions
- Paid time off
Often times, work becomes the sole focus of our day. It can dictate how we spend the majority of our time. However, it’s just as easy to let other areas of life throw you out of whack. It’s easy to say ‘yes’ to every social request. Happy hour? Yes! Post-work bike ride? Definitely! A mid-week movie? Of course! Before you know it, every night is booked. This might be fine if you’re young and single. Throw kids into the mix with packed evening activities or a partner who travels a lot for work. It’s easy to have life whiz by.
Sometimes it takes a drastic, life changing event to make us stop and reevaluate. Maybe your partner left you suddenly after years of emotional neglect due to your crazy work schedule. Or maybe you get diagnosed with a health condition that had slowly crept up, but you chose to ignore. It isn’t until that moment of immense pain (mental or physical) when you stop to think “How did I get here? Why didn’t I see the warning signs? Why didn’t someone slap me sooner?”. It can be a heart wrenching moment that most of us suffer at some point in our lives.
Think about the good ‘ol pie chart. We have 24 hours in the day. Hopefully eight are spent sleeping. About eight are spent at work. Where the hell do the other eight go?! Commuting? Long days at the office? Getting ready in the morning and at night? Getting a workout in? Eating? Crap, 24 hours is not enough time!
We live in this culture of busy. I’ll be the first to admit that I work too much and I probably spend too much time focused on training/working out. Between the two, I barely have enough energy to collect my dinner from the Whole Foods salad bar, nevermind trying to cook food myself! Throughout all of this hustle and bustle, it’s important to take a minute to hang out solo. It can be uncomfortable at first, but go do something by yourself! I love riding solo just as much as with friends. It gives me time to catch up on my favorite podcasts or jam out.
To assess your Life Balance, I recommend asking yourself these questions:
- What can you say ‘no’ to?
- What does your 24 hour pie chart look like?
- What areas of your life are you struggling? Relationships, friendships, work, etc?
- Is there something you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t? Why?
- What makes you really feel alive and inspired?
We aren’t doing ourselves any favors by being part of the crazy American culture of workaholics. With an average of only 10 paid days off per year, the US is the only advanced economy to not require employers to provide paid time off, holiday pay, sick pay, or parental leave. Instead, our government leaves it to the discretion of the business to provide these benefits voluntarily. In comparison, most European nations provide a minimum 20 days of paid time off, six months of parental leave, and numerous paid holidays.
I loved this concept from Creative Confidence of your three areas of life:
- What are you good at?
- What can get paid to do?
- What you were born to do?
Where do you fall in each of these categories? It’s very likely you were born to do something you just can’t get paid to do. Perhaps you’ve heard of the “starving artist”? Or it could be possible to feel like you were born to do something, but not get paid for it (or maybe not much). I saw this while racing as an elite cyclist. I felt strong and confident on the bike; but as a female pro it’s rare you’re able to make a real living.
When I made the choice to move to Washington, I knew it was far more important for me to be able to leave my door, able to road ride, mountain bike, or run through the woods. I purposely chose to not live in Seattle, where I’d be able to easily find a six figure salary at one of the big guys like Amazon or Microsoft. Instead, I chose a smaller town that was more lifestyle oriented. Thankfully I work for a fantastic group that allows me to work from anywhere with a comfortable income. I’m confident my teeter-totter is feeling pretty darn balanced these days.
What will you sacrifice for your career? Family time? Money? Mental health? Connection with a SO? Why do we put a higher importance on a website or project than any of these other areas of life that are so precious? Our time on this great planet is limited. How are you going to make the most of it? Only you can control your goals and achievements. Go get ‘em!