Last October, I had an opportunity to ask 25,000 strangers five questions concerning their attitudes and feelings about work. Today’s post reviews some of the responses I received to one of those questions: “What are your strategies for balancing the demands of work with those of your personal life?”
As you might expect, there is great variability in how people approach this issue. You won’t find a “one size fits all” solution on this subject.
Some, like Johann, advocate rigorously separating the domains of work and personal life: “once 8 hours are consumed for a day job, that’s it. There is to be no mental longing, musing, or prattling about work once it’s complete. The mind must separate itself and use the available time to do what it wishes to recharge for the next day. Obsession working is a surefire way to reach burnout and, perhaps, loathing the job. Personal life is essential to sanity and productivity, therefore it must be respectable and separate.”
Others, like a 37 year old woman who requested anonymity, make the opposite argument and recommend integrating work and personal life: “For me, work and personal life are not separate. I am not two people. I don’t function well this way. I like to work with friends. No, we needn’t all go out every night. I don’t need to reveal my innermost secrets to my coworkers. But I need to work with people who, generally, I like, and who like me. Makes dealing with business challenges a lot easier. Even the tough conversations. So for me, the balance of work and my personal life is in finding ways/jobs/etc. where I can integrate them. Life is muddy and messy. Fuzzy and all. I can’t treat two very significant aspects of my existence like they are wholly separate. Doesn’t work for me.”
Responses took divergent, even contradictory, paths on the “integration or separation” question. However, here was consistency when it came to the issue of managing time. Many of the respondents noted that a key to succeeding in both work and personal life is allocating time efficiently and dropping activities (and people) that sap precious energy.
Alexandra says: “I’m organized and write lists, both work and private life related. This is what keeps me sane some days!”
Nicholas approaches “work like a gym workout. If it is 8 or 12 hours. Hit it hard, break a sweat, push yourself and when done rehydrate and spend time with those you love.”
Ray who is 17 years old talked about how TV and video games “absolutely suck you in and waste your time doing or watching something that’s not you and not helping anyone or making anything better. ….they are such a waste of time. I haven’t done either for roughly 3 years and I think that frees up quite a bit of time to do everything I need to do.”
As Henna Inam concluded in her excellent Forbe’s piece on this subject “Work life energy is personal. We need to identify what personally energizes us in work and life and move toward that.”
If you find yourself struggling to keep yourself energized, it might help to talk about it with a friend or counselor. Employee Assistance Program (EAP) counselors are experienced in these matters and can help you get moving toward your passions and away from your “time wasters.”
One of the respondents, Dave from London, captured it beautifully in just a few words: “Work out how you feel, ask (and ask again) how others feel. Practice.”