Work-Life Balance, in my opinion, is finding enough time for work and personal life, but what ‘enough’ looks like changes constantly. It’s also about attitude. For those who hate their jobs, even just working 10 hours a week won’t let them find that perfect equilibrium where they experience a state of bliss and a sense of satisfaction with their life as a whole.
Luck has nothing to do with it
Admittedly, it’s easy for me to make these statements, because job-wise I have hit the jackpot and life-wise it’s been smooth sailing since day 1. But what a lot of people may attribute to ‘luck’ and ‘good fortune’ is simply the result of deliberate work that started all the way back in my high-school days.
Achieving a balance between work stuff and life stuff is something I definitely see as important, but for me there are no clear rules for it that apply universally and there certainly is no way of saying that a 20/30/40 hour work week will achieve the desired balance.
Some weeks I work 40 hours as per my contract, have plenty of time to ride my bike, go on weekend adventures with my husband and binge-watch whatever TV series we happen to enjoy at that time. Other weeks, like the last few, I work significantly more. But it’s hard to measure how much exactly, because the lines become blurred and it doesn’t stop with me stepping out the office at the end of the day.
You see, my job involves A LOT of networking with people from the Tableau community and beyond. That happens face to face, via email, WhatsApp, Twitter and LinkedIn, via webex and Skype and at various events. Of course some of that is between 9am and 5pm, but more often than not, communicating with ‘Tableau people’ across the globe happens at all hours of the day. It starts when I wake up at 5am (Hello, Twitter notifications!) and finishes when I switch off the light at 9.30pm. And you know what? I like it that way. It’s up to me to put my phone down and close my laptop but I also have the freedom to do what I love whenever I want to.
My job isn’t unique with regard to the type of things I do, and lots of people operate the same way. It doesn’t feel like work to me though, because I would talk to many of the people in my network anyway. Now I just have many more things to talk to them about, because my role gives me the opportunity to get more involved, try out new ideas and drive forward initiatives that contribute to the community.
And my private life? Leisure time? When does that happen?
Well the way I see it is that leisure time is what I need to ‘recover’ and to recharge my batteries. Yes, they need recharging but when I do something I love and enjoy and find fulfilling, there isn’t really much recovery needed. Yes, I need sleep and my brain needs a break, but it’s not like I come home from work on a Friday evening wishing for a 4 day weekend. In fact, after a couple of hours of watching brainless TV shows and eating whatever is left in the fridge, I’m usually already thinking about something work-related and I haven’t had a single weekend when I didn’t look forward to heading back to the office on Monday.
And I’m not writing this just because my colleagues or my boss might read it. I’m German, we don’t mince our words, and we’re certainly stingy when it comes to compliments. So I truly mean it, I do love Mondays because it means there’s a week of fun and challenges and hard work and rewarding achievements ahead.
The right job and a good plan
Having a job that I love makes it easy for me to achieve work-life balance, because neither work nor personal life tips the scales into an imbalance that I need to somehow compensate for.
The only challenge that a demanding (but fulfilling) job brings, is the need for excellent time management and organisation skills and some good support at home.
I’ve always been pretty good at getting stuff done and planning my schedule to fit everything in. To achieve my weekly training load I need to be diligent to get enough sleep and food at the right time, but it’s just a habit now, much like brushing my teeth. It doesn’t require natural talent or some serious willpower, it’s just doing the things that work over and over again until they become so ingrained that you can’t mess them up.
Plus a bunch of supportive people
I also have the benefit of a supportive husband who takes on many of the tasks at home so I can focus on the stuff I do best. It’s all well and good to bring home the money for food and rent, but without someone to actually go to the supermarket (which is often closed by the time I get home), the fridge would be pretty empty. Having Paul take on the ‘household logistics’, manage our cleaner, help my parents run their business and study German, takes an immense load off my shoulders. It means I can tightly pack my schedule during the week. And on the weekend I fill my day however I please.
My parents are also pretty legendary in helping me. Whenever I visit them, mum has something ready for me to eat. Whether I’m hungry or not. They let me use one of their cars when I need it and get groceries from the local market gardener down the road. They pick up my bikes from the mechanic (open 10am to 6pm on weekdays – how convenient… not…), water our plants when we go away for a few days and are always ready to lend a hand when I dream up a new DIY project to make it look nicer around here. They’re also happen to listen anytime and are my biggest cheerleaders even when they don’t understand what on earth I am talking about.
You’ll know when you’ve found ‘The One’
If you were hoping for the magic work-life balance formula, I’m sorry to have disappointed you here. I don’t think there is one. But I strongly believe that many jobs, especially the ones in the new economy that offer flexibility, interesting challenges and have a scope that can be redefined as required, have the chance to enable anyone to find the sweet spot where things are humming along. Those jobs let you finish each day with a smile and the satisfying exhaustion that mean your last thought of the day is not ‘thank God it’s over’, but rather ‘I can’t wait to do it all again tomorrow!’