I was having dinner at friends the other night. We were sitting around a magnificent 14 seater wooden table, enjoying great wine from bulbous glasses. We were relaxed, a diverse crowd spanning 5 decades. One of the ‘youngsters’ (I can not believe I even thought that, let alone typed it) started asking us ‘oldies’ what our biggest life lessons were to date. Richard, the elder of the group said it would have to be not to work so hard or long or late. My attention piqued, I had something to say.
You see if I had heard Richard saying this as little as 10 or 12 months ago, I would have likely agreed. There were many times that I’d be standing in front of an executive audience vociferously arguing the myth that to be successful you need to work long and late. I was pretty adamant that work and life were about balance. I saw them in silo’s. On Friday afternoon I’d do my damnedest to switch work off so I could start to play. And on Sunday evening, as I began to prep for the week ahead, I’d transition back to work mode. I scoffed at those that thought this was not possible. I actively practiced this routine for so many years I had believed it myself. Until now that is, working within a startup environment that is growing so rapidly, I sometimes need to remind myself to breathe.
Come January and I was at my wits end. Here I was in an identity crisis torn between what I thought to be true and a new reality that had come knocking. I was, and am, working now harder than ever before in my entire life. Sometimes putting in 16 hour days. It’s insane. On the flip side, I have never, ever, been so fulfilled in my life. So why the need for balance and why should I even consider switching work off?
After much pondering I think I have some sort of an answer. Work/life balance is relevant when you are not entirely engrossed in your work (or life). When Sunday evening comes and you experience that twang of regret that tomorrow is Monday, you need to identify that something is amiss. When you feel you are compromising relationships and opportunities, you will find yourself erring on resentful. But now, working hard and long and late, I don’t feel any resent at all. On the contrary, I have never felt more fulfilled.
Of course I have always known that work + life balance is not about the number of hours, what I didn’t realise though, is that work + life balance is all about attitude. How does this feel for you? If it feels good and you have the infrastructure in place to support your hectic hours, if you have open and transparent communication both at work and at home to prevent resentment or misunderstanding or assumption, if you are passionate about your work, the people and the outcome, then really, there is no problem at all. No need to switch the one off and the other on.
Here’s some things I’ve put into place to adapt to my all work:
- I have booked into EXERCISE class. I go 4 days a week, in the morning so I don’t dive-bomb into excuse mode later on in the day.
- I’ve chatted with my kids, we have TECH FREE dinner together ever night and they tell me when they feel I’ve left them hanging for too long (I really try not to). If they need me, I’m there, but now that they are growing up, they don’t need me as much.
- My hubby and I have made some adjustments. He has taken on the school run role, grocery shopping and supper cooking. This SUPPORT role is essential to maintaining your sanity. I can not tell you how important it is to come home to a cooked meal.
I see this as another beautiful work in progress as I navigate my way through life. While this might not be my final destination in terms of work/life balance thinking and doing, it’s proven a good pitstop for now.
I think I’ll hang around for a while.