I have never been able to quite figure out what is the right formula for an appropriate work-life balance. But then again, I’ve accepted the idea that I am not able to truly separate my work from my personal life and vice versa and so I’ve never spent much time trying to figure out how to balance my work/life. I’ve been fortunate in that my wife and I have careers in higher education we both enjoy. We enjoy what we do because we truly believe in helping students and we believe in the power of education. My work is part of my whole being. It is part of who I am. I work in student affairs not solely for the money but because I find personal and career fulfillment. Generally, activities I find “wanting to do” instead of those “having to do” enjoyable and I look forward to. This is the case with my career. It’s 1:00 AM and I’m up doing system diagrams and writing this blog post and I love it. While some have pointed out this lack of sleep is detrimental to my help, I actually find working at night very relaxing and productive.
I read articles suggesting workers should not work beyond the normal 8-5 work hours. I wonder how many professionals out there have been able to work their way up by just working within their “normal work hours”. Personally, I spent many years of late-night hours reading and practicing my programming skills. This was a matter of personal choice. I am not a natural-born programmer so it took me longer to grasp concepts that probably come easier to others. In addition, when I started my career as a web developer in 1996, I had no mentor to learn from. There were no tutorial sites I could copy codes from. Most of what I did were unprecedented at that time and so I had to spend extra hours after my 8-5 schedule to figure out what I was doing. In addition to my job, I also regularly accepted consulting projects so that I could learn.
There was a time soon after my wife and I got married in 2001 when I had to adjust the amount of time I worked and when I worked. As a newly married couple, our priorities changed towards spending more time together, but I don’t think it was particularly a hard adjustment. We’ve been able to go on vacations, spend a lot of time together and after 12 years of marriage, our relationship is as strong as ever. If and when we do have children, we both accept and look forward to making adjustments to fit the needs of our children and ours once again. In addition, as our aging parents require needing more attention, we will need to make the adjustments as well.
I no longer have to code in my current management position but I find myself “working” after hours, by learning and thinking about how I can be a better leader/manager today. I also find myself spending a lot of time thinking and reflecting about the future of my profession outside work.
I suppose my wife and I do think about work/life balance but only when adjustments need to be made. Our work is part of who we are and so we don’t compartmentalize it and isolate it from our personal lives. If it ever comes to a point when my job feels as if it’s intruding on my personal life and relationships, then I will make the choice to find a new one. I can’t see that happening anytime soon. I am grateful and acknowledge the privilege of having found a career that aligns with my personal core values and goals. My perspective on how to achieve work/life balance may not be as applicable to other folks, but it’s a personal experience I wanted to share.
What’s your take on work-life balance?
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