Balancing the Work-Life Equation
Work-life balance seems to be one of the most pressing lifestyle conflicts faced by people these days. I’ve been thinking about it myself, trying to trace the issue to its roots.
It’s no secret that work has always come first on the average person’s priority list. Even twenty years ago, once you got a job, your life was all about working. Granted, people’s aspirations were much simpler back then. Building a home, buying a car and getting your children well-settled were all that anyone could ask of life.
Times have changed dramatically. Now owning a car and a house are no longer things that take up the entirety of your working life. Most of you will have accomplished these goals within the first decade of your career. I think this is the point where one starts craving for something more. You start to realise that you might have worked hard and achieved material success, but somewhere along the line, your personal life fell by the wayside.
The rise of the nuclear family set-up has only amplified this issue. One great advantage of joint families was that they didn’t let anyone feel lonely. Surrounded by aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins galore, who would lack for companionship? But most of us no longer have this luxury. The presence of every member counts in a nuclear family. Unfortunately, it often happens that either the husband or the wife – sometimes both – work long hours. Naturally, the people left at home, be it their kids or their parents, start missing them and crave their attention.
And this is where the real struggle to balance work and family time begins. Some may call it an over-done issue, but I feel it’s highly relevant. People do require time for themselves and their families. Otherwise, why work? If at the end of the day, you are not able to devote time to your family and enjoy what you’re earning, and if you are not able to be mentally at peace, is it worth it? The obvious answer is – no. However, I’m aware that finding the perfect space between work and personal life is easier said than done. When you have half a dozen deadlines to meet, then the last thing you want to hear is, “What about work-life balance?”
It’s not easy to find a compromise between work and family time, where neither side loses. My personal strategy is simple. I never worry about how much time I spend with the people that I love. It is the quality of time that is more essential to me.
Now how can one define quality time? The definition would vary greatly, depending on which life stage you are in. A young professional might define it as time spent hanging out with friends. A newly married couple might want more holidays and value their weekends as quality time to be spent with each other. New parents might want flexible hours so that they can work without compromising the time they spend with their child.
My point is, it doesn’t matter which group you belong to. No matter what your lifestyle is like, quality time falls under two general areas: family time, and me-time. How many of us can actually say that in a week, we have special times set apart to spend with ourselves and the people who are close to us? The sad thing is, if I were to ask instead whether you can find extra time for work, the answer will never be “no.”
I think, at some point, we have to start treating our personal time as untouchable, even at the risk of being called inaccessible. If your attention is divided, then the time you spend with your loved ones can’t really be called quality time. At the same time, we should be aware that as our lifestyles change, what we do with our personal time should change as well.
When an individual tries to hold on to the work-life balance expectation in one stage while moving to another stage in life, he has to understand that the new stage will bring its own challenges and then move on to an appropriate work life balance level by organizing his time better. For example, when you’re still starting out and are eager to make your mark at the office, you would enjoy just letting loose with your friends when you’re free. But once you have a family, time with them must take precedence over time with friends.
At the end of the day, work-life balance isn’t a simple issue. It’s not just about finding the right balance between work and personal time, but also dividing your personal time between various interests so that none are neglected. Even if you don’t get a lot of free time, it’s up to you to make it meaningful. Watching TV, going for a movie…these sound entertaining, sure. But isn’t talking to your loved ones, cooking a meal with them or going for a short holiday far more valuable in terms of experiences and memories?
Forget about quantity, focus on quality. That’s my mantra.
How do you balance your work-life equation?