Ah, work-life balance, that old debate.
It seems to come up a lot in conversations nowadays, particularly between twentee-somethings. The general response when friends or relatives ask ‘how’s life?’ always seems to involve relaying how busy, or involved we are with work and/or other responsibilities.
We’re told that now is the time to work hard – while we’re young and relatively free of commitments. There is a general cultural acceptance that putting in the hours for career progression is worth it when you’re a twentee-something with nothing better to do.
But after a week of getting home at gone 8 o’Clock in the evening, settling for a quick (but not particularly nutritious) dinner, followed by a mindless unwind in front of the television, lacking the energy to do anything more meaningful, and then another short night’s sleep, we found ourselves once again questioning, is it worth it? Do we really have nothing better to do?
Without meaning to sound all gloom and doom, it is sometimes important and worthwhile to question whether we have struck that all important balance. Perhaps we really ought to be thinking of it more as life-work balance. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being passionate about work – those of us lucky enough to be in a profession we love and aspire to, shouldn’t by any means take that for granted. However, we have to wonder whether our motivation is always a love and passion for our jobs. Does that mean that when our superiors at work pack up and leave on time at the end of the day, without explanation or excuses, they don’t share in our passion? Or could it be because, as relative youngsters in the professional world, we haven’t yet developed the skills and the confidence to lay down the rules? Perhaps we just need to learn to say, ‘Sorry this will have to wait until tomorrow, I need to get going’.
It’s that word ‘need’ though, isn’t it? Perhaps those of us without dependents feel a sense of guilt leaving work on time, especially when times are busy – after all, it’s only cutting into our personal unwinding time.
But that might just be the all important thing – we have to think of that personal time as a vital need – just as important as eating, drinking and sleeping. Allowing our brains time to shut down, recharge and think about things outside of work, like personal relationships, hobbies or just nothing at all is so important to keeping a healthy mind.
This is why I made one simple New Year’s Resolution this year – try to leave work on time as much as possible. As you can see from this week, it doesn’t always work! The important thing is I will continue to try, and I will continue to remind myself of my right to personal down time.
There are a few tips and tricks I try and use, to make sure I get that all-important balance and rest up my mind after work.
- Don’t start a completely new task at work in the last 20 mins of the day, unless you know it’s going to be a quick one. There’s nothing more frustrating than when you’re just starting to get into a task and you need to stop. You’ll be your own worst enemy if you put yourself in that situation, and you’re more likely to end up staying late. Why not use that window of time to get yourself prepared for the next day – tidy your desk or organise your files – there’s probably tonnes of those little things on your list that you never have time to do!
- Stand up for yourself! Don’t feel you need to make excuses as to why you need to leave on time, it’s your right. If there is a deadline to meet, sometimes you do have to put in the extra hours, and that’s okay – but maybe see if you can come in late or leave early another day. Your employer needs to know they can’t get something for nothing. I know this one is very hard to do, especially when you’re relatively new in a company, but sometimes biting the bullet and having a professional and adult conversation goes a long way.
- Shut down all the programs and files on your computer from your work day. This is one I’m really bad at. If you have a portable computer for work that comes home with you, shut down all of your files before leaving work. I have a bad habit of leaving files open, and if I boot up my machine when I get home, the work is all up in front of me – it’s pretty hard to forget about it then! So if you’re taking your machine home, close down your work before leaving.
- Talk about your day, but not all evening! So if you’ve had a great day or a really rubbish one, you’re probably going to want to talk to someone about it and that’s great! However, it’s important to try not to keep on the topic of work all evening, especially if you’ve not had a great day. Else you won’t allow your brain to have the down time, even if you’re relaxing. Luke and I try to get the ‘how was your day?’ and vice versa out the way whilst prepping dinner when we get home, so by the time we sit down for a meal, there’s no more talking shop. Then we can discuss our shared interests, or topical subjects to give ourselves something else to think about.
Good luck striking the life-work balance, and happy relaxing, you deserve it!
Thanks for stopping by,
Emma @ twentee-something
All photography by emma@twentee-something