Work Life Balance: What Does it Really Look Like
Life is one grand balancing act. For this post you should take out a piece of paper pencil.
September 4, 2019 By Destenie Nock
Anyone out there stressed because they feel like there just aren't enough hours in a day? One of the goals of this post is to help you think through what it means to have work life balance for you. Some people think of it as only spending 8 hours a day at work, others can spend 12 hours at work as long as they get their 2 hours of gym time in at some point. So are you ready for an interactive blog post? Yes...Great! You have come to the right website. Please take out a pencil and piece of paper. Now I want you to think about your average week. Given an average week please write down how many hours you think you spend on the following:
working and/or classes
hobbies and personal time
family & friends time (aka Socializing)
social media / television
Ok got it, now add it all up. Is it greater than 168 hours? If so then you have stated that you spend more hours than there are in a week (24*7 = 168). If your feeling exhausted, overworked, or like there is never enough time to get everything done this might be one of he reasons why.
Some define work life balance is the act of maintaining your mental sanity while on the path to your career goals. When we start giving to much time to one aspect of our life (i.e. work) other parts may suffer (i.e. our relationships) if we stay in the state of unbalance for too long.
I define work-life balance as operating below your burn-out zone and above your freeze nation. If you are above the burnout zone this is when you might get that “oh my goodness I’m going to crash and burn feeling.” When you are below freezing at work this is when you feel like “oh no if I don’t start working more hours and being more productive I’m never going to finish this project.” Similarly, if you have a significant other and/or kids, when your hours with your family have dropped into freeze nation you may start feeling disconnected from your loved ones. Check out the conveniently located graph illustrating this concept below.
So now your goal next step is to think about how much time you need to spend in each aspect of your life to feel satisfied. For example my Mins and Maxs for a typical week (*excluding holidays) might look like the following:
Work: Min 35 hours, Max 60 hours
Gym: Min 2.5 hours, Max 7 hours
Sleeping: Min: 42 hours, Max: 70 hours
Eating & Meal Prep: Min 42 hours, Max 60 hours
Socializing With friends and Family: Min: 4 hours, Max 15 hours
Personal Time: Min 4 hours, Max 10 hours
Professional Organizations: Min 2 hours, Max 6 hours
Long Distance Relationship: Min 10 hours, Max ~flexible~
Total for the Min = 141.5 hours
With all of my minimums added up this leaves 168 - 141.5 = 26.5 hours of flexibility. In truth most of those extra hours went towards dissertation writing and interview prepping in my final year of graduate school. When I was over stressed for interviews and quickly approaching my breaking point I took a quick look at my google calendar. I realized it had been 3 weeks since I had last been to the gym. As mentioned above I need at least 2.5 hours/week at the gym to stay mentally sane. Knowing this made the solution simple....I hit the hotel gym before each interview. The result...I was more calm and relaxed as I talked to people who would decide the fate of my academic job hunt.
Work-life balance is operating below your burn-out zone and above your threshold for freeze nation
When you are being your best self (i.e doing the things you love) this is more likely to make you happier at work which will then lead to you being more successful. One of the things I found when doing the time allocation exercise was that social media was taking up too much of my working hours. It wasn't that I needed more hours at work....I just needed more productive hours. Solution...put down social media and focus on writing those papers. If you need help putting down social media this link has a list of apps that can help.
Quick Recap: Work Life Balance is operating between your burn out zone, and freeze nation for the different aspects of your life. When you are in the burn out zone in one aspect, (i.e. putting in overtime at work) other aspects of your life might suffer (i.e. your relationship with your significant other). If you find yourself above the burn out zone your goal is to get back down as soon as possible before your engine starts to over heat. When you are sitting in freeze nation you need to get moving before you catch frostbite! One side effect of freeze nation is feeling like you are stuck in a series of wasted days. For tips on recovering from wasted days please check out this blog post.
Keep up to date with motivation, grad school, and college advice by subscribing below following me on twitter @destenienock. Thanks for reading! Hopefully this post helped you get one step closer to conquering the great balancing act we call life!
Note About the Author: Destenie Nock has never been able to juggle anything but time. Her weapon of choice in this grand juggling feat is Google Calendar. She credits grad school, a 5 year long distance relationship, and her extroverted nature to being the 3 key ingredients that required her to get better at juggling. When she is not juggling time, and has the rare moment to sit down she likes to go to the beach, paint, and hit the gym.