I think a lot about work life balance on cruises because all of the noise is stripped away from life when you're on the ship. There are no errands, few interruptions, and no chores. You're left with the resources to do whatever you want, from work to sitting at the pool all day.
When work life balance is typically talked about, it's talked about as if there is only one correct answer, which is somewhere right in the middle. Enough work to do a good job, and enough of everything else to fill the rest of the time.
I'm pretty deliberate with my work life balance and I've adjusted it everywhere from working almost none to doing nothing but work. I don't really think any particular point on that scale is right for everyone, and I further don't think that any particular point on the scale is right for any one person all of the time.
Before thinking about your own balance, think about what you need more of in your life. We all want more money, but money is obviously not always the most important goal for every single person. And we all want fulfillment, often achieved through good work, but it comes from other places as well.
There's a point in most people's lives where I think they'd be best served by shifting their work life balance way towards work, beyond what normal people think is healthy. I went through that phase for a few years and made a ton of progress, but it was also one of the times on which I look back most fondly.
A few years of nose-to-the-grindstone can eliminate ever needing to work that hard again. Think about what would happen if you sacrificed everything in favor of intelligent productivity for 3-5 years. How far ahead could you get yourself?
A lot of the financial game is eliminating debt and big expenses and building up some capital and resources so that they start working for you. You can get ahead on that path in just a few years of truly dedicated focused work.
Some people are fortunate enough to get to the point where they don't have to work a full workload anymore. This usually comes due to shifting work life balance way towards work for a while. Then what?
I know some people who do zero work after that and they love it. They invest in relationships and get fulfillment by doing nice things for other people. I know others that work even harder, and some who are somewhere in between.
Because we have this societal norm of the very middle being the right balance, people often feel guilty for working a lot or working very little. I think that's a mistake, as long as you've really thought about what you're working towards and your balance is conducive to that. You shouldn't work when it's not bringing you closer to your goals, and if you're not going to reach your goals without working harder... it's time to step it up.
In general I think that most young people should be working way harder than they are. That's your time to build things that will last the rest of your life and make the rest of your life better. Make the sacrifice and set yourself up. After that, I think it's pretty normal to invest your time in building relationships, or even reconnecting with friends you've neglected because you were working so hard. Next, when you don't have a gun to your head and you've had some time to rest, you can work at your own pace on whichever project will make you most fulfilled.
That pattern isn't right for everyone, but I think it's a better one-size-fits-all than an even work life balance the whole way through life. Think about where you are in life, where you want to go, what it will take to get there, and whether your current balance is the right one for the job. If it isn't, shift appropriately. If it is, then don't feel guilty for over or under working. Embrace your unbalanced work life balance and be open to it changing in the future.
Photo is some ducks and geese in Ponta Delgada in the Azores.
I think the critiques about work/life balance is that so many people are working for things that, ultimately, don't matter---appearance, status, possessions, etc.
There is also the matter of the "second shift"; those that care for others can't easily dedicate themselves to their work 100%, as much as they would like.
I used to dislike to work. I saw how most people lived their lives, slogging through work that they hated, and I was determined not to fall into that trap. I made the mistake of generalizing, lumping all work together in the same bucket.
Since then, things have changed. In terms of monumental personal life changes, becoming a hard worker is the most recent one I've undergone. About a year ago, for reasons I touched on in this post, I decided that it was imperative for me to become a hard worker. I didn't do it because I had suddenly fallen in love with work, but rather because I had began to feel as though I was behind. And believe me, it wasn't love at first sight.
To fall in love with hard work, you must understand why it's necessary. When I was young I was told that sugar was bad, but I never understood exactly why it was bad, so I kept eating it. Only when I learned how it chemically affected my body did I finally give it up. The same is true of work-- if you don't know why you have to work hard and love it, you'll probably never actually do it.
Work is your gift to the world. That sounds corny, but it's true. And believe me, you owe the world a gift or two. Think of all of the various things that millions of people around the world have done for you to enjoy the life you have. They made up languages, invented stuff, procreated at the exact right times to create your ancestry, and managed to not kill each other in the process. We're lucky to be here, and the high standard of living we all enjoy now is only because of those who came before us. Some, like Einstein, had huge impact, but even people you don't notice, like the janitors, are making your life better.
I've been thinking a lot about balance lately. I keep catching myself treating it like a state, a way that things can be: "Everything is in balance." It's an alluring fantasy, especially when I'm stressed because I can look forward to some future where I've done all the work and things are in balance and the stress is all gone.
Except in the real, dynamic world, balance doesn't work that way. Balance is not a state of being. Balance is an activity. When you walk on a tightrope, you are never balanced; you are always balancing.
Maybe this seems obvious to you, intellectually, like saying "life's a journey, not a destination." But I always catch myself treating balance like it's a state, and I bet you do, too.
What motivates your actions? When something seems out of balance, and you are working to change it, is your motivation the underlying itch of "Just this last thing..."? I do this all the time. At work I'll see a situation that is on fire and I'll start working to put that fire out. Nothing wrong with that. But if I meditate a little bit to really see my underlying feelings, I see impatience, aggravation, and a sense of reaching, stretching out and grasping at some imaginary future where this fire is out and I can finally rest. Deep down there's a part of me that is looking forward to everything being balanced so I can take a deep breath and exhale and all the tension will leave my body and I'll finally be at peace.