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.