What Work/Life Balance Really Means

Here’s what I don’t understand about the term “Work/Life Balance.”


What is work, and what is life?




If we spend roughly 40% of our lives working, then isn’t work one of the greatest parts of our lives? Work/family balance, or work/home balance might make the term clearer; but what if your work IS your family, as is true for stay-at-home parents? Or what if you work from home, and the boundaries between work and home are less clear? Whether or not you get paid for your work doesn’t define the matter further, because some people do great work that they don’t get paid for (family caregivers), and some people love their work so much that they’d do it for free, or work speculatively (writers often fit into that category).

It all boils down to answering this question: Are you happy with how you spend your time? Rather than use the cookie-cutter “work” and “life,” think of the place you spend most of your time over the course of a week. Then think of where you spend the second greatest amount of time, and the third greatest.

For each of those places, ask yourself:

Are you happy with the amount of time you spend there?

Are you happy with the way you spend your time there?

Which place consumes the greatest amount of mental energy?

Which place consumes the greatest amount of physical energy?

If you feel that something needs to change in the balance between these places, which place seems to need fixing most urgently?

Did you come up with any revelations? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section. For future blog posts and an article I’m writing, I’m also looking for time management strategies that have changed your perspective on time usage and life balance in general.

Since I asked you to question yourself deeply just now, I’m going to share with you my basic time management mantra:

I believe in spending the greatest portion of my time doing what I love. I also expect to spend some time doing things I don’t love, but in the service of something I love.

(“In the service of something I love” could mean vacuuming up cat hair because I don’t want my husband to have an allergy attack, or making phone calls on behalf of a cause I believe in.)

If something doesn’t fit into either category, I examine it to see if it really needs to be in my life. As a result of this examining, I’m reasonably happy with the way I spend my time.

2 Responses to “What Work/Life Balance Really Means”

  1. Kathy says:

    What a common sense way to look at life/work balance. I was a stay-at-home mom, and I’ve worked at home as a writer and editor almost all my adult life, so these issues are important to me, and I’ve given them a lot of thought. When your workplace is your home, it’s hard to turn off. I’ve experimented with having a set quitting time, closing my office door, working a split shift, etc. What works best sometimes changes, so staying aware of how you’re feeling about your work and your life is essential!

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