Work life balance is a flawed concept in the same way that love life balance would be—even if everyone passed the phrase around like a bad cold.
Yet people often love too little, eat too much, and yes; work too much. The issue is not balancing relationships, health, or work with life itself, but managing these domains in a way that brings you happiness.
The people who complain about working too much fall into three basic categories.
People who feel forced to work into late evenings, on weekends and during vacations don’t really have a work-life balance issue, they have a job security issue. They have bills to pay and don’t feel they can find another way to take care of their financial obligations. Their bosses know this, and exploit them.
These bosses are not bad people, they’re just part of a 200-year-old work ideology that values, conformity, production and profits over human beings.
My advice to you if you fall into this group is to stop calling this a work life balance issue and acknowledge it for what it is: part exploitation (theirs of you) and part fear (yours of risk).
You have a choice, either ride out the stops till retirement or make a plan to get off at the first stop that says “satisfying, challenging, rewarding work.” It’s out there somewhere. Oh, and if you think it’s safe staying put, guess again.
The other group of work life complainers are ambitious people who are passionate about what they do every day. Their work is meaningful, they’re good at it and they feel they make a difference. Yet the big unacknowledged reason why they feel they lack work life balance is because nothing is going on in their lives.
They have no social lives, no hobbies and no passions outside of work.
There I said it. Now I could be wrong, and remember this is only for those people who themselves complain about working too much.
But nature abhors a vacuum and if you can’t check at least one of the following: a family, a romantic relationship, sports health activity, hobby, community activity, spiritual practice etc., then it’s no surprise that you work all the time. The fact that you complain about it suggests that deep down you are not feeding some part of your spirit. Take some time and figure out what’s not being fed?
Adventure, romance, family, travel, spirituality?
Pick one and create a compelling structure around it.
Work comes with a tremendous structure:places to go, people to meet and things to get done. Work literally demands your attention and if you have no equally competing time demands, then yes, it’s no surprise that you work all the time. To compete with work you’ll need to create something similar that calls you to act, because if you leave it to your will, I’ll bet you’ll find yourself working instead of feeding another worthy domain of your life.
The trick to gaining ‘work life balance’ then is not working less, but working more on the other domains of your life.
The last group of the overworked may not complain all that much because they use work to avoid issues in other areas of their lives; problems with the spouse or kids that they’ve become so frustrated with that they use work as a way to medicate. Ironically, using work this way makes the situation worse and may have contributed to the problem in the first place.
If you fall into this group then stop doing that.
Wish I had something more profound to say, but you know how this is going to play out with your partner and your kids (if you have them). Take some time off, a mini-sabbatical and deal with the issues you’re hiding from. Get some help to assess who you are, the choices you’ve made and what you want in life. I can recommend the Landmark Forum or a Tony Robbins Course. I hear Byron Katie is great also.
If not these, there’s always the good old therapy route. Whatever you choose, don’t continue to choose working at the cost of your relationships, your bucket list and your spiritual growth. Life is too short.