Everyone always talks about balancing out their time spent working and living. The idea comes across as this ideal percentage of each that leads to a stress free, happy life. Like everyone should work 9-5 and then forget about work and go home.
This had always been a small source of stress for me because I have weeks where I easily work 100+ hours and 7 days a week. There are also days or weeks where I don’t even look at an email. The weird part is I have no problem with doing this, in fact I really enjoy working for the most part. Even while enjoying what I am doing, this idea of my work/life balance was always in the back of mind.
One day I was talking with a friend and he described an ideal work/life balance to me in a different way. He said work/life balance should be treated as a pendulum. Instead of thinking every week should be this ideal ratio of work and life, it should be thought of a pendulum that swings towards more work sometimes and more life the others. His point was that different stages of our life and our jobs are going to dictate where the pendulum is right now.
The problem doesn’t come from having a week or even a month with work overpowering your free time. Instead the problem comes from keeping the pendulum in the work side all the time. It also can come from not being aware of where you are right now. For example, if you are starting a brand new sales job (which requires a lot of work) but mentally are trying to work as little as possible, this will quickly become a stressful situation that probably doesn’t end well.
Once I shifted my mindset to this pendulum idea, it felt very freeing. Now if I have a week where I am working like crazy because we have a new project going on, I can embrace it and know that my balance is swinging more to the work side right now. It also helps me to realize that maybe I should plan a day off once that project wraps up to stay away from my phone and enjoy the life side as well.
I also believe it is important to take your ideal work/life balance for your life right now into consideration when you are making big decisions about a job you want to take or new venture you want to start. It is an easy way to save yourself from putting too much on your plate or feeling like you have no direction because you aren’t working on anything of importance to you at all.