If you were to look at my most recent search history, you would see the following:
Since finishing my first semester of graduate school and reflecting on the experience, I have put “Find Work Life Balance” on the top of my to-do list.
I ended this semester feeling overwhelmed by all the work I completed and disappointed in the little time I spent with friends and family. I did not have a work life balance at all. Some folks on Reddit would share about how they firmly adhere to not checking emails over the weekend or pledge to only check their emails three times a day. Others would share how they only do work during the week and leave the weekends for family, friends, and fun.
Looking back on the last few months, not only would I check my email the moment I wake up, but I’d also check it at least ten times throughout the day. I would wake up at 7am and go to school or to do work in my room, and my “work day” would end at 9pm when I start my bedtime routine. The only times where I’d be able to read, write, or watch a show for fun would be during mealtimes or on my commutes on the train.
When I did have a day off. I would overload myself with shows, reading, and writing to the point of exhaustion. I would tell myself, “If I don’t do this now, I don’t know when else I’d be able to!”
As you may expect, this quickly led to me feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and envious of those that seem to have this “work life balance”. I decided to approach these individuals and ask them what their secret is. How do you achieve a work life balance?
Do what works for you.
Some people do better when they have breaks sprinkled throughout the day. Some do their best when they work for a long period and then binge on leisure activities during a longer break. Figure out what works for you! No one knows you better than yourself.
Everyone has a difference (im)balance.
A “balance” implies that things are equal on both sides of the scale. However, for “work life balance” I would argue that it doesn’t necessitate an equal balance. If working for 75% of the day and doing things you like for 25% of the day works best for you, go for it. That is your balance. A “work life balance” doesn’t have to mean 50% work and 50% life unless you want it to.
There’s no right answer.
I would often get caught in cycles of comparing myself to others unfairly. I would think to myself “They know what they’re doing” as I’m looking at others and think that what I’m doing is wrong.
While speaking with a professor, I was assured that no one really knows what they’re doing (not even my professor!). Life is a bunch of trials and errors and trying to figure out what works best for us. One method might work for now but soon after, we’d find ourselves back in this cycle of trial and error. There is no right answer that would apply forever, so freeing ourselves from this expectation that there is a right answer would lift a big load from our shoulders.
Finding a work life balance is still high on my priority list, but I also don’t imagine it to be something that I’d check off forever. As my needs, wants, and aspirations change and grow with time, so will my work life balance, and I will adjust my “balance” accordingly.