Warning signs are all around us, whether on the roads we drive on or in the places we visit often. Too often, after encountering these signs, we easily take for granted that they are there, and carry on about our business. But why are these signs in place? They represent present danger that lies ahead. They are in place to make sure we are aware what is going on around us. Life gives us warning signs to let us know that something is wrong. And just like the previously mentioned, we can easily ignore these also.
This is part two of a three-part series on work life balance. Let’s first revisit what this series is composed of. The focuses are:
- What is work life balance?
- What are the warning signs that the paths are starting to cross?
- Tips to help you maintain a quality work life balance.
In part one, we talked about what work life balance is and some statistics and facts around the subject. Today, we will look at the warning the signs that show that the paths between work and life are starting to cross.
Did the Ghostbusters Have It Right?
One of my favorite movies of the 80’s was The Ghostbusters. I remember a particular scene in the movie when Egon informs the rest of the Ghostbusters one of the most important details around the use of their equipment. They were to not cross the streams because life as they knew it would cease to exist.
Fast forward to one of the last scenes of the movie. We see the Stay Puff Marshmallow man climbing the side of a building. And on top of this building, the Ghostbusters are plotting a way to defeat the forces that are coming against them. The Keymaster and Gatekeeper are in place and Gozer is planning to take over the world. At this moment, Egon reveals his plan. In order to sustain life on earth, they will have to cross the streams. Peter Venkman, played by the amazing and eccentric Bill Murray, responds in a way that only he can:
This movie brings a thought to my mind, what is the Ghostbusters had it right the whole time? When work and life continually collide, will life as we know change? Could it even cease to exist?
A Little Back-story
The thought of work life balance is not a new one to me or most of us in general. Whether we want to admit it or not, we have all faced those times when work overtakes life or life overtakes work.
I have been working professionally, in the web development industry for over ten years now. The first seven years are definitely the most unhealthy years of my life. I was trying to establish myself in this industry, working for my own set of clients and doing work for other agencies. There were times where work was in abundance and there were times when I had no work at all.
I found myself at a point that I would not say no to a project. I would take on the weight and burden no matter how much I had on my plate. My days in the office were eight to ten hours. I would then go home, and work through most the night until I had reached the point of exhaustion.
My work weeks were averaging 60 to 70 hours. I was at an unhealthy place, not only physically, but emotionally. The quality of my work was decreasing and my productivity was non-existent. I knew that something had to change.
I made some very big life decisions, some that surrounded the physical state I was in, and others that were in regard to where I lived and worked. An opportunity to work at NC State University was presented to me, to which I accepted and moved to Raleigh. This transition not only started a change in my life to bring me to a healthier place, but I also met my lovely bride.
The warning signs were all around me and I finally decided to stop ignoring them.
The Warning Signs
Let’s take a couple of moments and look at three warning signs that will help to easily recognize that work and life are imbalanced.
Warning Sign #1 – You Can’t Turn Work Off
If we are honest, we can all say that we have those times when we could not turn work off. Sometimes, this will come in the form of a late night email that we feel require immediate attention or illicit a response. There are also those times when we are surrounded by the ones we love and we choose to not ignore the phone that persistently ringing.
Some in the WordPress community have recently written thoughts that allude to the adage that if you truly love what you do, it will not feel like work. While there is truth in this thought, there is also an inherit danger and an unrealized truth in this reasoning. The danger is we can become so weighed down by work, that we no longer enjoy what we do for a living. The unrealized truth is that we are all going to experience moments where work feels like work and it’s hard. That is the nature of the game.
What is our priority? Is the problem being presented to us urgent or are we internally pressuring ourselves? If I answer the phone or respond to an email, will I be setting the expectation that I will do so again in the future? These are questions that we must ask ourselves.
Warning Sign #2 – You Are Working More While Accomplishing Less
What is the long-term benefit to working more hours when we are less productive? Does this benefit our companies, clients, or our own personal success? If we are working 60 hours in a week, but the quality of our work is equivalent to 30, how long will we be an asset to out company or clients?
Warning Sign #3 – Your Relationships Become Unhealthy or Strained
Naturally we would think that the strain would come between ourselves and the ones we are closest to. While this is true, it is my opinion, the strain goes further. This strain quickly pours over into our work environment.
For years, I have made the statement that I am one the few people you will meet who can truly say that they turned a hobby into a career. I have the pleasure of working with an amazing team at 10up and the wonderful clients that we partner with. I love my job! I love being able to craft beautiful solutions while writing poetry in the form of code. But, with this in mind, I cannot become so easily blinded to the warning signs, if they pop up around me. I owe that to not only myself, but to my family, friends, employer, co-workers, and the WordPress Community.
In the final part of this series, we will discuss some helpful tips to assist you in establishing a quality work life balance.