Striking a balance

I speak at management classes in our company as often as my schedule permits. The most frequently asked question is: “How do you balance your work life and your personal life?” The person who asks always has a hopeful look on his face—as if I might have the secret of working a sane amount of hours—and I disappoint him every time.

I answer: “Are you are asking me if I keep my work hours in a nearly equal proportion to my hours outside of work? If this is your question, then no, I don’t. I consciously choose to spend a lot of hours working and my recent jobs are very demanding and time-consuming.”

Here’s the key point: I consciously choose to work the hours I work. This is why it’s essential for me to be happy at work.

The proportion of my week that I allocate to work is high—there’s 168 hours in a week and I will typically work 60 to 70 hours if you also include time spent traveling. I try to sleep 8 hours a day (ha ha ha), so there’s another 56 hours. During the week, a typical workday will start at 8:00 AM and usually ends around 9:00 PM.

168 hours in a week – 56 hours sleeping – 70 hours working = 42 hours awake and not working or 25% of my week.

Now, subtract time for normal “maintenance” that has to get done – grocery shopping, laundry and paying bills… well, the time leftover for family and fun is probably about 10-20% of a week.

How do we like the math so far? This formula works for me. But everyone has to do their own math. I am sure folks with children would have 0% unplanned time!

In an odd way, it’s good news. When you are really clear about how much time you are willing to invest in work and where the trade-offs come from, then being happy is a natural outcome.

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