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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

The Blunt Truth About Sacrificing Your Personal Time to Do More Work

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A friend left last week for a month in Bali and a week in Amsterdam. As she put it, “I saw an opportunity to leave, so I took it.” She is gainfully employed—a VP of an office design firm, in fact—and while I don’t know how much of her time away will be spent completely unplugged, I think it’s obvious that this is a person who values work-life balance.

For as long as I’ve known her, she’s been an ambitious, hard-working professional. She started at her company years ago, and though there was certainly a time when the vacations were few and far between and working long hours and pulling late nights the standard, I’ve always admired her dedication to balance. Her huge career goals haven’t stopped her from capitalizing on life’s delights.

Like most people who have a solid grip on the second part of the work-life balance equation, she recognizes that it’s not all one thing or all the other. There’s a reason it’s called balance, right?

I don’t doubt that the death of her grandfather last year is what encouraged her to book her most recent adventure. In relaying her final days with him, she noted that he spoke of the importance of family and enjoying life, and not devoting one’s self entirely to work.

I think he would’ve valued a recent Medium post by Todd Brison declaring that,

Your desk won’t make it to your funeral. Neither will your Facebook account. In fact, unless you are very close, your boss probably won’t either.

Apologies for being morbid, but it’s unavoidable when discussing the value of living a fulfilling life. Because here’s the harsh truth: Work isn’t going to hold your hand when you’re sick or dying

But your family and friends will—unless you neglect them in favor of nonstop work. Yes, there may be a period in your career when your job is your top priority, when you’re working far more than 40 hours. As a result, you may find yourself shifting priorities. Relationships may even suffer slightly.

So long as this doesn’t become the norm, all is not lost when it comes to finding better balance. In fact, it’s never too late to take charge of your life and determine that work, while important, doesn’t have to be everything.

I’m not saying you should start thinking about your own funeral and who may or may not be in attendance, but I am suggesting that taking stock of the people and things that matter to you beyond a fancy title or a big bonus is a worthy exercise. And if you can’t think of anything, then all the more reason to stop in your tracks and figure it out.

If you have vacation time, use it this year, without feeling guilty or anxious. If you have a chance to travel, take it. Unplug as best you can—if not for five weeks like my PTO-accumulating friend—then for an amount of time that feels like you’re investing in a future that matters to you.

After all, at the end of your life, the cliché holds true: You’re not going to say, “Gee, I’m so happy I sacrificed my time out of the office to send out a few more emails.”