Living a Balanced Life

May 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Organising Space

Back in 1855 the campaign began to win an 8-hour day for Australian workers.  The call went up for “8 hours labour, 8 hours rest, 8 hours recreation”.  And by 1860 the 8-hour day was common practice in my home state of Victoria.  Finally in 1948 the Commonwealth Arbitration Court approved a 40-hour 5-day working week across the nation.

Fast forward 60+ years and there have been many more changes to Australians’ working conditions and habits.  These days only 36% of Australians work a standard 9-to-5 working week.  The Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed in 2002 that 30% of full time workers worked more than 50 hours per week.

work-life-balancezzzzzzz  Oh sorry, nearly dropped off then.  All those facts and figures made me drowsy.  Or is it that I haven’t had my 8 hours rest?

Ok, I won’t try to uncover all the reasons for this change in our working habits right here and now.  There are many factors at play – social and cultural changes, material expectations, political and economic factors.  And then again, it may just be that we enjoy the work we do.  I do think we expect more from our jobs and careers than we once did.  After all, don’t we expect more from life than our 1855 counterparts?

So is the ideal of “8 hours labour, 8 hours rest and 8 hours recreation” still valid and desirable?  It certainly seems like a nice idea.  Neat little numbers parceled out to fit into our lives.  Does it still work like that?  I guess way back in the 19th century they were talking about work/life balance.  But can that be summarised in simply numeric terms?  It may be a good and admirable start but there’s more to balancing work, rest and play than just allocating hours to them.  In other words, is it possible to work more than 50 hours each week and still live a “balanced” life?

To work towards a work/life nirvana, let’s start with some simple questions –

  • What’s important to you?
  • Who’s important to you?
  • What are you good at?
  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • Is there a way to combine what’s important, who’s important and what you’re good at with what you enjoy doing?
  • Are you fulfilled?

On a practical level, what can you do with your answers once you have them?  Are there changes to be made to the status quo?

  • Maybe you’ll work less, earn less and be happy with a smaller home so you can spend more time with loved ones.
  • Perhaps you’ll hire someone to do routine maintenance tasks so you can go sailing every weekend.
  • Possibly you could get up earlier so you have time to cycle to work instead of driving.

At dinner with a group of friends recently, the topic turned to mid-life crisis and, in particular, one man who had complained to his wife for months of his unhappiness at work.  She always replied that he should find another job, then he could leave and be happier.  One day he arrived home with the news that he’d had enough and had thrown in his job.  As you can imagine, this put great strain on his finances and marriage.  He’s currently still unemployed.  It’s sad he felt so unfulfilled that taking this drastic step seemed his only option.

Have you ever felt like that?  What did you do about it?  Did it help?

How do you strive for work/life balance?  Do you achieve it?


One Response to “Living a Balanced Life”
  1. Chris says:

    Ah yes I once walked away from a well-paid and enormously stressful job to nothing.
    Financially that’s hard, enormously hard and there are times when i still yearn for the salary but NEVER do i regret walking away!