Work Life Balance: My Impossible Reality

I’ve been wanting to write about this topic for a while but haven’t been able to articulate myself in terms of the message I wanted get across until now. This post is about work life balance and how it’s so critical to maintain. This is about not letting yourself become consumed by work and career. This is about realizing what’s important in life…what really matters.

Last year I was driving my family to see the Christmas lights a local street puts on every year. While stopped a set of traffic lights I remember my brain ticking over trying to resolve an issue at work…I can’t remember exactly what it was but it was one of those times where your brain is on a loop and you can’t switch it off. I remember looking down at my phone to check something and then drove off. The only problem was that the light was still red and I found myself half way through the intersection with traffic still cutting across.

My wife yelled and only then did I realise what I was doing…to be honest I have no idea why I took off with the light still red…I just did! Luckily the other cars had noticed my mistake and stopped before anything serious happened. This wasn’t inattention…this was total absorption. Total absorption of mind and body in whatever problem it was and the total disconnect with the task at hand. Whatever it was I was trying to work out while waiting at those lights, it had resulted in me putting my family at risk.

People that know me know that I am find it almost impossible to switch off. If I am not at work I am thinking about work or thinking about checking my Twitter stream…seeing what’s happening on Slack or trying to work out the next blog post. I have a serious and very real case of FOMO. I realise that having this addiction or for a better word, dedication to my career which doubles as my hobby which doesn’t help isn’t healthy.

The inability to switch off is a dangerous one because I find that my brain will always be ticking…consumed by whatever issue I am working on…whatever product or tech I am researching. This means that other parts of my life get relegated to the background task section of my brain…almost irrelevant and not worth wasting precious capacity on!

As that near miss has made me realise…there must be a time to switch off…a time to disconnect and move the background tasks to the foreground. Those background tasks are in fact the most important…family, health and wellbeing. I’m still not where I would like to be in regards to being able to balance this out but I’m trying to be better. Better when I come home and spending time with my wife and kids…better in trying to remained focused on them instead of relegating them to the background…better in understanding that work and career is important…but not that important that all else suffers.

I realise the irony in getting this post out while on a flight traveling away from my family for work on my MBP at 30,000 feet…but hey, at least I now recognise that 🙂

9 comments

  • Would be happy to have a chat with you on it, after working almost 40 hours on my honeymoon I realized I had to change. Also nothing wrong with thinking about things, but balance that with being there for your family.

    • Thanks for the reach out … Reckon we can have a chat in the Hangspace in a few weeks …I’m interested to hear anyone’s thoughts.

  • Wow!interesting article.well said,”Those background tasks are in fact the most important…family, health and wellbeing”

  • Balanced Mind

    First off it’s not an impossible reality. Get 2 phones. One for work and one for home. Leave the work phone and all of its work apps and accounts behind at the end of the day, weekends, and on holidays.

    Find an activity that involves your family and commit to it. A bowling night, golf, chess or whatever. For that activity leave the work phone at home.

    As a heavy traveller and techie it’s easy to get sucked into all things digital. Feeling the pressure to always discover and tinker with the latest. Being afraid to say no. Your blog title of Virtualization being life is a bad sign of addiction. Life is life.

    Take a walk every day or meditate. Realize that if your company decides to fire or lay you off it won’t matter how many hours beyond 40 that you gave them. Your kids and wife won’t care about all the extra things the money gave them. All they will care about is whether you spent any time with them. The theories about how much happiness you gain after a certain amount of income are true.

  • I’ve always struggled with my work life balance, to the point where occasionally good friends have to “have a word”.

    It starts with shorter and shorter lunch breaks, then you’re checking your work emails throughout the evenings, and cannot stop thinking about how to fix issues or improve processes. Then there’s the countless hours spent studying in the Home Lab. I realise it’s too much so I try to monitor my routine for the warning signs. Luckily, my distracted states have only made me miss the odd motorway junction so far!

    Currently I do the following every day to help:

    1) make sure I take a lunch break.
    2) turn off my work phone at the end of the day.
    3) don’t check work emails in the evenings.
    4) take time to exercise – although this has cut into my study time!

  • Is always very difficult to switch off.
    Even I try to manage my time to have always family and friends time. But is not always easy.

    I also find sometimes my brain traveling to some work related issues(or even some possible blog articles) when I have that family and friends time.

    Now in vacations with a very limited internet I am like an addict 🙂

    I think this is a problem for most or the tech guys.

    Bottom line, we should always have quality time with our family and friends. Is very important for our sanity.

  • You described me, it is scary to think the things that mean the most, the one section of our life that without disrupts everything, thought and feeling is so easy to overlook. It’s not they dont rank vs work its just how some of us are wired. If we stay busy we dont think about the doubt or possible failure, letting someone down…i feel the problem comes a little from not being able to say no to others and yes to ourselves. Its what drives you initially then as noted find without thought or realisation to consider it has become us or rather we have become it….just stay true to yourself, what matters like family and friends and the rest alligns itself over time with concious effort. You will always have that drive its what seperates you feom others its you just dont let it absorb you to the point there may not be a you if that makes sense. But i hear you, no judgement just complete agreement and understanding of where you can find yourself, dont be hard on yourself over it look forwards not back.
    Take care anyway you have made the steps towards resolution.😃

  • Anthony, I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to “work to live” not “live to work”.

    You (and your readers) are intelligent, diligent, hard working people – consider the economic perspective – you are all being paid for “a day’s work” which usually equates to eight hours. If you’re being paid $50,000 per annum and working 16 hours per day (sometimes more) by taking your work home with you, then YOU have reduced your pay to $25,000 per annum. Why should any employer deserve this?

    Even if you’re self employed, the money is not worth your health because NO AMOUNT OF MONEY can buy back your health or give you another few years with your children.

    I am a hopeful, positive person, however I have experienced, first hand, the devastation of losing my father – he was at work at the time – I cannot describe in words the utter devastation that our family felt – my brothers have not been able to reconcile with what happened.

    If I can make an impression on even ONE person, how important it is to have downtime (to recharge your own batteries) and family time, I will be happy.

    I’ll leave you with a link to a study (only one summarised page) of the top 5 regrets of people who were dying – the No. 2 regret was “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard”. Please read this and absorb what they are trying to tell you:
    http://bronnieware.com/regrets-of-the-dying/

    I wish you and your readers much happiness, health and prosperity – in that order!

  • Sounds very familiar but you know that already :), going to be trying hard now I’m back from LSL to get it right, kick me if I don’t and I’ll kick you if I see you not getting it right as well.