When we talk about work-life balance, we generally focus on what workers can do to free up their own time, whether it’s using their workday more efficiently or negotiating with the boss to ensure that their priorities are aligned with the company’s. It’s rare to hear the argument that the reason workers need to take charge of their time is because it’s their fault if they don’t.
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“If you feel like you need to be connected and plugged in 24/7, that’s your choice,” writes Jessica Levco at PR Daily. “When everybody else is working a solid 40 hours a week, why do you feel the need to do 168? It’s probably because you don’t have a life to begin with. Well, I’ve got news for you: Your job as a person should be to get a life. Your employer’s job is to give you money to afford the life you want.”
Many commenters were less than thrilled with this idea, pointing out that some companies actually encourage a culture of always-on availability.
“Ha, you clearly have no idea what it’s like to be a junior lawyer at a law firm,” writes commenter Jenny. “It is not optional to work day and night, and it is not done only by those who are gunning for the top.”
Whether you agree or disagree with Levco, her post brings up a good point: since we can’t control our boss’s expectations, how can we change the things we do have power over, in order to be more productive and happier at work?
1. You teach people how to treat you.
This is one of Levco’s arguments, and it’s true. That doesn’t mean that if your boss is a terrible manager or your company has an oppressive corporate culture, that it’s your fault for not being able to change things all by yourself. It does mean that you need to choose times to push back against unfair expectations, resist the urge to overextend yourself voluntarily, and stop saying yes when no is the right answer. You deserve to have a life, even when the boss doesn’t think so.
2. You’ll never be done.
Ever notice how some items seem to stay on your to-do list forever and ever? For some people, that’s a constant source of stress. Others learn how to build a better to-do list, and let go of the idea that they’ll be able to get everything done in a day.
Practice good project management principles, even when the only project you’re managing is your own schedule: build in time for things to take longer than you expect.
3. Invest in your life outside of work.
It’s easy to plop yourself down in front of the TV after a long day, but if all you do is work, deal with family chores, and veg, you’re going to feel unfulfilled in both your career and your personal life. Reconnect with your passions outside of the office, and you’ll be a better worker and, probably, a happier person.
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