Actually the expression is work/life balance as we often hear this at work, and we do spend 80% of our lives working!
This week I am writing my blog from the beautiful town of Aguilar de Campoo, in Spain, where I am spending a week’s vacation with my family. And even though I am on holidays I still need to write my blog, because in my quest to write a weekly blog, I guess I don’t get vacation time for this! And it is appropriate that this blog is dedicated to understanding what many of us have come to know as the “work/life balance” struggle or as I called it the “life/work balance” because what we need to balance first is our lives and not work!
I also call this time away from work my “workation” as I don’t really leave work and focus only on my vacation. Many people often criticise me for this. They say “you should switch off, and enjoy your time away” but this unfortunately does not work for everyone. My work requires me to be available as much as I can. This means that I have to be in touch with work to keep an eye of what is happening in my area. I do not have a job that finishes the moment I walk out of the office (I don’t really have an office job) and it follows me everywhere I go. That is my day-to-day work and it is a fact that comes with the job. I love my work, as you already know, and I am happy to be available for my teams and for people to reach me when they need me. My work is also part of an industry that doesn’t close. In hospitality we’re open 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week 365 days per year and there are no “closed for business” days; so naturally anyone in this industry has to be available most of the time. There are some jobs that do not require you to be available all the time, but there are some that do and mine is one of them. So when I go away on holidays, I do have to keep in touch with work in order to stay on top of things before I get back to work “officially”. There is an official day when I declare to be away on holidays and a day when I am back; every other day in between is my “workation”
But the key issue to understand here is not that I am a workaholic, on the contrary, the reason I stay in touch with work while away is that I want to have that “life/work balance” all the time. Let me explain:
I once heard someone say that you can measure the success of your vacation by the number of e-mails you have when you get back; meaning that the more e-mails you have when you get back the better your holiday was. You did not access your e-mail as much or at all during your time away. However, in my case, if I did not access my e-mails while away when I get back, I am going to have so much work that I will probably end up stressed out and with a massive back-log of work that will take me a long time to clear, creating more stress, working longer hours and ending up having to spend more time at work than at home thereafter. In other words, my life/work balance will be out of whack. That is why I prefer to dedicate one or two “dead” hours during my break to read through e-mails, answer urgent enquires, deal with issues, complete easy tasks and by the time I “officially” get back, it is as if I had never left! Giving me the chance to continue with my well structures life/work balance. During my vacation I always find a couple of hours I can dedicate to work, when the family are still asleep, when they have other activities that do not require me to be present; there is always what I call a “dead” moment I can just open my laptop and work. Once this is done, the rest of the time is theirs, and mine to enjoy and unwind. I can then focus on giving them quality time, time we usually don’t have during our very busy lives. So I feel I am creating a balance, a life/work balance that allows me to enjoy my family during the break, keep in contact with the office and avoid having an excessive amount of work when I am back.
People often say to me “how can you have time to do everything you do?” In my life I travel, I work, I spend time with my family, I work around the house and I write, and all that without being stressed. And the answer is that I create a balance that gives me the best of all worlds. Remember that quantity is not the same as quality, and sometimes people think they are have quality time when all they are doing is spending time with people, while doing other things. If you create a balance, like I try to do, you have to fully focus on every activity you have chosen to do in your time. Work is work, and you give it your 110% every minute you have to spend doing it, family is family and the time you spend with them has to be quality time not quantity time, doing the thing you all enjoy; it is not about the frequency, but the quality of each of those moments. Then you have what I call “me time” which needs to exist. You need to have time for yourself where you give time to your hobbies or passions. And lets not forget our social time; it is essential to stay in touch with people and nowadays this can be done through social networks like Facebook. All of these areas are equally important, and each of them supports the others to create that life balance; neither work, family, social or me time are more important than the other, on the contrary, each deserves its time and attention in your life. Some times you have to interrupt one to pay attention to the other, but if they are perfectly in balance and harmony, that interruption would never be seen as a disruption, but a moment to pause what you are doing to bring that balance in your life.
Don’t be discourage if you have to answer a call during your vacation, some time you will have to walk out of a meeting to go and deal with a family emergency, or stop writing that blog to go and have a drink with your friends… which is what I am going to do now to ensure I have that “life/work balance” and review this first draft tomorrow before I publish it! Enjoy your life/work balance and live up to the max!