Work / Life Balance: A long-time remote worker’s perspective

Summertime brings with it some time off for travel and relaxation, coupled with meeting my standard role expectations. As I struggle with balancing my desire to perform the work I “normally” do with the desire to jump in the pool when it’s nice out, it occurs to me that “work / life balance” has received a lot of attention in the past year or so.

Work / Life Balance?

A quick Google search of “work life balance working from home” yields approximately 1.5 million results. If you’re looking to me to consolidate these articles into a David Lettermen-esque Top Ten List, well, then I would simply be adding to the stack. Most, if not all of these articles, suggest various rules to help you compartmentalize your world into “work” and “life,” and to help achieve balance. However, I’ll let you in on a little secret:

It’s all work!

I have held a number roles in the last twenty years. Professionally, I have ascended from a support technician to application architect, with a lengthy stent in engineering management somewhere in between. Personally, I am a husband, father, friend, neighbor, volunteer, etc. And as I look at this list, I came to a very startling realization: all of my roles require physical or mental effort to complete. In other words, by the definition of the word, it’s all work!

Role Balancing

Since everything is work, what does it mean to “balance” your life? In my case, when I choose my roles, both personal and professional, I make a conscious effort to ensure two things:

  1. I will (mostly) enjoy the new role. No role is perfect.
  2. The new role can be integrated with my current roles.

I will admit that these rules have caused me to turn down more financially lucrative roles in favor of maintaining a balance between my life roles. However, these rules have also allowed me to enjoy success in all of the roles I choose AND simply enjoy the roles themselves.

Just manage yourself

In my move from engineer to manager, my manager at the time gave me a great piece of advise: Get your management tasks done first, otherwise your team will falter because they are waiting on you, and the team will fail.

My personal management tasks boil down to one overall goal: stay healthy, physically and mentally. The tasks to accomplish this goal can vary greatly depending on who you are. After this, do the work! Organize yourself and your roles the best way you know how, execute your tasks, evaluate the results, lather, rinse, repeat…

I realize that last paragraph boils decades of time and task management methodologies into a single sentence, but the point is, however you get your work done, do it. More importantly, pick roles that you enjoy, minimize the roles you do not enjoy, and you will be worried less about your work-life balance.

Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

Mark Twain