Work Should Go Around Your Life — Not the Other Way Around

August 6, 2013 · 17 comments

It’s strange, this world we live in.

You’d think work should go around your life — not the other way around.

Image: What's really urgent?

What’s really urgent? Your work, or your life?

But too many of us find ourselves slaves to the workday, struggling to fit in exercise or relationships or self-improvement wherever we can. Rather than putting our priorities first, we fit them in around work. (Click to tweet this idea.)

Sometimes this is a choice. Sometimes we love our work so much that we want to put it first.

Other times though, it becomes an obligation. An expectation. And this seems to be especially true in the United States, where the standard work week is no longer 40 hours, but pushing 50 or 60 hours. Too often, employees are expected to put work before themselves.

This concept — the idea of putting your life before your work, rather than the other way around — is exactly why I’ve chosen a non-traditional career. I want the flexibility to pursue what’s important to me and abide by a schedule that makes me feel healthy, and building my own business seems to be the best way to accomplish that.

Image: Work should go around life

Of course, that doesn’t mean that when you have your own business, you don’t work incredibly hard. I’ve been working too many hours lately, chugging my way through a busy period. Yet despite that workload, I was able to work from Munich last week to be close to my boyfriend, a choice I might not have been able to make if my boss had required I show my face at the office.

It’s also a constant struggle for me to turn off; when you create your own framework for making a living, it’s easy to put pressure on yourself — to earn more money or launch another product or answer just one more email. There’s always more you can do to succeed, and since your success depends solely on your actions, not your employer’s, work can intrude on life even though you have the option to say no.

This is my biggest challenge right now: knowing what’s enough and learning to say no, so my life can take priority over my work. This is why I began my business to begin with, but it’s easy to lose sight of your true goals when you experience professional success. Sometimes the biggest challenge isn’t reaching those goals, but keeping them in focus.

In a perfect world, more employers would embrace the idea of putting life before work; after all, that translates to better employees over the long run. If your employer fosters that culture, you’ve struck gold!

Yet the reality is that while employers could use digital tools to allow employees to live better lives, it’s still not the norm. Until we make this shift as a society, our best bet is often to create our own framework, our own paycheck, our own job.

Our best bet is to redefine our normal.

How do you create a lifestyle where your work goes around your priorities, rather than the other way around?

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Razwna August 6, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Alexis – I was having a very similar conversation with a colleague a few days ago.

I travel a lot with my job and so, in theory, I CAN work from anywhere. But if I am not travelling, then I MUST be in the office. Everyone agrees this makes no sense, even if I were to be sensible about it and have enough ‘face time’ with my colleagues.

As it happens, I have found a few loop holes which mean I am in the luxurious position to at least begin to structure my work around my life. It has taken quite some digging to get here though.

To your point, there needs to be a shift in thinking before we can start being treated like responsible adults who can manage our own time !

– Razwana
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Ti Roberts August 6, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Great piece, Alexis.

This is exactly the way that it should be, but I admit that it can be rather difficult to do for a variety of reasons. I haven’t started my own family yet. I’m engaged to be married this year and we hope to start our own family soon.

I try to make as much time as possible for my fiance’ and my other family, (mom, brothers, sisters, etc.) but I have such a busy schedule with working part-time, running my blog full-time and attending college full-time, it can be challenging.

I appreciate your perspective and insights on this subject. You’ve given me a lot more to consider and think about.

This is my first time visiting your blog, Alexis and I’m loving what I’ve seen and read so far. I’ll be sure to share this piece with my social circle. I’ll also comment and share it with the BizSugar community.

Keep the great content coming and I hope to connect more with you soon.

Ti
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Ryan Bonaparte August 6, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Balancing work and life is one of the most difficult things to do when you are passionate about your work. Especially when a goal of your work is to create a better life for you and those around you. I’ve also equated passion with obsession in many cases, and it can really cause you to look past what is important. I call these important moments the “sunsets” of your life.

I am fortunate in that where I work, personal lives are important and getting a lot of work done is (rightfully) more valuable than punching a clock.
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Alexis Grant August 7, 2013 at 9:52 am

I like how you put it, Ryan! It’s a challenge, both for those of us who love our work and those of us who don’t.
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Lauren August 8, 2013 at 12:56 pm

It is very difficult to do, especially when the company you work for encourages and rewards those who live around their job, and the people who have created a balance and work around their lives never get promoted or rewarded. The sacrifice of your life, time with family and friends, and hobbies is a bigger paycheck. You have to make the choice between getting ahead and having a good work/life balance in a lot of places.

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Rochelle August 9, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Oh my gosh, this is something I’m really struggling with, too. I am trying to figure out a better balance so that the rest of my life and family doesn’t suffer because of my work and endeavors. It is so stinking hard.
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Victor Björklund August 11, 2013 at 9:37 am

Hi Alexis,

This is very true and it’s also sad that we waste so much precious time on working more and more without getting better output. I remember when I interned at a law firm and was writing a paper for two months. I realized that it would be more effective to focus on content in the drafts and then refine the language of the document for the final version. However, my boss did not agree but said that working hard is the only way to really “learn”. How many hours did I not waste on the “perfect” language on parts that did not even make it to the final version.

That was the reason I started working on starting a Lifestyle business instead. Building a business around myself instead of building me around a business.

Thanks
Victor Björklund

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Greg Marcus August 16, 2013 at 10:06 am

Alexis = great post. I resonate with much of what you are writing about. I too choose to leave the corporate world to define my own career. But turning off is still hard for me.

I think the priority conflict you write about stems from our underlying values. Do we have a people first value system, or a company first value system. I call the latter Corporate Idolatry. It used to be me.

I prefer the term Life Balance to work/life balance because work and life are not equals to be traded. Work is a part of life, and if it becomes too big a part, we end up out of balance.
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Alexis Grant August 16, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Thanks for this, Marcus. The “turning off” is *always* a struggle, it seems! Appreciate you weighing in.
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Harold August 16, 2013 at 11:17 am

Very good Alexis. I’m doing a plan now (48 Days by Dan Miller) to reroute this very thing between my life and my career and I’m so glad my eyes have been opened to this.

Everyone here seems to be talking ROWE. I don’t know if y’all ever heard of it but it stands for “Results Only Work Environment”, which I am a big proponent of. The definition of it is this –

“Each person is free to do whatever they want, whenever they want, as long as the work gets done.”

The creators of it, Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler, have two books out I suggest for your reading if you have not read them already: “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It” and “Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix It” It will really open your eyes to how work is supposed to be done now and hopefully guide you all’s quest in your careers and personal lives and building it as such.

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Alexis Grant August 16, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Hi Harold — I’m familiar with ROWE but haven’t read the books. It all sounds like common sense, doesn’t it! Crazy that this way of thinking is “different.”
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