In the tech field from IT, engineering, and support, there can be an awful hustle culture that pushes folk to work long hours. Pushing you further for productivity without end or downtime. On the one hand, you learn and grow with this hustle culture. But, on the other hand, you will lose yourself to eventually burnout. So, is adopting the hustle culture and working your butt off worth your time? Where and what is work and life balance? Let’s explore this and more about how to achieve balance in work and life.
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Understanding Why The Balance Is Important
What do I even mean here by work and life balance? My definition is relatively flexible to adapt to many situations. I define work and life balance as a state you can tolerate to achieve your unique social, individual, and a sense of purpose. I am not someone to go as far as saying work and life can not intertwine. However, if you separate them more, you will find more and more imbalance. This imbalance will cause turmoil and a catastrophic breakdown of your psyche over time.
Paying attention to yourself and admitting you cannot be a machine is the first step in at least observing and paying attention to your needs. You may make friends at work or spend enough time with your family to satisfy your needs. Frankly, work doesn’t need to be employment strictly. It is your sheer will to grow, learn, and find purpose. If you get paid for your efforts, all the better.
With this definition in mind, you will better understand that this whole balancing act is an invisible juggle controlled only by you. I believe anyone can work 18 hours a day if they are receiving their social, familial, and a sense of purpose in doing so. If your work becomes automated or you feel like a cog in the machine, you’ll quickly start to burn out as you lose your sense of purpose. Likewise, you feel the burn if you work long hours at your job and your friends and family become distant.
Once you feel this mental burnout and the imbalance gets more expansive, it becomes a slippery slope of no return. You will feel depressed, everything becomes more arduous, and you will feel like doing things less. This ultimately amplifies things and makes things worse. The burnout inevitably locks you into a death spiral that is difficult to escape. It becomes even worse if you feel locked into your job because you need the money! This is why a conscious decision to control your time investment strategy becomes critical to longevity.
Is It Wrong To Work Hard?
For the youthful especially, the balance may not always seem necessary. You have your life ahead of you, and you willingly embrace the hustle culture and look to climb the career ladder as fast as you can. In many ways, this is what I did, and it is not entirely incorrect. However, I pointed out that once you start to lose track of your psyche and start to burn out, it does become harder to pull out of it. All this to more precisely say that working hard is not the problem. The problem is losing your sense of purpose or social needs. Simple as that.
Work Smarter And Not Harder
I often work by the mantra of working smarter, not harder, instead of throwing your hours and time at a problem. I often emphasize time efficiency to force yourself to grow and explore new skillsets versus throwing a raw amount of your time at a problem. This could mean forcing yourself to grow by practicing extreme focus techniques to streamline your work, becoming a coach or a mentor to teach others, or a leader to help build your influence to scale your vision. Either way, there are numerous ways to amplify your time output than just merely working extra. All of these skills may not feel natural and comfortable, though. You must practice. Forcing yourself to lock your time and evaluate your efficiency is a forcing function to improve these skills faster.
Further, spending all your time on employment may not be helping you grow with all the skills you need to push yourself. In such cases, we all still need to make a living. However, perhaps balancing your time working for charitable organizations, open-source projects, building a business, and making a new hobby; might be a better investment and introduce new social circles to your life. You are locking yourself in one social circle, especially around your employment rules, which may be a dangerous game these days. You could be one layoff away from losing all your social needs.
Working Harder Has Diminishing Returns On Value
Talking pure numbers to most folk will not be compensated at 100% for the extra time you put in. The hourly wage amounts to the extra time if you work an hourly job. For others who work salaries, it does not. Often employers will pay you extra for performance. Often I see these performance bonuses being no more than 20% extra in most cases. Being 20% is the upper percentile of an employer’s employees.
The rest will get a much more marginal rate. The competition is to achieve the upper echelons up to 20% of your base pay. This means if you expect 40 hours of week for your labor and give the employer 80 hours (doubling the cost of your time). This may give you a max of that ~20% or so bonus. Not to mention climbing the promotional ladder opens up a new range of pay and growth that a company is willing to offer you.
Yet, it is not double. It will never be double. So, please take it as you will. The multiplier for time spent extra relative to the time you spend often does not pay well to you as the employer always will take more here.
This competition for the top is called the rat race, and many competitors will pour a lot of time into the race. The important thing is that the employers are people too—business owners. You are feeding into the gamification of the monetary incentives they provide. You will not be matched one for that time. Remember that. An employer will not strictly pay you more than the expected standard hours for the job run. Getting clarification on the expectation before you are employed offers limited additional value for working more.
Rules To Live By
Ultimately, the most important thing is to understand that “work” does not mean employment explicitly but rather your will to accomplish a goal. Balancing that along the way with social needs from others and time to yourself to unwind is a critical balancing act. Numerous individuals hit the career ladder in today’s world and burn out. If you get every hour to your employer for free, they will happily take it and more.
However, sometimes working is an investment in yourself as a growth opportunity. You might even be working for free! That is okay! However, to do so, you must believe that personal growth and a sense of purpose are significant and help you achieve work and life balance.
I’ve grown a lot here myself, and I’ve toyed with this throughout my life. My pearls of wisdom will hopefully help you achieve an excellent work-life balance.
Pearls Of Wisdom
- Focus on maximizing the work you can output (either by yourself or as a team) in a limited period, rather than trying to wrench more time out of your pocket.
- Explore new ways to spend your time, whether a new hobby, video game, TV show, hiking, sport, new family activities, etc. Reconcile how it might be helping you achieve social needs or a stronger sense of purpose.
- It is often better to work two jobs than work one job with the hours of one (except for hourly employees).
- Suppose you find working and hobbies less desirable and feel a general lack of yearning to do anything. You may be starting to burn out, which leads to depression. Evaluate what you are missing. A sense of purpose or social needs? How can you balance out?
- Burnout is not explicitly caused by working too much, only that it is caused by losing track of the balance you need.
In closing, thanks for reading! I hope you found some of these thoughts valuable and helped you reconcile around what I see burnout as. I’ve felt burnout before, and I describe myself as a person who enjoys working hard to achieve my goals. Yet, I must constantly focus on my balance to not lose my own social and a sense of purpose needs. Check back in with Travel-Wise for more tips, community thoughts, and travel content!