12 Views on Work/Life Balance

How do you balance work and life?

This month's question comes from Afshan Jafar.

February 27, 2011

How do you balance work and life?

This month's question comes from Afshan Jafar.

Ana Dinescu (Berlin, Germany): It is not a right balance (yet) between my life and my work. My home is my office and I have a dangerously amount of time I can dedicate to my work, while enjoying the presence of my family. Although, for them, I am rather an absence. Currently, I am learning how to better use and limit my working time - at maximum 9 hours per day - for spending quality time with my family. And it is not always very easy.

Deanna England (Winnipeg, Canada): At times it feels like "work" and "life" is the same thing! When I'm not working, I'm reading, writing papers; researching...you all know how it goes. I am crazy about calendars and schedules though. I slot in x hours for reading, assignments etc for the entire semester. If something comes up and I miss it, then I do double the next day to make up for it - as determined as I am to do well in this program, I can appreciate that things like family and personal time has to be worked in there sometimes too... Good time management is a skill I'm working on.

Mary Churchill (Boston, USA): I create flexible rules: no work between the hours of 7-8 each morning and 6-8 each evening; weekend work in the early a.m. or when my son is playing with a friend. I made a brilliant choice in a husband who does more than his equal share of the family work. What I have always failed to do and what I’m working on now is carving out “me” time for running, swimming, writing, taking photos, and enjoying coffee with friends.

Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe (Evanston, USA): The true answer? I don't. I attempt an elaborate juggling act, and balls periodically drop. I wrote about my list system on my own blog last summer. I gauge which facet of my life demands the most immediate attention based upon which list is longest. I try to get those balls in the air first.

Anamaria Dutceac Segesten (Lund, Sweden): Work and life are not two separate entities. I think about the things that interest me academically all the time and I see them all around me - I call this the privilege of loving my work! At the same time, I admit that some administrative matters are intruding upon my private time. But like with most administrative things they come in ebbs and flows. Sometimes there is more to manage (admissions time, launching new courses, beginning of semesters), some other times there's less.

Denise Horn (Boston, USA): I thought I had my work/life balance under control until yesterday. I have a satisfying social life; I spend quality time with my partner and my dog every day. I am actively engaged in the university community. I enjoy working in the field and arrange my life around month-long trips with my students, whom I adore. I like to say that my work and personal life are so intricately bound together that I have found a perfect balance. My grandmother died yesterday, two days before I am scheduled to leave for India. I found myself trying to explain to my brother (who is also an academic) that I couldn't reroute my flight to Scotland for the funeral because my students were expecting me. He simply said "Your students are not your family." He's right. I need to reevaluate my priorities.

Heather Alderfer (New Haven, USA): I balance "work" and "life" by blurring the difference. If I walk across campus and run into a colleague from another department, I consider our conversation to be part of work. Attending functions around campus enhances my work experience, because I am more aware of the larger context of the university. I do check email from home (to see if there are any "fires") but I only reply during business hours.

Afshan Jafar (Connecticut, USA): For me the key to a work-life balance is having a partner who is just as committed to my work-life balance as his own. My husband and I work opposite days and have done so since our children were born. Not every job allows such flexibility of course. The downside of this arrangement is that we do a lot of work—grading, preparing for classes, writing—late at night. But I can live with that!

Itir Toksöz (Istanbul, Turkey): I actually do not think that I can balance "work" and "life." Unfortunately, this mostly happens at the expense of "life" rather than the "work." The only way I can manage the two is when work is slow I try to do as much as I can in life and when work picks up speed I devote all my time to work, looking forward to the next work-slow cycle when I can go back to life. I am not saying that this is a good way of doing it. This is just the way that I happen to do it.

Lee Skallerup Bessette (Kentucky, USA): When we think of balance, we think of a scale or teeter-totter; two sides with a pivot in the middle. In this, there are only three parts: work, life, and the sliding scale of our expectations. But I don't think that's enough. Have you ever tried to balance on a stability ball? Yeah, it's more like that. You breathe wrong, and you fall off. I've seen people do it, but I'm still trying to figure it out.

Rosalie Arcala Hall (Visayas, Philippines): I find time to take better care of myself and to nurture my marriage even with my busy travel schedule. Get a good night sleep, jog most mornings, end my travels with a spa visit, and go out on a periodic date with my husband. I have a work “dock” which I accomplish by priority, going by deadlines and urgency. Limit checking emails to 2 hours, once a day.

Meg Palladino (Boston, USA): I guard my non-work time very carefully. I make a point of taking a break from work every day, even if it is to take a 10 minute walk around the building. Despite pressure to work late every evening, I try to leave on time at least on Friday afternoons.

How do you balance work and life or how do you achieve what Harvard Business Review blogger, Heidi Grant Halvorsen calls "work + life fit" in a recent post?

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