Why Didn’t Anyone Teach Us How To Create Work-Life Balance?

It’s more than no work communication outside 9-5 and unlimited vacation time.

I graduated in May 2019. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve had conversations with close friends about this post-grad life we’ve been living for about a year and a half.

Most of these conversations have centered around the idea of the “dream job” and what that’s supposed to entail. In college, students are so hyper-focused on getting a job for after graduation, that we hardly had time to think about what life would look like outside of work when there’s no school (and Tuesday Trivia nights at our favorite campus bar) to keep us occupied. In my head, I imagined that I’d have so many hours free from lack of homework and so much excess money from working 40 hours a week (lol) that life could only be amazing. If I could talk to my past self, I’d say, “Hold up, you know nothing.” And that’s where we are.

We (me and the people I’ve talked to) have the idea that life isn’t supposed to be only work BUT if work doesn’t leave you the energy to ~live~ then what are we doing? We strive for this work-life balance but we’re never told how to get that. Sure, companies will say that they encourage a healthy work-life balance by no work communication outside the 9-5 hours or by having unlimited vacation days, etc… but there are so many factors that play into a healthy work-life balance. Extra time isn’t the only aspect of creating that for yourself. It’s key to know how to use that extra time to make a healthy lifestyle for yourself. For example, if I get home from work and immediately put my pajamas on (transforming into my truest form) and lay down to watch TV, I am not doing what I know will get me closer to a healthy balance because I know for myself, specifically, TV isn’t something that recharges me. For some people, it DEFINITELY is! But not for me. Luckily, I have my pup and when I get home, I need to take her for a walk right away so that keeps me from collapsing onto the couch when I walk through the door. Not saying everyone should get a dog (but everyone should get a dog).

My circumstances are also different from many since I’m working in person right now instead of virtually like so many have been in 2020 (and probably will continue to do so). 

My dear friend from kindergarten sent me this Refinery29 article about how a job only needs to be a means to the end. But if the end isn’t fulfilling then what’s the point of putting all our energy into the means? 

I listened to this episode of The Good Influence podcast about Money and Mindset. The interviewee, Natalie Scott, said that we are working to support the lifestyle we want to live, not just to pay rent. That struck a chord with me because right now I feel like I’m working to literally only pay rent which is so sad. At the same time, my friends who are making enough money to pay rent and do other things shouldn’t feel guilty for spending their money on fun things because they are working for a specific lifestyle. So if we are working to support a lifestyle, that should be more than just the 9-5, right? 

Again, during one of these conversations, a friend from college made an offhand comment that as a kid, our main goal is to have fun and enjoy life. Learning and growth are by-products of those that help make us into the adults we are today. Now it seems like we are forcing the learning and growth aspects by pushing ourselves to a breaking point of being burnt out or (possibly worse?) exhausted from boredom. What would happen if we refocused on having fun like we did early on?

It seems to me that we need to create the opportunity for ourselves to be fulfilled outside of work by having fun. All it takes is finding a couple things that bring you joy and make sure you do those on your days off. For me, my non-negotiables for the days I don’t work are going to the dog park and making all of my meals. There’s nothing that makes me happier than seeing my dog fly in circles around the park with the other pups all chasing behind. Also, more times than not, I find myself in interesting conversations with new people while our dogs play. I always leave feeling refreshed. Cooking is something I’ve come to enjoy more with quarantine as a way to take up time as well as keep me off my phone. I feel so proud of myself when I finish a new meal and get to sit down and enjoy it (usually with leftovers to use during the rest of the week when I don’t have time to cook). These are two actions that keep me sane during the week and have nothing to do with work. Some other ideas are reading, working on that book you always wanted to start or even just going outside for a walk if you don’t get enough sunlight during the week. 

I (newly) agree that we don’t have to have a completely soul-filling job to be happy, but I do think that the job needs to give us a sense, even if it’s a small sense, of fulfillment as well as leave us with the energy to do the things we enjoy on days off so we don’t feel like we need to spend that whole time “recharging” for the week ahead of draining work. Implementing small soul-filling things into your free time will create the more balanced lifestyle we keep hearing about. Balance takes practice. I’m sure it’s worth it — I just haven’t gotten there yet. 

I recognize not everyone has the luxury of wanting to be picky with their work, but I hope we can get to a point where everyone finds something they like and leaves them with the energy and time to have a life outside of work. What are some of your favorite things to do outside the hours of 9-5?

Originally published on https://link.medium.com/KJfSfkAlQcb

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