A good friend sent an email this morning to her “hard working ladies” with a link to an opinion article written by Erin Callan, the former chief financial officer of Lehman Brothers.
Callan wrote about the work-life balance — and the lack thereof — in her life prior to resigning from Lehman Brothers in 2008. She observed that she probably could have been just as successful, even if she had maintained work-life boundaries. She explained that the lack of balance in her life happened over time.
If ever there was a perfect time for me to read this piece, this morning was probably it.
Over the last two weeks or so, I’ve been leaving the office by 6:30 p.m. at the latest. It’s been amazing. I asked myself yesterday if this is how the rest of the world works. Do they get home when it’s still light out? Do they have time to catch up with their family and friends? Do they take the dog for a long walk? Do they get their chores and errands done during the week, instead of cramming everything in on the weekends?
Yet with all of this awareness, I’m also fighting against the urge to put a few more hours in at the end of the day. I feel guilty about a 6 p.m. departure or if I’m not checking my email at all hours. It’s been a real challenge getting that balance back!
The funny thing is that no one is putting this pressure on me but ME. No one at my office is telling me to stay later or check my emails at all hours. My work is getting done; the powers-at-be here are happy. My clients are more than satisfied with communication that occurs during business hours and even when they send me a late-night email, they don’t expect a response until office hours.
What I hope for myself is that I don’t wake up 20 years from now and look back at my life and realize I let work creep in, take over and destroy my personal life. I hope that, from this moment forward, I am aware of, and protect, my boundaries.
I am not naive enough to think that there won’t be late nights and crazy deadlines in my future- that’s the nature of the beast. There is ALWAYS going to be more work. There are ALWAYS going to be emails in my inbox that need attention.
But, when I allow work to consume me, it seems everything else falls to the wayside. The dishes pile up, the laundry doesn’t get done, I don’t get to the gym and I slack with friends and family by either not checking in or not calling/ emailing back. My office looks like an episode of Hoarders and there is no to-do list or game plan to speak of.
It’s like being a hamster on a wheel; I’m running very, very fast but where am I going?
Protecting my personal time makes me better during my professional time. I’ve been able to get organized. Being more organized has allowed me to be more productive. Being more productive has allowed me to work more manageable hours.
I’m getting ahead of my deadlines and getting my work done with plenty of time to spare. I can’t remember the last time that I didn’t feel behind the eight ball.
Without imminent deadlines and long hours, I’m less stressed. I’m happier. I’m working more efficiently than when I’m frozen in a panic, wondering, “How in the HECK am I going to get all of this done?” or “Where do I start?”
I have to remember that when the guilt creeps in or I consider burning the midnight oil. I’m accomplishing more at work, in less time, by making time for my personal life.
Maintaining that balance isn’t selfish or lazy or mean that I’m not a hard worker. It actually makes me better at my job.