How to Find a Real Work Life Balance
I personally believe in a good work life balance. I’m sure most would agree as it is usually one of the first ‘benefits’ listed in almost all company job descriptions for new applicants. Unfortunately, at least from my perspective this is not the case. A good work life balance is one of the key reasons I stand so strongly behind the life journey of being a homemaker. If you add up a forty hour work week(sometimes more) plus the small things you do for your job such as travel time, getting ready and any off the clock activities, then add in a healthy eight hour a night sleep schedule that leaves you with roughly forty hours of free time a week. That may seem like a lot of free hours but two days off compared to five days at a job hardly seems like a work life balance to me. This isn’t even bringing into account that one of those days off is usually spent keeping up with housework including grocery shopping, laundry, childcare and more. These “chores” subsequently become tasks to set up a foundation at home to make working easier. Once you sit back and think about the food prepping, all the clothes you’re cleaning, the doctors visits, the childcare you must pay almost all of this has to do with your job. You are working to live just so you can live to work.
The Four Day Work Week
They say you need to do something you love so you will spend all that time enjoying what you do, aside from this being a completely capitalist notion only a small lucky few will not begin resenting the thing they once loved because its become an obligation rather than a fun activity. Find your dream job, I don’t know about you, but I don’t dream of labor. What’s worse is we are taught to berate and belittle anyone who dares question this system as ‘being lazy’, ‘moochers’, ‘they live off the system’ rather than actually considering a secondary way of life not based on wanting more. There is a lot more science behind the four day work week out there from countries who actually enact this lifestyle that show the many benefits that come from it both in health and in productivity and I would encourage taking a look at it. I’ll list a few links below.
You are not Lazy
If you fall into the category of people who do not feel like this is a good work life balance you or working of any kind just isn’t your passion you are just like me and believe it or not we are not moochers or lazy or less then for wanting more out of our lives then making someone else way more money then we will ever see in our lives. Unless you are lying in a bed all day staring at the ceiling or a screen doing ‘mindless’ activities you are not lazy. Let me repeat: YOU ARE NOT LAZY. Volunteering, taking care of children and/or a home, engaging in hobbies is not lazy. This may in fact need to be a mindset you have to change in yourself about yourself and others. Have you been brainwashed to think you are lazy because you're doing something you love instead of working for someone else? Now we can’t change the reality of needing a job and without fighting a rigged system for many years we probably won’t be able to change the five day work week in America but we can change our perception and the way we live our lives.
Wants versus Needs
To start you must be aware of a want versus a need. Off the top of our heads we know what these are. Needs are things like food, shelter, clothing and other necessities needed for actual survival. Wants are things you don’t need to survive but want just because you like it. This seems like an easy concept, but it can be a hard to live by especially when we as a species want more and we live in a world that tells us we ‘NEED’ more. Suddenly food isn’t just for survival but pleasure then we see the ever growing waistline in America, a shelter isn’t just big enough for the family but needs to include another bathroom, a spare room, a porch, a two car garage “just in case”, and clothing becomes more about the name then the practicality. As your wants and needs spiral into one another you will inevitably find yourself getting bigger spaces to fit what you have just to fill that space and do it again. This mentality drives a need to make more and more money by working more often. The irony of course there in is the more you work the less time you have to enjoy the things you spent all that money on.
Breaking the Cycle
You can break the cycle. It’s hard in a society that works against you. I struggle with it every day. This entire blog centers around the idea of making things more fabulous then they ‘have to be’. Of course, this idea of wanting less does not mean draining your life of any sort of fun so you can work less. When I first moved to Chicago, the third largest city in the United States I was surviving on working three hours a week (ten-hour days). It was amazing. I made the money I needed to survive, had time to learn the city and engage with all the free things it had to offer and be involved briefly in a few local nonprofits that supported causes that meant something to me. While I am a huge proponent of increasing the minimum wage, it put things into perspective about how much you need to make for a living aka surviving wage. Was I going without what I wanted? Sometimes. But was I going without what I needed? No. Unfortunately, I let the ‘I want more’ mentality and shopping addiction kick in and then suddenly I was working forty-eight hours a week with almost an hour of travel time both ways! Abruptly my work life balance was gone and so was my ability to do anything.
A Lifestyle Wage
If you want to work less and enjoy life more its time to be realistic and honest to find your lifestyle needs. Take the time to sit back and look at your life. I mean really look at it. You’re probably filling your needs but have your wants gotten out of control. Are the ‘wants’ you surround yourself with even truly the things you want at all or what society and capitalism have told you that you want? Can you survive not buy a more expensive brand of something? When you can be honest about that you can be realistic about what you need to survive. Once you have this foundation of survival its all about working backwards. Take this base survival dollar amount (Lifestyle wage) and divide it by minimum wage in your area or if you think you can earn a little higher try that. Then divide this by 4 weeks and you will have the bare minimum amount of hours you have to work to survive. If you are honest about your needs this number is usually less, then what you work now. In my experience it hits about 30 hours which is four 8-hour days (32). It may be only one additional day off but three days off a week seems slightly more balanced compared to four rather than two versus five. The next step is finding a job that can reach that amount of hours. It may require one part time job or two smaller part time jobs as most full-time jobs will surpass the ‘lifestyle wage’ you need. If you are lucky like I initially was coming to Chicago, you may find one job with extended hours in a single day and actually be able to get away with working three days a week. If you work at a job where you may be able to get away with this don’t be afraid to ask!
From this point on its all up to you to live within those means which in some cases can be the hard part, trust me I know. It comes down to fighting your own mentality. Like I said previously you don’t have to be without fun. You can always figure up a buffer amount into your lifestyle wage or just look around you. You will be surprised how many free activates your town or neighboring cities offer or how much you can get out of so little. At first you’ll probably be struck with fear of not having enough, a sense of boredom with the free time and less money or feeling judged by others who want to work all the time but these are all emotional roadblocks stopping you from living the life you want. Suddenly you will find more time to spend with the family you've missed, get involved in the community, engage will a forgotten past time, read a book, go on walks, care more about your heath both mental and physical.
Once you get used to your new system and less hours of work you will find a sense of peace and balance within with not always wanting more and finally having time which you just can’t put a price on.