Twentysomething: Why I don’t want work/life balance

By Ryan Healy – At the office full of twentysomethings where my girlfriend, Niki, works, everyone was comparing their salaries, and the owner of the company got really angry. And his being angry made for a tough week, so Niki asked him if she could take Friday off.

He said, “If you’re going to be successful you need to start putting your career before your life.”

Of course she took the day off.

When she told her mother about the situation, her mother said, “If you don’t put your life before work you will never be happy.”

Hearing this conflicting advice from two of the most influential elders in your life is confusing. What does Niki’s boss say to his kids when he gets home? Does he tell them to put work before life? What would Niki’s mom say to young people she works with? Would she tell them to go home early?

This whole notion of needing to separate work and life implies that your career, which takes up about 75% of your day, is something you simply try to get through so you can go home and do what you really enjoy for the other 25%. What a terrible way to live.

I wholeheartedly believe that my life has a purpose. My purpose is to be successful, genuinely happy and to make a difference in this world somewhere along the way. Not a single one of these values can take a backseat to another. The balance doesn’t work, we already know this. I don’t want to choose. I want a blended life.

Occasionally I need to contact an older co-worker late at night or on a Sunday. Typically, I email the person, receive no response and the work waits until the next day’s business hours. Usually, I am hesitant to call and bother older people during their “home time.” My home time is not sacred. I have grown up being connected twenty-four hours a day, I have no problem with sending a quick work email or organizing my inbox during these supposed “off” hours.

There is no need for me to keep work life and home life separate. The majority of week nights you can find me in front of the computer chatting with a friend, watching TV and messing around with MySpace or Facebook. I may as well send out an email or finish up a work briefing at the same time. When I told my friend about this post, he said, “Work/life balance? That doesn’t even make sense.”

Think about it, he is absolutely right. I would never dream of saying I want a Family/Life balance or I want a Friend/Life balance. Is work so terrible that people don’t want to consider it a part of their lives? I sure hope not, because if that’s the case than the next fifty years of my life are going to suck!

The lines between work and life have been blurred for years. I have decided to embrace this fact and work on the best blend for my life. Whether this means working hours that fit around my schedule or being paid for results rather than the amount of hours worked, I’m not sure. I will leave that question to the management consultants and human resource experts. In the meantime my peers and I will keep searching for this blended life, while everyone else continues to run in circles failing to achieve their so-called balance.

Posted in No image, Productivity
83 comments on “Twentysomething: Why I don’t want work/life balance
  1. Liz says:

    Hi Ryan,
    I enjoyed your post and visited your blog. Nice work : )
    I hope to hear updates on your experiences with blending. I think that as a single person the type of blending you mention is possible. But I think it is harder once you marry and/or have kids. I enjoy the On Balance blog at washingtonpost.com.
    Here are other thoughts–I couldn’t do the blending you mention at my most recent job. I worked at a nonprofit and paid off my student loans. I couldn’t afford to have a computer at home. If I needed to do something personal online, I had to stay late at work.
    My former bosses, who were baby boomers, blended. Maybe they achieved the ideal blending that you write about. He was a best selling author as well as the president of our NGO, she was the Exec Dir. They had foreign travel, interesting jobs, and were saving the world. They both spoke a few languages. There was a lot of overlap between their friends and people involved in the organization. But the rest of us, working for them, couldn’t have achieved that type of blending. Maybe a family type business is what it takes. There are also downsides by the way. While I was there, a couple of people were fired and it was extremely nasty for everyone.
    I’m a student now, and my husband is an engineering postdoc. We have a computer at home. But if he’s on it working, in our studio townhouse, he needs total silence. I can’t cut in to do a little internet research. When our time together is cut into by work, we both feel the difference. I didn’t let him blend our honeymoon with giving a seminar at a local university : )

  2. Recruiting Animal says:

    Ryan, this was a well written article. You laid out your case clearly which makes it easy to spot the flaws.

    (1) You’re not married and you don’t have kids. Therefore no family obligations or attractions. You can dismiss the idea of balance with a wave of the hand but, if you like your work it’s easy to get wrapped up in it. If it’s just you, who cares? Your wife and kids, however, might not agree.

    (2) There’s no proof that you represent your generation beyond your little coterie of friends.

    (3) You seem to be talking about flex hours so that you can take off time during the day to compensate for the time you work at night. But not every job will allow that.

    (4) Even if you were on your own and liked your work, it might be worthwhile to dedicate time to other activities beyond work. Some people don’t spend all their spare time net surfing.

    I play cards on Thursday nights. We play at the home of a successful plumber who has five kids. Sometimes, the game is constantly interrupted as he gets calls from customers with problems. What’s so great about that?

    ********

    I do not know what it is like to have a wife or kids. I am 22 years old and can only discuss this stage of my life. However, if I adopt this blended life when I start my career, hopefully it will become second nature when I finally do settle down. Maybe this is why young people are waiting longer then ever to have a family. I never claimed to represent my whole generation.

    In fact, my blog has a page titled “Write Your Own Post” where we ask any and all interested parties to write about their work experiences. I envision a blended life as one that consists of many activities other than work and net surfing. I participate in numerous out of work activities including writing on my blog and now Penelope’s, jogging nearly every day, playing in a men’s basketball league, traveling to visit friends and family many weekends, not to mention my avid social life.

    It’s a given that there will be times when you cannot work, like when you are playing poker. I think everyone understands that we cannot work 24/7. A blended life seems to be the best solution for me, this doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. Thanks for the comment.

    Ryan

  3. Jaerid says:

    Ryan,

    Good post and (of course) I like the “blended” life idea. Speaking as a twenty-something with a wife and a kid, I can say that I understand what Ryan is saying and that I too want a blended life. For me it might be more like finding a job that matches my lifestyle or my passions so that work becomes part of my life – not something I do to pay the bills.

    I also find it interesting that Recruiting Animal assumed you didn’t have kids because you refer to having a girlfriend and is so quick to assume you don’t have other family obligations. And yes – Ryan may not represent our entire generation, but I will say that I know he represents a pretty big piece of it.

    I look forward to the next post Ryan.

  4. AjiNIMC says:

    It is very important to find the right job. Every sunday evening before starting the next week we should be able to plan our priority for that week.

    Its always easy to say, “Love your work that you never have to work” but difficult to execute as work always demands more and so does your life.

  5. Erik Mazzone says:

    Ryan,

    Great post. I like the phrase “blended life” — it sounds more harmonious than “work/life balance”, which for whatever reason, always makes me think of juggling dishes precariously.

    I’m married with no kids, so I represent a demographic half-step between the singles and the full-on family folks. I think a key part of the approach you wrote about, and it’s a smart one in my opinion, is the sense of fluidly moving between tasks and non-work tasks. Of reducing or removing borders and barriers.

    Not to say that you should be fondling your blackberry throughout a concert (or your kid’s soccer game, for that matter), but it certainly is possible for all of us to work on breaking down the rigid barriers between work and life. It’s not like those barriers seem to be helping . . .

    Nice work, I mean, article.

    E.

    ********

    I love your phrasing of fluidly moving between work and non work tasks.  This is exactly what I was trying to get at, but couldn’t quite word it right.  I assure you I have no plans of fondling my blackberry at the concert I’m going to on thursday night, but I may check my email after the show, just in case.

    Ryan

  6. Alison says:

    I’m a thirtysomething with two kids. My husband runs his own business. I have a corporate job. I came into work feeling old this morning but now I feel 10 years younger (thank you!). I wouldn’t be able to do my jobs without “blending”. And I get more out of both jobs by blending them. My corporate job does support flexible working hours – that helps. And I have put money into the technology that helps me work at home. End result? I’m happy in my work and my kids see that. I want them to be happy with their work too.

    ********

    I’m glad I could help you feel ten years younger today!  It’s nice to see this isn’t only a twentysomething way of thinking.  Thanks for the positive feedback.

    Ryan

  7. RickB says:

    Ryan,
    Interesting post. I am on the last leg of my twentysomethings and will be a thirtysomething in just a few months. I too shared your view all through my twenties and found great success in doing so. Promotions, salary increase, more responsibility, all those followed. In addition to not calling “older” people on the weekends or expecting they will respond was a reality and was fairly annoying to me back then.

    It wasn’t until my son was born that things needed to slow down a bit and started to change. There were only a select few at each job that were online as much as me, and that were as accessible. Looking back, I think it was expected when you are not married and do not have kids. The argument of “what else are you doing?” seemed to be pretty real, though it was never explicitly stated.

    Shutting down for the weekend is something I still rarely do, but when stress levels are high at work, and high at home, I’d rather shut down at work because it is acceptable, and I am really only explicitly expected to work M-F during business hours.

    There is another very real scenario I noticed between younger workers and more seasoned vets. When you work hard and put in the extra time but are not compensated in SOME form, you start to feel like you are being taken advantage of. I am sure this has happened to all of us at one point or another. But, say you work for the company 10 years, and this happens year after year. You get less motivated to go that extra mile with each incident. Soon, your a strict 9-5er. I work with MANY people like this. I am glad they are there because they remind me of what I DON’T want to become.

    Best of luck!
    -Rick

    ********

    Thanks for the comment.  Your point about people not being compensated for going the extra mile is valid, but not just for seasoned vets like yourself.  Many of my friends already feel this way and have taken on the 9-5 role because of this.  It doesn’t take 10 years anymore, people my age expect alot as well, even if it is just positive feedback or hints about a promotion.  I’m glad to hear you don’t want to become a strict 9-5er because I feel the same way, even if this means creating some work for myself, like blogging for example.

    Ryan

  8. Sarah says:

    Ryan

    This is a great article, and you’ve definitely tapped into something with the blended life idea.

    Like lots of readers here, I threw in a corporate job for freelance work in a field that allows me to plan my day and my life. I’m twentysomething and married, and while I don’t have kids, I do have family obligations. I’ve always thought “balancing” my work against my life sounded very precarious, and not at all satifying!

    I don’t pretend I’ll know what my life will be like when I have children, but I know I’m smart, resourceful and well able to set my own priorities. What’s more, I can make my own way based on these.

    One thing I have learnt is not to be thrown off by the critics and naysayers who tell me I’m being naïve or chasing a pipedream in my search for a blend. I’ve heard comments like this from former bosses as well as fellow freelancers of all ages and generations. (They’re probably the same people who’ll tell me I’m damaging my children when the time comes, by working from home/not working at all/ painting my toenails purple, etc.) I’m prepared to accept feedback and learn from those who have gone before me, but I’m convinced these kind of dismissive comments say more about the person making them than me.

    A blended life may not be for everyone, but that’s no reason to diss it. And while it may not be easy or perfect, it is possible. But it requires an open mind, putting aside the wife and two kids excuses and questioning where the barriers are really coming from.

    Keep the posts coming, Ryan!

    Sarah

    ********

    Thank you so much for the positive response.  I am well aware that there will always be naysayers and people who won’t give new ideas a shot.  When I hear from someone like you that this blend is achievable, I know I must be on to something.  Maybe this blend will work, maybe it won’t, but like you said, the balance does not sound satisfying.

    Ryan

  9. christin says:

    getting paid based on results – wouldn’t that be refreshing? I do hear what some of the critics here are saying, but I have to agree with you on your ‘blended’ way of thinking. Last night as I worked on some edits for my company’s website, while watching What Not to Wear and playing with my dog, I didn’t think “wow I should get overtime for this.” It didn’t even need to get done last night, I just felt like working on it.

    I also don’t have kids, but I am married. I haven’t found that this work/life blend has interrupted my marriage at all. I think it depends on how high-stress your job is. My job is relatively low-stress, but that doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally get a call on the weekend.

    I absolutely agree that the new generation is going to look at work differently – I see it all the time. I’m kind of in between the Gen X/Y – being born in 1980 – I can’t quite decide whieh one I fit into more. :) That’s why this blog has been so interesting to me – I look forward to your future postings.

    ********

    Your sunday night sounds strangely similar to mine, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one.  And you’re right, results based pay really does sound refreshing!  Thanks for the comment.

    Ryan

  10. Tyson says:

    Great post! Being a “twenty-something” I have the same mentality. I don’t foresee the work/life balance working for me even as the years pass and I find myself having a wife and a couple of rugrats to take care of.

    For some reason I predict that the typical balance older generations are clinging to is actually going to hinder my parenting/good husband abilities. Isn’t it possible that maybe we just do things differently and it’s not simply a “twenty-something” thing that all people go through?

    Some of your critics need to give you the benefit of the doubt. I’m sure you know yourself better than they do.

  11. Colin Kingsbury says:

    Everything in life is a balancing act, whether it’s life vs. work, wife/kids vs. friends, activity vs. veging. Growing up in the pre-networked pre-cell phone era, I still have very clear memories of my father sitting there at the dining room table once a year with a legal pad, slowly filling the old witch-hat fireplace up with crumpled drafts of job reviews.

    One of the things that I think needs to be taken into account is the absolute quantity of work which is expected to be done. I think all people have certain limits in terms of what they can sustain for (i) a couple of weeks, (ii) 1-3 months, and (iii) indefinitely, before your brain starts turning into butterscotch pudding and your body gets ready to start going on strike.

    I think that blending can allow people to accomplish marginally more than otherwise. Because much of my work is in some sense remote, I can hit the bank, the dry cleaners, and the post office while I’m “at work” and thus retain more 100% do-what-I-want time without getting less work done.

    Still, there will come a time when you start telling people that you will not be answering emails this weekend, and when a work person calls, you let it ring to voicemail and wait to see if they send an email saying “URGENT!” I have no idea of your experiences, but having gone months working 80-100 hour weeks, I’ve hit walls that are not just mental, but physical. I’ve asked my business partner, “I’d love to have this conversation, but can it wait until Monday?”

    There is a lot of interesting research out there in the military relating to PTSD. The end result of it seems to be that tolerance varies quite widely, with most people being able to take up to 300 days of combat in their lifetime, before disabling PTSD becomes likely, while others can only take far less. And some people seem utterly immune to its effects, though they tend to be mal-adapted to normal society in other unique ways. While no one’s literally shooting at you in business (at least not in our kind), stress is not absent, and it wasn’t until my late 20s that I started getting into my physical limits which, while a good deal higher than average, are nonetheless quite real.

    • Julia says:

      I am a twentysomething without kids who is about to graduate from college. I routinely say things like “I need a few days to get back to you; I just can’t even talk about that right now.” I have learned to call it effective boundary setting. I can’t really even trust my perception of how busy I am. I see how much I think other people are doing and how much I am still not doing and feel like I am not doing enough. Unfortunately, the stuff that I am not doing that I wish I were, falls into the Life category.

      It is interesting that you related PTSD to your discussion of work/life balance(or lack thereof). I had a really hard time with burn out last Spring. I guess this was hitting my physical and mental walls. I started getting debilitating migraines and had feelings of hysteria, lack of purpose and meaning, and being trapped by life. My uncle finally convinced me to postpone applying to professional school by role-playing that I was a soldier who had been on the front lines for 18 months. He told me I was going to crack unless I took some R&R. (I am so grateful to him.) In my mind, I couldn’t afford to take a break to get completely better; all I could justify was to stop accelerating (not add anything else to my plate).

      After I graduate I don’t know what I am going to do. I just have this overwhelming feeling that I don’t want to work. The most interesting thing is that I never used to tolerate not having something to do. I used to be happy when Summer, Winter or even Spring break was finally over. I am a life-long academic overachiever. I keep interrogating myself “Would you really be happy not having a career? Don’t you think you would get bored?” but I am unable to find any hidden misgivings about not working, other than not having a way to support myself. Surprisingly, even that important caveat does little to motivate me. What I am hoping, is that a much needed break after graduation will lead to some clarity of purpose.

      From where I am standing now (a much biased place, I admit), I can’t imagine having a career/job that is not in line with a personal sense of meaning. I hope I never settle for a life of working because I have to, not because I want to. I really hope I never become okay with spending 75% of my waking hours doing anything that isn’t fabulous and rewarding and an end in itself.

  12. Lea says:

    I’d like to speak for part of the workforce that’s not represented here: thirtysomethings without spouses or children. I am old enough that I don’t want to have work intrude on my personal time on a regular basis, yet I’m young enough to understand that sometimes it can be necessary. However, when you’re my age and you don’t have those “family responsibilities” that Recruiting Animal mentioned, it can be expected that you will be as available and flexible as a twentysomething about working at night and on weekends.

    Ryan, your point of view is an interesting one. I think that you, like Penelope, are discussing the new expectations that workers have of their lives, jobs and employers. Recruiting Animal talks about the way things have been; you and Penelope are looking forward to the way things could be. The big question, though, is how do we get there from here?

    In my opinion, blending work and life doesn’t just mean being available online at odd hours; it also means remembering to have a life when you’re not at work. You mention that your friend took the day off from work to have a personal life, yet you only discuss working at nights and on weekends. Don’t forget to take time for yourself as well.

    (A note on your friend requesting Friday off: Perhaps she shouldn’t have asked for time off with just a day or two’s notice. Last-minute vacation requests can violate office etiquette when it’s not an emergency.)

    ********

    Interesting observation, I guess I am talking about the new expecations that workers have of their lives and recruiting animal does seem to be pointing to the way things have been.  I won’t pretend to know the best way to get from where we are to where we could be, but I think it starts with an intergenerational conversation like the one we are having right now.  If everyone can be open to other points of view and take an active role in conversations like this maybe things will start changing.  Thanks for the comment.

     

    Ryan

  13. ErinH says:

    Ryan,

    I agree with the overall idea that work should not just be something you suffer through until you can get to your “real” life.

    I would also say that when I was in my 20s and single that I sometimes had similar work habits. Everything I had to do was something on my To Do list, so it didn’t matter if it was a work or personal thing. I just did it when I had the chance.

    However, I have 2 comments in favor of some balance or separation.

    First, putting some boundaries around your work time seriously increases your productivity. If you have a sense that you can do it any time, or do it when you get home, you typically aren’t as focused and organized about your work. I particularly noticed this when I started an evening MBA program while working full time. On the days when I knew I had to leave for class by 5:30 and would be home late so wouldn’t have much time to do work after class, I got a lot more accomplished in a shorter period of time, simply because I knew it wasn’t an option to do work at home that night.

    Also, as other commenters have mentioned, work/life balance or blending is different at different stages of your life. Once you have kids the kind of blending you mention isn’t practical while the kids are awake. Kids know if you aren’t giving them your full attention – not that I haven’t many times said “Yes honey I’ll come read ‘Good Night Moon’ as soon as I send this email”. If you are constantly giving them half of your attention they do feel short-changed and you will know it and see its consequences in their behavior.

    So keep in mind that the degree of “work/life balance” or “blending” isn’t necessarily a generational thing, but a “stage of life” thing. If you had a 24-year-old co-worker with a spouse and child, they would probably need or want a different blend than you.

  14. Stacy says:

    May I just say that I look forward to the time when any of these ideals filter into academics/research? You know, 20 years down the road after the last of the old guard have died off?

    That’s the beauty and the curse of science. You can pursue it until the day you die and most of them do.

  15. Jenflex says:

    Maybe it shouldn’t be viewed as work/life balance, and it should be just viewed as life control.

    Nobody wants to be at work’s beck and call unless there’s something tangible/valuable in it for them…and that something varies depending on where we are in life.

    We do, to a one, want to feel like we’re in control of what we do…it helps us enjoy it more. As a 30-something with a kid, that means I want to leave on time to take her to a lesson once a week, and not to be called 50 times with silly questions when I take a vacation. It also means I’m willing to be bothered on vacation if I can do some real good.

    I am long past the assumption that I’ll gain enough credibility in the workplace to make it worth my while by suffering through 60-hour workweeks. There’s more to life than money.

    But, if by gaining power I can make the workplace a better place, then that’s worth accomplishing.

  16. K Stets says:

    Like everyone else, I like “blended” much better than “work/life balance.” I have to blend as well, but as a manager, it’s difficult to manage a truly blended invidividual. When the individual is producing great, it’s not a problem. But when someone is new to the job (requiring training) or having any sort of performance issue, blending makes it tougher to diagnose the issue and resolve it. There is a fine line between blending and screwing off during work hours, and a finer line between blending and abusing your employee’s time during non-work hours.

    Being a successful blend requires a manager that is more individualistic and communicative. It also requires a new way to evaluate performance (as you hint at). Any suggestions for how to make it work from both sides?

    ********

    I have never experienced work from a managers point of view so please take my suggestions with a grain of salt if you would like.  I hinted at results based pay and flexible hours because they are two things that would motivate me.  One thing I would suggest is explaining to your new employees exactly what you just wrote, that they are new and require training to eventually thrive.  Then assure them that when they complete training and gain your trust they will be have the freedom to work flexible hours and complete things on their own terms.  If a manager communicates something like this to me, I will do everything in my power to gain that trust and respect. 

    Ryan

  17. Paula says:

    As a Boomer, I am here to tell Ryan–and other Gen Y ‘ers–that you must be doing something right.

    Since the Industrial Revolution, companies have quite cold-bloodedly terrorized employees into unpaid overtime and into forced relocations they dreaded, all in a state of continual anxiety and dread. Yet, the pay-offs they seemed to promise for all this pain, have (with downsizing and outsourcing) have vanished into air, as millions of Americans over the last 20 years can attest.

    And now, because you won’t drink the Kool-Aid, Corporate America is scared to death of you!

    You go, folks. Watch your spending (save instead, even if it’s hard). Don’t surrender. There is no “there” there if you do what Corporate America wants.

  18. laurence haughton says:

    Ryan, No worries. You’ll find that blended life you want. (Your girlfriend’s boss sounds like a pretty poor leader. Don’t read too much into what he says. There are almost 8 million managers in firms with over 500 employees. He’s just one.)

    My wife, two sons and I been living a blended life for twenty years and wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s a corporate executive and I’m a author and manager. When the kids were younger they accompanied both of us on business trips. We’ve always all ate dinner together with other business people and talked about home, business, and culture. They’ve seen me talk to associates at all hours and on any day (especially because some were beyond the international date line). They’ve seen their mom visit stores when we vacationed and get on the computer to check reports on a day off. Recently when she has hosted the office holiday party we used our home and the boys pitched in to make it fun.

    We just coordinate our responsibilities… and work, friendships, family, school, sports, all just blend together. It’s been great.

    ********

    I am happy to hear that this blended life is a possibility, you’re comment will help keep me motivated in the future.  You sound genuinely happy with your life.  I hope to feel the same way when I “grow up.”

    Ryan

  19. Greg says:

    “I would never dream of saying I want a Family/Life balance…”

    My wife is a stay at home mom with two little ones, and I work hard to make sure she has a “Family/Life balance.” It is not about hating me or the boys, but of her not being chained to us 24/7. Whether is a night out with friends, volunteering for something NOT child-related, or just shopping alone, she gets it.

    I like what the poster said about different stages in life; things were much different in my life before wife, and before kids.

    More than anything, it is about boundaries. Not work in verses work in the office, but control. I turn off my cell phone in church and the bathroom. We do not answer the phone during dinner. I do not do "work" when I am playing with my boys. I do not "baby-sit" in my office. Also, I do not bow to the tyranny of the urgent.

    Just a note for those who mix the work\home life; please check your pay status. If you are not exempt (that is, paid hourly), by law you may not work "off the clock." Even if you want to, if it ever came to the attention of the Department of Labor, your supervisor and company would be in trouble (even if they were not aware, even more so if they knew). And yes, in an investigation you would have to sign an affidavit truthfully, even if it burned your boss.

    Note: These comments are that of a 44 year old father, husband, grad student who likes his job.

  20. John R. Ingrisano says:

    Work is about working, getting ahead. If you are single, you have no distractions. If you have a family, you have the motivation. If you love your family, you provide for them.

    Are you working at least 60 hours a week? If not, you’re a part-timer, just looking to get along. If you’re watching the clock, then you may need to rethink how much you love what you do. Remember, if you’re passionate about your work, the hours will slip away and you’ll be surprised each day when it’s time to punch out (and even then, your mind will have a tough time calling it a day). If you don’t love what you do, the hours will drag. If so, it’s time to retool and recommit…or do something different.

    Work hard. Make money. And have fun. — JRIngrisano

  21. Mikeachim says:

    Interesting article. Thanks, Ryan.
    There’s another issue here: what actually gets done in those hours at work?
    My experience of office environments is that an excess of working hours throttles back productivity, possibly to the point where a person gets more done in two-thirds the time. Or maybe even half.
    Nothing wrong with blurring work and home life – as long as both those times are times of high or at least adequate productivity. And the modern workplace is really bad at fostering this productivity. Repetition dulls, blunts, files the edge off your effectiveness. Human beings aren’t built for it.
    That’s the strength of the blending approach, I think: the chance to mix up your day, and keep yourself fresh and alert.

  22. Maureen Rogers says:

    Ryan – You’ve certainly inspired an interesting and insightful conversation here. As communications technology increasingly and endlessly blurs the lines between work and home time,I’m guessing that people will come up with their own personal recipes for what constitutes a workable blend.

    Off limits for work: Walk on the Champs Elysee with your beloved. Grandma’s funeral. Reading “Runaway Bunny” for the four-millionth time. Tickets to the Symphony or Final Four.(Unbelievably, a colleague once called me from the hospital where his wife was in labor to ask about some work trivia. I refused to talk to him.)

    Available for work: Dozing in front of the TV. Hanging out doing nothing. Mowing the lawn. Waiting in the baggage claim area while coming back from vacation. Doing laundry. Tedious weekend with in-laws who can’t stand you.

    The technology will just make it a little more difficult to figure out where the boundaries get set.

    Again, great post on an interesting topic.

  23. Greg says:

    Mikeachim,

    Your post reminds me of a discussion I had with an attorney I work with and respect. I asked him about the grueling hours working at a large law firm and the toll it must take on the family. His reply was he never had an issue. Normally he worked ten hours a week and was home about the same time his kids go in from school. When he was at work, he worked. He would not hang around the coffee pot trading gossip. He skipped lunch. He was absolutely producing while he was on site. As a result, he was more productive than the ten and twelve hour bunch (no three hour "breakfast meetings" or long lunches).

  24. Margaret says:

    Intriguing post, Ryan. I too once thought I wanted no boundaries between work and life. But here are some reasons I now *demand* those boundaries:

    * work by its very nature is hierarchical or, at the very least, have one person beholden to another. For most of us, it’s our boss who yanks the chains of control. But even if you’re your own boss, your clients are the ones who hold the reins. Non-work time can equal genuine freedom.

    * if work is constantly on the radar, when can you reflect about work? Or is it not up for reflection or discussion?

    * Friendships in the office can be problematic. Friendships outside the office may also be problematic, but if someone gets mad at you, your career is potentially not in jeopardy.

    * it’s the golden rule of not keeping all your eggs in one basket. What is your retreat from work? What is your retreat from home?

    We all need meaning and work in our lives. But I’m no longer willing to have it encroach on the rest of my life, strangling creative hobbies and non-work pursuits like so much kudzu.

  25. Lock says:

    Ryan,
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. It was ever so well written, and truly hit home about the “blending” of life. In my early 20s, I also come into conflict with balancing my entire life. I agree with everything you said and I am looking forward to your next post.

  26. Tara says:

    Ryan- Great Post! I think I may come from a different point of view. Moving to a new city, and being in the sales profession,I was the one who didn’t seperate from work and personal. I won many awards, made over 150k/yr. But, other than the happy hours I attended with my colleagues and infrequent visits to the gym. I worked constantly. And It finally caught up with me. Not only did I have burn-out and feel miserable. I managed to put myself into a huge depression. (I couldn’t stay awake)Not knowing what was going on with me till I couldn’t work anymore. I found I couldn’t function in life. I could barely stay awake, moreless, pay my bills on time. I almost lost my house and just about everything else.

    After taking a 2 year break from the high stress sales job I was in I am about ready to jump into the game again, a little jaded from the last go-around, with a few rules I set up I will be determined to have balance in my life. 1. My health comes first there is no more skipping the gym to get something done. 2.my family, other than my parents, currently my boyfriend of 3 years and my dog. I have already had the discussion with my family, on communicating with me, if they feel my balance is beginning to shift 3.my job. I plan on working hard, but with boundaries. For the most part, there is no deadline that can not be extended. There will be work that always needs to get done, withinmind, there will always be another day to finish.

    Remember, the company was most likely there before you came, and probably will be there after you are gone. Don’t misunderstand me, I think we can all do a little more to excel at our job and achieve our goals. But, if I have a heart-attack, or stroke at age 32,(one of my bosses did) the extra work will be in vain, because I won’t be able to enjoy any of the rewards the extra work would have produced. And you may love success and wealth, but it will never love you back. So take time for yourself, travel, get a hobby,take up home improvement, Just make sure you learn how to balance.

  27. googoos says:

    I think the majority of the problem is that kids our age (22) are trying to achieve this blend too quickly. We grew up in these nice suburbs and drove our BMW’s around and thought it was so cool that we had money and a sense of financial freedom. Then college went by and graduation hit, and too many kids tried to replicate that same life in under a year. Yeah, my parents are rich, and yes I used to drive the Escalade around. But I never thought for a moment that I would have that life after college. I thought I would be right in the position I am; working 12 hour days until I did something with my career and made an impact on society. I couldn’t live with the blend and it seems like Ryan knows that he can’t either. I say forget the blend. The blend is for suckers. Just work your but off so you can really do what you want whenever you want. Not sit at home and catch a few TV shows a night just to talk about them the next day.

  28. Fella says:

    Ryan,

    I realize that I come from a very different position than most if not all of the other posters on this page, however I feel that I hold a very relevant point.

    I am a young entrepreneur that runs a small business. For anyone who has never had such an experience, I’ll assure you that a work/life balance has never been a goal of mine… but rather a way of life.

    Some days of the week its necessary for me to wake up at 7am for a meeting and on others I need to stay awake until 4am to finish a an important task. I have no set work schedule and no set life schedule. However, this is not to say that I don’t take time off to enjoy myself whether it be watching a movie by myself or going out for some beers with the fellas.

    I am 22 and self-employed so I realize that this is a very unrealistic lifestyle for most people in most jobs, however I feel I have a single point that relates most if not all jobs. There is a “time-value of work”.

    Most people have heard this term in reference to money in the common saying that “a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow.” In the “time-value of work” I speak of something very similar. I mean merely that some tasks (or many, depending on your job title) must be handled at odd hours of odd days to have adequate utility, efficiency, and productivity.

    For instance, if my business were burning to the ground on Sunday afternoon, I would like to know about it on Sunday afternoon rather than Monday morning. In a less extreme example, if a customer was very dissatisfied and wanted to speak to the owner on a wednesday evening, again I’d like to hear it in real time. While there are many job tasks and responsibilities that get “put on the back burner,” there are many that simply cannot.

    However, because of this easier seperation of work and life that so many practice, I find myself (and my business) becoming terribly unproductive and inefficient. For example, if Mr. Smith from Company X has a list of sales related leads to follow up with on a Friday afternoon but the clock strikes 5 just before he gets to my name and number, then I am SOL over 48 hours wondering if Company X forgot about me or just plain doesn’t care. As simply as that, they may have lost my business, whether it be a $20 sale or $20,000. A two minute phone call might have made all the difference.

    Please don’t believe that I am stating that work should be the only priority in everyone’s life. I have forgotten to mention the concept of the “time value of life.”

    Again, I am merely stating the obvious that there are certain things in life that can’t be divided into the pre-5 o’clock and post-5 o’clock worlds. I’ll explain with an example. If Mr. Smith from Company X’s wife gets into a car accident and must go to the hospital, that is a priority that cannot wait until 5:15pm. On a less extreme note, if Mr. Smith’s son has a little league championship baseball game on a wednesday afternoon at 2:30, this probably isn’t a necessity, but shouldn’t it be?

    While I know that the world of 9-5 jobs isn’t going anywhere, my point is simple. If Mr. Smith had been able to go to his boy’s game on wednesday afternoon, then maybe he would have stayed ten minutes extra on friday and gotten my $20,000 in revenue(and saved me a world of worries.)

    As I stated before, I realize that I am speaking as a minority in this discussion, however I feel that if people could not so much blend there lives, but rather were given the freedom to prioritize correctly, they would not only be happier people but also more effieicent employees that make more money for the man.

    seeyalata

  29. Russ says:

    So how much volunteering are you doing? Work/life balance is not just about leisure. It’s about taking an active role in your community. Frankly this all seemed a little self-absorbed to me. Not so unusual for a work-oriented twentysomething. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  30. Rick says:

    Ryan,

    Ok, maybe I’m a 40-something with a wife and two kids, but I still believe you hit the nail squarely on the head. I’ve been lucky enough to run my own businesses most of my career so I could make my own rules…and that was one of the more obvious ones: we are (or should be) whole people and one cannot separate work from life and be a healthy person.

    I’ve taken that philosophy into other, larger businesses where I’ve worked and it has been very successful. When I respect (and encourage) my employees’ blended lives and encourage them to think that way, they have rewarded me with amazing loyalty, creativity and energy.

  31. Plumey says:

    Ryan, great post! I definitely think you’re on to something here. What I took away from you post is that it’s not really about trying to balance all the demands in our life (both work, personal, community, etc) but about having a certain level of CONTROL to manage these demands.
    I work in a large corporate environment where, traditionally, I would not have much control to manage my work around my personal life. However, I live in a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) that was brought to us by CulutreRx. I get to do what I want, when I want with the understanding and TRUST that I will get my work done & meet my results. So, if I, as a twentysomething, am comfortable with a blended lifestyle where the lines are blurred on occassion, that’s perfectly ok! If I choose to keep my work life and personal life separate, then I can do that to. It’s completely up to me!

  32. Anshuman Singh says:

    Great Discussion, Ryan …!!

    I am originally from India, now working in the US for the last 6 years. And let me tell you – this “work/life balance” concept is something I only came across in the US.

    In India, if you want to “get ahead” – which means just making sure you have a decent life, you have to work HARD ..!! There is no unemployment benefit, or social security, or even soup kitchen. So from the time you start to understand about life (mid-childhood), you just work as hard as you can to get to a decent position in life. There is no “work/life balance” early on. Heck, my whole “life” was at work. You can worry (and take care of) you family later on in life.

    When I was doing my MBA (in Boston), Jack Welch visited us, and someone asked him this question. He basically gave the same answer – Make sure you get to a position and place where you can enjoy your work, and then keep making appripriate trade-off. You can never fully balance work and life.

    I agree with him completely.

  33. AK says:

    Personally, at my core, I don’t care about work. I just don’t. They pay me, so I pretend to care, but I don’t.

    I care about my friends, family, myself, my free time, my hobbies, football, soccer, video games, etc.

    I’m guessing 95% of the working world feels the same way. It’s a means to an end. From 8am to 5pm the company has got me, after that, they can stick it you-know-where.

    I do the minimum to get by. I’ll do the bare minimum to reach 6 figures, and then I’ll coast, and I couldn’t care less how crappy of an employee this makes me.

  34. kcloww says:

    Now in my late 30’s but still in my 20’s at heart, I still struggle to achieve a work life balance. The best advice I can give is to prioritize your attention and distractions. Set goals so you are not disappointed with idealistic expectations.

    You are what you do. If you complain about work then I bet you complain about your life outside of work too. This is why attitude is so important to employers. They can teach you a required skill but if you have a bad attitude than you are labelled as unteachable and an undesirable employee. The same is true outside of work. No one likes to be around a pessimist for too long other than for entertainment.

    I spend so much time working, thinking about work, or avoiding too much work that I have to believe in what I am doing matters. If you do not believe in what you are doing (work) then how can you enjoy life outside of work? You will just burn out dreading each new day at work. The true definition of an unhappy life. I have been there and I am better for having gone thorough it. It is true, you can’t enjoy the sweet without tasting bitter.

  35. JG says:

    ..Not a single one of these values can take a backseat to another.

    Sounds like you’re not all that sure what your priorities really are! (?) It’s a very tempting thought to want to have it all, but the reality is that all of the avenues open to you (personal ventures, family, career) will require larger and larger commitments as you walk further down each path. You don’t ever get to a point where you can “coast” i.e. that family or executive position takes more to maintain that it did to create. Hopefully, you can find a job where your job IS your hobby/passion.

  36. Barbara Hunter says:

    Dear Ryan,

    I enjoyed your post and very much like the term, blended life, as opposed to work/life balance. That, to me, seemed always like teetering on the edge of life, never really fully embracing all its many and enjoyable (hopefully) facets.

    I am a Baby Boomer raised by Depression era parents. Both worked while I was growing up, and I saw how their jobs took a toll on their personal lives, especially my mother. And me. We never had family dinners, and I am only now realizing at age 51 how their fears about losing their jobs and their choices to stay where they were unhappy but were well-compensated, affected me in my earlier career.

    Fortunately, now, I am living a blended life. My husband and I have a real estate investing business and separately, he has his own business transferring home movies to dvd, and I provide career mentorship (formerly to Baby Boomers, now to Gen Y–I love your energy, Gen Y!).

    Often the investing business requires us to work weekends, or at night. (Last week a couple of favorite TV shows were interrupted with a contract coming in but hey…with TiVO it was all about pause/fast foward/pause/fast forward).

    But the flip side is that we’re rarely up before 7 a.m. while our “working” friends are up at 5 a.m. to commute. We take off each Wednesday at noon for an Abraham-Hicks class that keeps us revitalized, and 1-2 times a week we even sneak in an afternoon nap!

    Maybe my TiVO comment really sums up the joys of living a blended life…pause/fast forward. Pause/fast forward. It’s about finding rythm in life, and then dancing to your favorite song.
    Cheers!

  37. Jen says:

    When you put in extra long, unpaid hours at work – you are setting up a situation whereby: (1) the higher-ups recognize you as a VERY productive employee and thus need to keep you in the position where you are most productive, and (2) your salary is devalued or eroded – you're essentially putting yourself on sale.

  38. My Two Cents says:

    Ryan whilst I think you state your case effectively, I can’t agree with the thrust of your article. I’m in my mid 20s, single and successful and I do love my job, but I don’t want it to blend with my life in the way you describe. Instead I would rather have a set amount of time where I am “switched on” ie the 9-5 where I work hard, dress nicely and behave politely, and a set amount of time (evenings, weekends) where I can do and be who I like! I need the physical/mental separation between the two in order to relax at home, which in turn helps me to feel motivated for the hours I am at work. I think a work life balance is not only possible but necessary for a healthy society- its the “life” part that allows us to see family and friends, pursue interests and spend the money we’ve earned. Just because you have and appreciate that “life time” does not mean “that your career, which takes up about 75% of your day, is something you simply try to get through.” Instead I think its possible to really love your job, but still want some boundaries/ separation of it from other things.

  39. Susan Fuller, Stufessional Extraordinaire says:

    I think it’s called “work/life balance” because for most people, work is what you have to do to live your life.

    The French don’t struggle with work/life balance. They just live, and you can’t help point consider their standard employee benefit of 8+ weeks vacation.

    Of course, part of the balance is finding a job you love. Going back to school can help that. (Going back to school AND working full time–that’s another story! See: http://stufessional.blogspot.com) Then, you have to evaluate your true priorities and make sure every move you make touches one of those issues.

  40. Real says:

    Late twenty-something here. Hate to say it but this article shows the demarc between ideals and reality. Ideally, we’d all like to have careers that we love that would fully support the lives that we live. However, some of us have careers that we love, but work in offices with people that we can’t stand. Some of us have well paid jobs but are burnt out but have obligations to family or bills and need to continue on in support of who we love or what we have. It depends on your job, your status, and how much you make. I am blessed to make alot of money, but I am slowly burning out in my “career” due to this forced blending.
    I personally love my “career” but my job gets on my nerves. I work with people who have absolutely no life. People who call in while on vacation to join conference calls. I love to workout and stay fit. I work with a bunch of lazy fat people who do nothing but sit in front of computers all day and nag you about how to help them. Then once you are off the clock they call you about escalated issues and need your help. Crying about the issue has been escalated up to senior management. They always want to “solve” issues so they are always working and sending emails off hours. Because we are a international company people are calling me at 6am to join conference calls. Now I end up late for work if I can even make it in at all because people begging me to log into the damn computer (VPN) and look into some issue remotely. Sometimes I just say screw it and work from home because of back to back emergency conference calls early in the morning. Once I got an email that came in at 3am about a meeting at 7:30am. Please.
    My career is in computers and I just turned 29 but I’ll be damned if I have an Instant Messenger account, Myspace, Facebook, or any of that crap in my life. I do not socially network on the computer. I know far less about gadgets, cell phones, ripping .mp3s, than the average 20 something because my blended career. At this point I don’t care about it. The little time I spend on the computer at home is for researching hobbies, travelling, etc.
    I’m on a conference call now. It’s 3:15pm and this has been going on since 7am. I haven’t eaten. I see why people are stressed, fat, unfit and have heart attacks. By the time you leave work you are mentally tired from sitting and figuring things out, then you are too tired to cook, so you leave to gorge on fast food and overeat. At work, nothing but junk food machines and soda machines all over office. It’s freaking horrible. I have no kids, but everyone NEEDS to have time to myself, family, and friends.
    In the long term, the blended lifestyle is not healthy mentally or physically. I don’t want my job to be the elephant in the room in my personal life.

  41. Sharon Wilson says:

    Easiest way to balance work and life? It’s easy, simply make a living out of something you love doing. ;)

  42. TBJ says:

    I am 30, no significant other.
    I find this concept very interesting, but I personally see it another way. There isnt enough accomodation of the choicelessness of modern society here imo.

    We all have to make choices in life, and often they benefit you in one way and hinder you in another. These choices are made by your ego that is largely defined by your early 20’s. These choices define the life you have, and even though you would like to think you would have made a differnt choice if you was there again, you wouldn’t.

    So for me, if you are having issues with life and things dont seem to be going the way you would have wanted, dont look at what exactly is the problem, coz you wont find it. Instead learn to understand your decision making process and maybe that will change your future decisions, or at least make you more capable of making the choice you want to make, rather than the choice you feel choiceless to make.

  43. Jonathan says:

    I agree with Sharon, you need to work at what you love.

  44. Jen says:

    I don’t find this reasonable. I am two courses away from an MS degree and I don’t see the joy in spending all day doing work for someone else, especially when it doesn’t seem to be making a difference (except to make someone a big profit).

    I am miserable being away from home, friends, and family for most of my life (other than sleeping). Even the hours that are not spent at work, you have to think about work, dream about work, get ready for work, commute, etc. It NEVER ENDS!

    The only thing I can do for 8 hours a day or more is write…but I don’t know how I can make a living writing novels and articles all day. That’s so risky!

    How do people do it? The thought of spending the next 50 years as a slave makes me want to end my life sometimes.

    I don’t have a husband or family now, but I’ve always dreamed of having a big one, but you need money, which requires you to hand your life over to office politics, slavery, lonely days with angry people, and mundane, routine tasks or overly demanding ones.

    I wish I could be more positive, but I’m burned out and was recently laid off (although I’m realieved because I was treated like scum).

    I am actually a very hard worker and spend hours devoted to my jobs…but I’m sick of it because that’s not the life I want. I want to learn, spend time with people I love, and tend to my health. I want to be home where I can enjoy peace and less drama!

    • Julia says:

      I commented on someone else’s post earlier if you want to read my little story, but I wanted to relate with you how much I am in the same place and feel exactly the same way. If you read this reply, please respond to let me know what solution you have found, if any.

    • gpnyrd says:

      I cant believe how many people posting on here feel the same as me! Jen, I couldnt have written this any better… I dont how I missed this article all these years with the countless google searches I have done on this topic.
      I would love to talk more with you about this viscious cycle!

  45. Adriana says:

    Couldn’t say it better. I keep talking to people about this exact topic, saying that balance is unachievable and being content with all aspects of life is what is important. However, the response is always “no one likes their job.” I’m glad I don’t believe that response yet, but I can’t help but see myself thinking that way in 5 years, if I still don’t have a “job” doing something satisfying.

  46. Been There, Done That says:

    Life is all about choices. How you choose to utilize your time is one of the biggest. As you get older, with more obligations, and people depending upon you for their livings, you can feel the weight of the world pressing down on your shoulders and soon, everything you do is chore. That quickie email to wrap up a project seems like a tome. Going to a friend of your child’s birthday party is a prison sentence. Just wait and see. And the worst thing about life is that the older you get the faster time slips by. Which is why so many people in meaningful careers suffer burn out and mid life crisis about the age of 45. Blending is fine when you’re young, but you will see that when you hit 40 you just want to turn it all off and have some quiet time with loved ones, or solitary time by yourself.

  47. kfe says:

    its disgusting to see you people so dehumanized by these systems that you actually believe you were put on this planet to toil in the mud. step back and see that we have the power, medical understanding, scientific knowledge to produce a kind of human paradise. the problem is that we are led by the least among us. least noble. least visionary. least intelligent. no one fights back against these dehumanizing values that are handed down as control icons. CULTURE IS NOT YOUR FRIEND. culture is for the convenience of various institutions, churches, corporations, etc. every day you are systematically disempowered, used and abused. culture is a perversion, it fetishizes objects, creates consumer mania, and preaches endless forms of false happiness. endless forms of false understanding, it invites you to diminish yourself by behaving like machines. human meme processors. the time has come to thoroughly renounce and reject the chains that bind. only through RADICAL INDIVIDUALISM and creative processes, we can begin maximize our humanness, thus becoming much more incomprehensible to the machine/system. wake up. you’re alive!

  48. Brady Bagwan says:

    Blended life, work/life, it goes by many names. The goal is what you hit on. Do what you need to do when it needs to be done. The old adage of nobody lies on their death bed wishing they worked more is probably very true. So, delegate! For those that don't have a staff, who do you delegate to? One way to overcome this is to use a personal assistant service. I just started a company called Delegate Source based in Denver. While there are quite a few concierge services out there, there are very few who approach lifestyle and household management broadly. It really is simple math. If a professional’s hourly cost is more than the cost of outsourcing personal services, why not achieve a better work/life balance by delegating errands and tasks?

  49. About Procrastination says:

    Wow, this is a 2 and a half year thread and still active… Nice :)

    I guess many people have the work/life balance issue… I personally haven’t ahceived the balance yet… So work still comes first…

  50. Annonymous says:

    Blended life, huh? Maybe getting put in a blender on high might be a more realistic picture! Who are you kidding? In this day and age you can’t really work for what you believe in – it’s usually a multi-dollar corporation and you are their puppet! I wouldn’t waste my life on that! That’s not very meaningul. Even universities, which are supposed to be the place to inspire new ideas, are limited in what they can research because they have to match up with industry interests which are usually politically spurred. I know of one professor who got fired because his views didn’t match those of the university and they thought he was using his title to carry out his own interests. The poor man was trying to help Africans and said some (true) things about Western exploitation. How can you really do something in this world? Good luck on finding this path you seek…

In Archive