„I’ll have a life when I retire”. Addressing your Work – Life (im)Balance

lipiec 3rd, 2011

Dear Readers,

In my professional career I’ve met many people whose lives were completely focused on their work. Don’t get me wrong – I do believe that everyone should approach their job with utmost dedication, but not in a destructive way. It is hard to come up with a viable explanation why we let our lives get out of control. You would not believe how many work-life balance consulting firms exist in the world, making money on desperate executives who suddenly wake up in their 40s, discovering that they have no friends or interests left and the only thing they have improved in themselves is their job title.


image source: blog.emergenceconsulting.net/

I believe that we are all inherently programmed by our culture and education to think of work as the fundamental priority in our lives. Consequently, we naturally steer our careers towards jobs with the most financial gain in sight, treating our social and family lives as a way to ‚recharge the batteries’ for another hard day at the office.

I may be exaggerating, but I do believe that there are many people out there who need help restoring their lives to a balanced state. The question is: are YOU one of them? Or better yet: am I one of them?

It was only recently that I came across Nigel Marsh, a guy who seemed to have all the answers:

Nigel Marsh is the bestselling author of „Fat, Forty and Fired” and „Overworked and Underlaid” as well as the Regional Group CEO of Young and Rubicam Brands for Australia & New Zealand. He clearly states that finding the balance between work and life is an ongoing battle.

Let’s to go through the main points of his presentation at TED:

1. If societies want to address the work-life balance issue, we need an honest debate.

Let’s get real. While many people fall victim to the corporate propaganda of flexi-timedress-down Fridays or paternity leaves, we seem to be missing the core issue: certain job and career choices are fundamentally incompatible with having a young family. And there is no way that going to work on Friday in jeans and T-shirt can change that.

2. Governments and corporations are not going to solve this issue for us.

Stop looking outside. Nowadays, having a job which you don’t hate seems to be a rare privilege. It is up to us to take control and responsibility for the type of life you want to lead. As Marsh puts it: If you do not design your life, someone else will design it for you – and you may not like their idea of „balance”. You must never put the quality of your life in the hands of a commercial corporation.

3. Be realistic when setting the time frame upon which you’ll judge your work-life balance.

Take your time. Elongate the time frame in which you want to achieve the desired balance. Do not try to do everything at once! Many corporate warriors subscribe to the „I’ll have a life whenI retire” philosophy, at the same time completely forgetting that their families will not be waiting forever for the dad/mum to come back home from the office.

It is important to realise that packing your schedule with after-work activities, like gym memberships, book clubs, day spas and meditation classes will not get you balanced immediately. Remember what Marsh said: „Being a fit 10h a day office rat isn’t more balanced – it’s more fit”.

4. Small things matter.

Do not start with a revolution. Being balanced doesn’t necessarily mean a dramatic upheaval in your life. Small differences matter most and you should learn how to find pleasure in them. While we seem to be living in a society celebrating the idea that the person with the most money when he dies wins, it is sometimes enough to finish your work one hour earlier and take your kids for a pizza.

Ok, so how do you get started?

It’s actually quite simple. Remember that there’s so much more to life than your regular nine-to-five. I’m not saying that you should immediately cut your working hours, run to the church, call your parents on the and start reading up on philosophy. It is enough to make small changes to dramatically improve your work-life balance and consequently – your life quality:

– Draw a graph, identify all those areas of your life which you’ve been neglecting.

– Set boundaries and time frames, use your weekly calendar more effectively to allow some time for the small things.

– Plan your ideal day and include all those aspects of your life you’ve missed so far.

– Multitask and use modern technologies to assist you with your daily routine. There are hundreds of Podcasts that can keep you up-to-date with news, politics, religion and philosophy.

– Smile a lot and enjoy yourself.



1. to approach – to come near or nearer to – podchodzić do

2. utmost – of the greatest or highest degree, quantity- nadzwyczajny

3. dedication – being committed to a task or purpose – oddanie

4. to come up with – to produce something – wymyślić

5. executive – a person having administrative orsupervisory authority in an organisation – kierownik, dyrektor

6. job title – an official position in an organizational hierarchy  – stanowisko pracy

7. inherently – by nature, existing in something as an unseparable element – nieodłącznie, nierozłącznie

8. to fall victim to – to be the aim of the attack – paść ofiarą

9. flexi-time – no fixed working hours – elastyczny czas pracy

10. dress-down Friday – casual Friday

11. paternity leaves – maternity leave for fathers – urlop tacierzyński

12. privilege – a right, immunity or benefit – przywilej

13. to elongate – to make longer – wydłuż, rozciągnij w czasie

14.consequently – as a result – w rezultacie

15. to neglect – fo forget about, not to pay attention to – zaniedbywać