Hard Truth: 'Work-Life' Balance Is Way Overrated

man holding his head and grimacingMost people view life's goal is to be happy. I believe that's misguided.

If the goal is happiness, one could, for example, spend all your time gardening, watching comedies, having sex, etc. Yet if everyone did that, the planet would be far worse: Patients would die, homes wouldn't get built and products wouldn't be invented.

Not A Worthy Goal
Mother Teresa didn't work in the stench of Calcutta streets, ankles bitten by scorpions, because it made her happy. She did so because helping humankind was far more important than her being happy. Cardiologists who choose to work nights and weekends to keep more patients alive realize their life is more meaningful than if they had opted for the vaunted work-life balance. Even the supposedly lowly payroll clerk, who after the standard workweek takes work home to ensure everyone is paid accurately and on-time, is living a far worthier life than someone who diverted that time to recreation.

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And as I said in a recent interview with Business Insider, contrary to what advocates of work-life balance claim, long work hours do not lead to burnout. Indeed, as long as you're doing work you're good at and believe in, you'll likely be more energized from long work weeks than if you spent the discretionary time playing sports, watching the boob tube, or even the current fad, doing yoga.

More: What Do Successful People Know About Achieving 'Balance'?

What Hard Work Has Taught Me
I'll be 63 years old next month and have been working 60 to 80 hours a week for my entire life, since I was a young teen. I cannot claim to be a happy person. Like my father, I believe I'm constitutionally inclined toward mild sadness. But I know that my life has been more worthwhile for having forgone work-life balance in favor of having had 4,000 career counseling clients, written seven books, and over 2,000 how-to and public policy articles and blog posts.

I will continue to work until I drop in the service of things that I believe will make the world better. I do want to drop dead at this keyboard. A silly canard is, "No one ever died wishing they spent more time at the office." Indeed, most of the most contributory people I know want to spend as much time as possible working.

As Isaac Asimov, who had written or edited more than 500 books(!) said when asked, "What would you do if you knew you had six months to live?" He said, "Type faster."

Cali Yost On Rethinking Work-Life Balance


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Marty Nemko

Marty Nemko

Contributor

The San Francisco Bay Guardian called Marty Nemko "The Bay Area's Best Career Coach." He also blogs for PsychologyToday.com and is in his 25th year as host of Work with Marty Nemko on KALW-FM (NPR-San Francisco.) Marty Nemko's sixth and seventh books are: How to Do Life: What They Didn't Teach You in School and What's the Big Idea? 39 Disruptive Proposals for a Better America. More than 2,000 of his published writings are free on www.martynemko.com.

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TeriM

This is a ridiculous article. There is nothing to be proud of by working 80 hours a week your entire life. (Although you quite obviously get some sort of twisted self-worth by trying to prove just how much of a 'contributor' you are by doing those things). I trust that you 1) never had children/personal relationships of any value 2) didn't take care of yourself physically and/or 3) had a spouse/life partner that was extremely accommodating to your 'commitment' to work.

You mention atypical jobs like Mother Teresa's and doctors that work the overnight as proof that one's life should be dedicated to work and not 'non-work'. Clearly those are not the cubicle-based jobs that most people refer to when they talk about 'work-life' balance.

Also, writing 7 self help book where you sell your own silly beliefs to the masses can hardly be considered real 'work'. Your article is so narcissistic and self-involved it's almost difficult to read: "lowly payroll clerk" the yoga "fad", and "diverted their time to recreation"...unreal.

August 16 2013 at 4:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sean

I think the author has missed the point of the word 'balance'. If nobody worked it would be a problem, if nobody had sex it would be a large problem.

Balance!

May 28 2013 at 12:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
IsabellM04

If you think Eric`s story is exceptional,, last week my cousinns step-daad basically also actually earnt $5496 putting in a eighteen hour week an their house and they're neighbor's mother-in-law`s neighbour was doing this for 6 months and recieved a check for over $5496 part-time on their mac. apply the information on this page, Exit35.com

May 27 2013 at 2:42 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
cosborn72

The author is basing his theory off the false assumptions that people are productive at work and unproductive outside of work. This may or may not be true. Many people are very productive outside of work.

He quotes Issac Asimov at the end of his article. Asimov wrote his first pieces while he was a full time student. Under the premise of this article, he should have been more focused on school and going into a career and less focused on wasting time writing novels.

May 27 2013 at 9:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
vtmann

If you are lucky enough to work in a field that you are passionate about (as my husband and I are), those 60 or 80 hours fly by. If you are a "working stiff," 40 hours a week seem like torture. If at all possible, find your passion and work in that field or in a supporting role.

May 24 2013 at 8:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
vtmann

Great article!

May 24 2013 at 8:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lindsey

Raise your hand if you love working 60 hours a week!

May 23 2013 at 11:34 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
hmadden

Hard work is great and admirable, but there is no recorded instance of anyone on their death bed saying, "Gee, I wish I had spent more time at work."

May 23 2013 at 9:03 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
SHERRY

While I have a job that I absolutely love doing, there is still a very busy life outside of work. When I worked too much in the past and let the stress get to me I ended up in the hospital. Never again will I let my job guide me.

May 23 2013 at 7:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Bryan Citrowkse

i would have to agree when i am home i feel like i need to be doing something. I might not work more then 40 hours a week at work but i probably put another 40+ at home on my own projects.

May 23 2013 at 4:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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