Thursday, May 20, 2010

Work / Life Balance

This is something I think about a lot - usually while grumbling about how many hours I spend at work. I know I'm not alone and that this is an issue for half the people in my industry (at least the female half).

But today was the first time I really sat down and calculated how much of the average working day I spend doing what. This is what I came up with:

  • 42% is spent on either the day job or commuting to and from the day job. This can go up to about 50% on busier days.
  • 30% is spent sleeping, assuming I get 7 hours a night. (At the moment it's more like six, and I'm starting to feel it!)
  • If my kids are lucky, they get about 8% of my time. Most of that is dinner, bath and bedtime, then the extra half hour fighting with them to stay in their beds. This is sadly the bit that gets squeezed on days I work late.
  • About 8% of every day is wasted on necessary stuff like eating meals, getting dressed or undressed, having a bath.
  • That leaves 12% of every day (the time when the kids sleep and I don't) for all the rest: writing, reading, social networking, TV. And this also has to give way to work demands. Looking at it this way I can suddenly see why it's so easy for the writing to get squeezed out. I guess you can call this 'me' time, though it's usually so full I can see why 'me' often gets lost in the mix.
So what am I going to do about it?

There's not much I can do about the day job unless some gorgeous billionaire Alpha hero sweeps into my life and offers to take care of the bills. And negotiating work hours isn't an option either, because that's part and parcel of the job.

But I think this exercise has shown me two things. Firstly, it's helped show me which two things on the list need more time and attention: my children, and me. Secondly, it has highlighted the importance of spending that 12% of 'me' time wisely. Less TV, less social networking, more writing.

And starting right now I'm going to make sure that every moment of my weekends is allocated where it should be to make up for the Monday to Friday deficiencies, including some real 'down time' when the kids and I can just kick back and do nothing.

And maybe if I stop wasting time bathing, I'll have more writing time. Just kidding, folks!


  1. LOL, Romy, you could also give up eating and feeding the kids, which takes care of cooking time as well.
    It is rather frightening when we look at stats and see how little time is left in a day for family and me time.

  2. Hi Romy,

    Would you believe (in North America at any rate) a greater percentage of men now report a work life imbalance than women? (59% for men vs. 45% for women)

    What’s happening is there is a new generation of men, who want to be more involved with their children than previous generations of fathers. However, society still celebrates the wealthy, powerful man and reinforces the old stereotype that a man is better serving his family by being at work rather than at home. The short story is that we are torn—our heart is with our kids, but our primary role is still expected to be that of provider. The only reason you don’t hear more men complain outwardly is that we are still conditioned to “suck it up.”

    Part of the continuing problem is that society portrays men as “money making objects” much the same way they continue to depict women as “sex objects.” If you don’t believe me, all you need to do is look back at your own post where you write, “there's not much I can do about the day job unless some gorgeous billionaire Alpha hero sweeps into my life and offers to take care of the bills.” You might have been writing that with your tongue in your cheek, but that “working Alpha male” is what we are conditioned to believe is the most desirable thing we can be—both for the opposite sex and our children.

    I wish you success in the uphill battle for work life balance. It’s a toughie!

  3. I like this idea. I've done the whole listing what you do each day for a week and then trying to work out where you can do more/less to find extra time but I've never looked at it in terms of percentages.

  4. Lacey - taking it down to something as basic as percentages was a real eye opener.

    Cameron - You are so right. Of course as a woman I see the woman's angle more easily than the man's. But you make an excellent point about the pressure men are under to fulfill a cetain role. It's sad because I think most families would love to see more balance there too - not just the balance between work and life, but the balance between mom and dad. My kids are lucky that at the moment, while they're young enough for it to mean something, Dad has lots of time for them.
    I think the problem isn't so much that work demands more of us than say fifty years ago (though I suspect it does), it's that we are all (men and women) trying to be superheroes, trying to be successful at everything when in reality something has to give.

  5. Romy, you should take a look at Sabrina Philips website, she writes for Harlequin Presents/Mills and Boon Modern. She's just posted about the work life balance and said she's going to have to give up writing for the near future. Very sad.

  6. Great post! Thanks for sharing. As moms, time is one thing we do have to spend wisely, because there are no refunds if we decide later we didn't much like the way we spent it!

    I write about work life balance on my blog, Working Moms 911. I'd love for you to visit.

  7. What a great exercise.... I'm embarrassed to try this myself and see exactly what percentage of my day is spent surfing the web or playing games when I could be writing, exercising, cuddling... or heaven forbid, sleeping!