I hate to be the one to tell you, but Santa doesn’t exist.
Defeatist as it sounds, when it comes to work-life balance, you have to grow up, be an individual and really take inventory of your so-called “free time.”
The word balance implies that there is going to be equilibrium between how much time you spend on your professional progress and how much time you spend on yourself. This will never happen. A full time job is a minimum of eight hours of work per day. Then let’s say you spend a minimum of four hours a week stuck in traffic and commuting to and from work. Then lets say that you get an average of six hours of sleep per day (key word here is average). Then there are the petty errands that cost you time like grocery shopping, checking your email and cleaning you pigsty of a room: we’ll be generous and say only five hours a week. That leaves 77 hours of “free time” every week that only you get dominion over. Not to mention this assumes you enjoy working out, checking in with mom, preparing meals and don’t actually show up early to work and leave late, like I’m sure we all do.
With such an inequity in the time that we spend on ourselves and the time we spend on the necessities of life there can be no such thing as balance. Like a five hour energy drink, you have to pack a punch into a pint. That could mean finding an activity that gives you more energy back than you put in, or even something as simple as finding release in a literal pint at the end of a stressful week.
The odds favor you being in front of a computer for the greater part of your job; for most of your life. Do yourself and the people around you a favor and take moments out of your life to literally smell the roses. Think about how beautifully non-digital they are and breathe deep. I also mean that in a very non-literal and much less touchy-feely sort of way. Burning out at work is a daily reality. Don’t just sit and watch the first domino fall.
Build yourself up
Get involved in something. It’s old advice but true. The mistake is to think that you stop becoming who you are once you leave college or land that first, second, maybe even third job. You are not an old dog, so learn something new. Use your brain to do something outside your job description.
Don’t be a liar
Go above and beyond the call of duty if you think it will get you noticed by your boss but don’t think for a minute that it might not have negative side effects. Your time card should always-always-always be an accurate representation of the work you perform. It’s an obvious statement of morality that you should never bill your employer for more than what you actually do but no one ever covers the reverse. One day you might get a job that you feel so lucky to have despite how hard it is. Under no circumstance should you undervalue the work you do by billing fewer hours to appear efficient or downplaying your contribution to the team. That is fair to no one and you will undoubtedly learn, very quickly, what the words “slippery slope” mean.
Probably the most important thing to be honest about is whether you actually want to keep a job that puts you in a position such as this. No employer is going to tell you that your life is less important than your job even though sometimes it feels that way. If you find yourself asking yourself, “Should it be this hard?” Odds are the answer is no.