The Myth of Work-life Balance
Finding balance while avoiding burnout
I've seen companies tout a culture that supports work-life balance and sticking to a strict 9-5, and candidly, it makes me wonder if they're highlighting the right thing. Let's be clear - I am not advocating for creating unhealthy work habits. Overwork and failing to build firm boundaries between your work and personal life will always end poorly. Burnout is very real.
However, when I see others making a significant impact in their organization or rising quickly through the ranks, they rarely work perfect 40 hour weeks. In my experience, there is the work you do while you’re on the clock, then there are other activities and thinking that happens outside that time. That extra energy seems to be the difference-maker, and we don't talk about it enough.
Finding a Healthy Balance #
How do I avoid burnout and find a healthy work-life balance? By establishing simple guidelines that allow me to have healthy work boundaries without thinking about it. Here are six rules I try to follow:
- I leave my work laptop in the home office. It's too easy for work to bleed into non-work time, so I need to be intentional about stepping away when I'm home.
- I stopped wearing a smartwatch. I spend most of my week in front of a screen, and the benefits of having a smart device wrapped around my wrist didn’t outweigh being present without notifications buzzing on my arm.
- I’m intentional about family time. I try to put phones down and be fully engaged with what we’re doing in the moment.
- I take PTO. I’ve been awful about taking time off in the past and would regularly travel with a laptop and work on vacation. Yes, there are exceptions, but that’s what they should be — exceptions.
- I have non-tech hobbies. Being intentional about finding fun activities not related to work has been a nice mental shift, and it helps tech not feel like a seven-day-a-week job.
- I say no. It's still a struggle, but I am learning to say no to opportunities that don’t align with my current goals, values, and aspirations.
Redefining Work-life Balance #
For me, balance is found by investing time into solving interesting problems, having the margin to think and learn, flexibility to take time off when I need it, and advancement opportunities to take on new challenges. It’s less about hours worked and more about a culture that promotes habits that are sustainable and discourages behaviors that lead to burnout.
The purpose of this wasn’t to create another #hustle post. I understand not everyone is wired this way, and desiring a tight 9–5 that enables you to step away from work completely takes priority for some. And that’s ok. However, if any of this resonates with you and you crave the next challenge, are constantly looking for ways to grow, and are willing to invest the time to keep forward momentum — it’s worth defining what balance means for you.