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When it comes to balancing the responsibilities of both work and family life, many of us find ourselves in a gray area. Hard work and dedication to our jobs usually results in tangible rewards such as higher pay or a corner office. The same dedication to our personal lives often results in rewards such as a stronger relationships or a deeper understanding of our purpose on Earth. The struggle to keep both our personal and professional obligations in perspective is known as the work-life balance.
The term work-life balance can be a little misleading at first, because many of us assume a proper balance is always 50/50. Unfortunately, many people discover that the ratio between work and life can be closer to 70/30 or even 80/20. What many business experts suggest avoiding is an all-consuming 90/10 or higher work-life balance. The mantra among many who study the work-life balance problem is "Work to live, don't live to work." This philosophy doesn't mean a work-oriented lifestyle is completely wrong or unhealthy, but it does suggest a shift in priorities.
It is true that there are only so many hours in a day, so for many people the majority of those hours are going to be dedicated to work, either out of financial necessity or a pure enjoyment of the work environment. Finding an ideal work-life balance is not necessarily about reducing the total number of hours spent at work, but rather finding better ways to incorporate personal time into the equation. A driven executive may feel perfectly comfortable working 80 or more hours a week, but he or she still needs to set aside time for family obligations, vacations and the occasional sanity break.
The pendulum of the work-life balance can move in the opposite direction, however. Some people find themselves telecommuting on a regular basis or pursuing self-employment opportunities. Without the direct supervision provided by a traditional office or factory environment, many at-home workers find themselves with a completely different work-life balance problem. Finding the discipline to dedicate at least 50 percent of their time to work obligations can be a challenge. While a 90/10 work-to-life ratio can be damaging to one's mental and physical health, a similar life-to-work ratio can be damaging to one's financial health.
The best way to determine if your own work-life balance is acceptable may be to take a personal inventory of your life as it stands right now. Are you working enough hours to meet your professional obligations, but not enough to leave you feeling too drained at home? Are you spending much of your free time recovering from the demands of your job? Are you able to meet most of your family obligations without feeling guilty about missing work? There is no single ideal work-life balance plan which works for everyone, but if you sense that your work obligations have taken complete priority over your personal life, you may want to find ways to improve your own work-life balance.