I like to think I have a nice balance in my life. I like to think I spend time with loved ones as much as I spend time at work or school. I also like to think I give an equal amount of my emotional capacity to work, friends, family, school, and God.
I am wrong.
Ever since I was 14 years old, I loved to work. I would have multiple jobs, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Even now as a college student I am working two jobs and 30 hours a week, I am communications director for my sorority, and I am taking 16 hours of school. If added up, I basically “work” 50+ hours a week. My day starts at 7:30 a.m. and usually doesn’t end until 6 p.m. and that doesn’t include group projects, meetings, or anything else that might come up.
This isn’t a complaint by any means because I absolutely LOVE working. I love having a purpose. I enjoy waking up early, going to class, walking to work, and furthering my education. Yet, I get anxiety when I ask off, I go in earlier and stay later than I have to, and I never say no when someone asks me to do an extra task, work an extra game, or come in for extra hours. I even will add an extra job if someone really wanted me. I do all of this at the cost of my personal relationships
Honestly, I didn’t realize how bad things had gotten until I almost cried about asking for a Saturday off to tailgate and watch the football game with my friends. Anyone close to me can attest to this, I agonized over this decision. I prayed, I lost my appetite, and at one point I cried out of frustration ( I didn’t bawl, but a tear did slip out).
In case you couldn’t tell, I am a workaholic in the making. I blame my parents, naturally. My mother claims she was just like me when she was my age. She worked endless hours, gave up her social life, and chased her career with everything she had. Similarly, my dad wakes up at 3:00 every morning to work hard and provide for us.
However, at one point in our lives, my mom chose to focus on family rather than live an exciting, emotional, roller-coaster life as a reporter. I never really understood how difficult the decision must have been until now. I can barely take a day off without feeling sad or frustrated, yet she dropped everything for us.
I have also seen the impact on families whose parents make their job their entire life. They leave before the kids are up, get home after dinner, and work on weekends. They talk about work constantly, barely pay attention to their kids, and their families suffer.
As I prepare for graduation in December, I recognize that if my workaholic tendencies go unchecked I am on a winding, tumultuous path toward a life of work-filled weekends, email-filled nights, and memo-writing mornings. It is time for me to insist on some balance in my life. I don’t want to wake up in 30+ years and realize I have no friends, no family and no social life outside of work. While working is a good thing, relationships are EQUALLY if not MORE important. So, here are five rules I have decided to focus on and make habit before I enter the workforce
- Give up weekends.
Saturdays and Sunday should be devoted to family, friends, and God. Working during the week is good and encouraged. However, when Saturday morning comes around it is time to rearrange my focus and pay attention to those I love. As one of my best friends often reminds me, even God rested on the seventh day.
- Invest in relationships.
I am guilty of choosing work over friends. Now, I am realizing that it doesn’t only hurt others, but it also hurts me. Work doesn’t talk back, work doesn’t help me through a bad breakup, work doesn’t make me laugh. Friends do. Therefore, I need to focus on my friends. When I am with my friends, I need to not be thinking about work. I need to pay more attention to them and give them my attention, my heart, and my time.
- Don’t say, “Yes” to everything.
This is where I get into trouble. I hate to say “No.” I hate to disappoint. I blame my constant need for approval. I don’t want to let people down, I don’t want to seem like I don’t care as much as my coworkers, and I don’t want others to show me up. I want to be the best, I want to work the hardest, and I want to be recognized as a good worker. Yet, at the end of the day, I cannot do everything. I cannot physically work all the time and still keep my sanity. It is okay to say “No.” It is okay to admit that I need a break. It is okay to ask to have Saturdays off. It. Is. Okay.
- Make the most of the time spent at work.
When I am at work, I need to focus on the task at hand. By focusing and investing all my energy in work while I am AT work, then I will feel less inclined to work extra nights, work extra weekends, and work instead of going to social activities.
This may seem cheesy or dumb. But, I believe that love should be the center of everything I do. When I am at work, I need to love my job and love my coworkers; love for a job should be the main reason I work. Not money and not success. God gave me certain gifts and I should pursue a job and career that focuses on those rather than what will make me the most money!
Likewise, when I am with my friends and family I need to show them I love them and really listen, talk to, and care for them. I also need to love myself, forgive myself, and tell myself it is okay to take a break every once in a while!
I have an inner passion for work, and I don’t intend on giving that up. I thoroughly believe working is a good thing and my inner drive will get me far. But, when it comes to overall happiness, health, and success, I also believe my life needs more balance, and I intend on making it happen.