Nigel Marsh used to be what he calls a “classic corporate warrior” – eating and drinking too much, working too hard and neglecting his family. So he took a year off to spend time at home with his wife and kids. And he discovered that it’s easy to balance work…. if you just eliminate the “work” part.
Eventually, Marsh had to pay the bills again, and that’s when he had the stark realization that his dilemma was a very common one: “Thousands of people”, Marsh explains, “are living lives of quiet, screaming desperation and working long, hard hours at jobs they hate, to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like”.
Ouch. If we recognize even a little of that statement in ourselves, how do we go about creating real, meaningful work/life balance?
After spending the next 7 years studying the subject, Marsh discovered 4 intriguing insights to help each of us start answering that question:
1. Certain career choices are fundamentally incompatible with being meaningfully engaged with a young family, so it’s essential to be honest with yourself about yours.
2. It’s up to us as individuals to take responsibility for creating boundaries in our professional lives because corporations are designed to get the most out of us.
3. We need to pick an appropriate time frame with which to judge how balanced our lives are – a day is too short to cram it all in and waiting for retirement is too long to put it off.
4. Becoming more balanced doesn’t require a dramatic upheaval in one’s life.
This last point is particularly important. People often assume they have to make a radical change in how their life is structured to make a difference, but this is not the case. “With the smallest investment in the right places”, Marsh argues, “you can radically transform the quality of your relationships and transform the quality of your life”.
Marsh doesn’t outline exactly which steps to take in this entertaining but short TED talk. If you’re reading this on your office computer over the 4th of July weekend, it might be worth checking out his book, “Overworked and Underpaid” for more inspiration and tools.