Striving for Balance–Enforcing Work Boundaries
I’m sitting on my front porch in a refinished Adirondack chair, enjoying a warm afternoon breeze and a glass of ice water. I’d rather post to Mindful Stew than grade papers or check my work e-mail. Or call parents. Or attempt to get ahead on my lesson plans. Or log on to Edmodo to respond to some student posts.
Teaching never ends during the school year, but I’ve found that I’m most effective and energized during the school day by limiting the time I work, despite the fact that the “To-Do” list will never end. I want to and have to turn off my job.
I thoroughly enjoy teaching, but not so much that it will drastically interfere with other endeavors that keep me sane, fulfilled, and content. During the fall, I bow-hunt. This is a demanding hobby, requiring hours practicing shooting the bow, scouting deer in fields and forests, and spending hours sitting idly but alert in a tree. Combine hunting with spending quality time with my fiance, cooking, blogging, brewing beer, and watching football, and there’s not many hours left in the day. But I’m fortunate to have enough time to do all of these things, only because I choose to stop working.
In this Ted Talk, Nigel Mark provides a pointed take on work/life balance.
He states, “There are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet screaming desperation where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate, to enable them to buy things that they need to impress people they don’t like.” A bleak assessment, and I feel fortunate that I don’t fall into that boat. Unlike many people, I’m able to make decisions about how much I work outside of school hours without worrying about providing food, shelter, and care for any dependents. That said, I wonder how much our society’s expectations relating to work, child rearing, and lifestyle affect how much time we feel we need to work, in addition to how much money we must accumulate to pursue satisfying lives.
Marks also contends that “we have to be responsible for setting and enforcing the boundaries we want in our lives.” Last year, a coworker had the audacity to tell me that I needed to have less work/life balance in order to do more curriculum work. I couldn’t believe it. I was teaching my ass off. At that moment I realized I needed to set more boundaries, not be afraid to say no to coaching or other committees, and to guard my own time in an attempt to create my own vision of work/life balance.
Mark continues, “…commercial companies are inherently designed to get as much out of you as they can get away with.” I think about–and feel sorry for–those who are attached to their cell phones due to the need to compose and respond to work e-mail. I will never sign up for a job with this requirement. How can one reasonably expect a work/life balance in that situation?
The problem for many people seem to believe that career success must solely be measured monetarily. And in an economic recession, the topic of this post may be irrelevant and even off-putting to some. Nonetheless, it’s worth discussing.
Do you have a job that’s tough to turn off? How do you accomplish, or struggle with, a work/life balance? What’s your idea of a perfect day in the context of work/life balance? Did you watch Nigel’s Ted Talk? What do you think?