Going back to work - outside the City - after almost a year off, I wasn’t too sure how realistic my work/life balance goal would be. All I knew was that this time I only wanted to work as hard as need be.
And having already achieved what I thought was my dream job, my drive and career ambition had changed. I no longer felt the driving need to beat everyone else to the ‘top job’. I’d already had the top job, the title, the team, the money - and it wasn’t what I thought it would be.
True to my work/life balance ambition, without fail, I have managed to leave the office each night before 6pm - unthinkable in my City career. And regardless of the volume of work that needs doing, or the pressure to deliver, I have managed to say no to anything I now think is unreasonable. While initially it was very uncomfortable, and there were some raised eyebrows, I have found that delivering and producing high-quality work is good enough after all. I’ve been surprised to be praised as showing them an example of how to manage work/life balance, and have had people asking me how I manage to be 'so efficient'. In contrast, my colleagues all seem to put work first, and seem to enjoy talking about how hard it all is, how many hours they’ve worked, and how high our boss’ expectations are. They won’t book holidays in case work 'needs' them. Yet the boss seems very happy with me and what I’m delivering, and that’s what counts, not the time spent.
This is only because I genuinely believe that work is no longer the primary thing in my life, so there is no other choice. There are no creeping timelines and staying 'just a bit longer' to get things done. Given this, it’s much easier to only focus on the important things, to use time judiciously, and to not commit to anything I can’t be sure I can deliver. And the result is getting everything done that is required, and still escaping the office and enjoying my real life, which starts after 5:30pm.
It's quite simple - if I don’t leave on time, I won’t spend time doing anything other than the day-to-day grind. And once life becomes an endless round of commuting, rushing through dinner and chores, and not having time to actually talk with my partner and enjoy each other's company, the fight is already lost.
Where I used to respond to work emails in the middle of the night and on weekends to try and get ahead of the game, now I don’t even pick up the Blackberry. Its function on my bedside table is now as an alarm clock. I still carry it in my bag, but I watch in detached amusement as almost everyone else on my morning Tube journey frantically types out email after email. I used to do that. But work can wait. People watching is much more fun as a pre-work distraction, there’s plenty of time for emails and work once I actually get there.