This is advice that I was once given, and have in turn given it to other people: “Set yourself a cutoff point for your workday that you absolutely won’t work past. That way, you’ll work more intensely before that cutoff because you know it’s there, and after the cutoff you’ll be able to have your personal time.” Today I happened to share that advice in a meeting with many of my colleagues.
I’ve always thought of that as very good advice, and when I give it to other people I’m doing so from a place of encouragement, trying to help them have healthier harmony between work and non-work. But one of my colleagues, who heads a different department, really gave me pause with her response. She said: “But that’s not how I work well and achieve low stress. I like to work during the day, then do some yoga, then log back in and work a little more, then have happy hour on Friday, then check some emails over the weekend, etc. That’s the workflow that keeps me enjoying my work and not stressed out about it. Everyone’s best structure for balancing their lives looks different.” (Paraphrased a little, perhaps, but that was the gist.)
How right she was! I still think my initial advice was very good – for me. And maybe for some people like me! But it’s absurd to think that there’s a right way to harmonize the different pressures in your life. They’re not all equal across people, and certainly our inner responses aren’t equal, either.
That’s not to say that all approaches are equally good, of course! For any given individual, there are definitely unhealthy structures and habits to avoid. But across many individuals there will be many different things that work and don’t, and that’s a good thing for me to remember.
Maybe for you to remember, too.