Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Work-life balance? When theory and reality clash...

20 Aug 2007, ST

By Jessica Lim

ASK any newcomer to the workforce how life has changed, and you are likely to get a typical answer: 'Too tired to do anything after work already.'

It's the standard excuse for skipping social appointments and, we soon discover, an acceptable one too.

Fresh out of school, we start our jobs, brimming with unrealistic expectations.

We set goals: Don't leave before checking off the to-do list. Catch up with friends afterwards (even if it's very late at night). Spend weekends with the family.

But for anyone who wants to prove himself in his career, that hardly works out.

Plans change, to say the least.

More elements get thrown into the mix, so your time gets cut up into smaller rations, and plans go pear-shaped the minute you bust your schedule - which is quite often, in the life of a young working adult.

Juggling everything quickly becomes near impossible.

On the one hand, you desperately want to go the extra mile, stay that extra hour, because you need to show your boss you have the chops for better things.

On the other hand, there's the matter of managing personal relationships, and keeping up with friends.

Though there is hardly enough time left over afterwards for yourself, you find your mouth saying 'yes', even though your body just wants to crash.

Work pressures have replaced school pressures, except this time the hours stretch and there is no school vacation to break it up.

All the time, the fear of burnout looms.

Worse still, we find ourselves with a nasty new habit: Cancelling appointments at the last minute to stay late in the office.

Work-life balance? What's that?

Sure, we know the theory - say 'no', focus only on what matters most, don't try to cram everything in.

But the practical is a lot harder to finesse.

Say 'no', and friends think you don't care. Bosses may think you're not dedicated. Family members see it as neglect.

You find yourself spending your 'alone time' worrying about what everyone else thinks.

It is likely that only your body will thank you.

But I am starting to realise that might just count the most.

Any bad habit soon turns into a lifestyle, and one that might just take up a whole lifetime.

I, for one, shudder at the thought of growing up to be like that.

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