For me, the summertime can be an amazing and depressing time of year. It's a time where turning up becomes so much easier because there's always something to be done. Just the other day, I went to Liberty Science Center (a science museum) for a "Dancing with the Drones" event. My thought was that it was going to be a drones presentation, where they somehow moved methodically and "danced." I was wrong; There were a couple of drones people could play with, and there was a DJ (there was also this cool obstacle course<pictured>). A DJ that kept the party going from 6 PM until at least 10 PM (which is when I left). Though not what I expected, the music was on fire. He played artists from the late 90's as well as current songs, and I couldn't help but to dance. Whether or not I danced well is up for interpretation, but it felt good to me.
Thursday night in the winter is a different story. I can only focus on getting to the warmth of my home. Therefore, the summer is amazing in that it encourages me to seek out experiences I normally wouldn't do in the winter (Note that I live in New Jersey where we can have brutal winters). However, it's depressing because it flies by. I mean, every year right around June, people start making plans. There are happy hours after work with the coworkers, and something to do for almost every weekend. When I'm home, it's only to clean up and rest and do it all over again. It really is crazy to me that it is already mid August. Football season is right around the corner, and though I love football (Go Giants), it is also a signal that fall is on the way. Which means most people in the area are closer to crawling back into their homes and hibernating for the winter.
Hence this week's topic. Years ago, on a different blog, I wrote about how we tend to live for the weekend. We ignore our Monday through Thursday for the luxury of a Friday night and Saturday we can call our own. And then Sunday is when thoughts of work start creeping back into our minds (this may not apply if you love what you do, but for the rest of us, listen up). So we throw away at least four days a week; We go through the robotic motions of our ritual. Get up, go to work, come home, cook, eat, read/watch TV, sleep, repeat. It's this cycle that I'm sure causes the attitude we tend to experience in the colder regions of the country.
Work Your Life
To break that cycle, it's necessary for us to make efforts to work our lives. My story about going out on a Thursday night may not seem all that groundbreaking. But add that to the fact that I went and saw live music on Wednesday night, and it's a big deal to me. I realize these things make me happy, and though working everyday can beat me down, I have to make an effort to work what I like (and what my wife likes) into my life.
Recently, I've been trying to live by a motto I made up. It's called Enjoy Life Daily (#ELD). The meaning is self explanatory. Seek out something you love, or love to do, daily. The same effort you put into work...the planning, organizing, mapping out, learning, trying to be successful....you should put into life. From week to week, or even day to day, plan what you are going to do for you. It could be something for 5 minutes, or five hours, but build in the time. You may not always get to do it because, well, things happen. But make every effort to keep these plans. Put it on your calendar if you have to. Do you like the movies? Make time to watch a new one every week. Spend some time daily researching what you might see. Do you like reading? Identify a book for every month, and commit to reading a certain amount each day (and not work related books). Whatever it is, work it into your life. If you don't work your life, you'll find yourself stuck doing only the things that you have to do, and not many people like living that way.
Balance Your Work.
I've learned that there's always something I can stay at work for a little longer to complete. The reason we have jobs is because stuff needs to get done. Not everything can get done today. The best way to balance your work is to make daily to-do lists. What must you get done, what would you like to get done? To be more efficient, I suggest having a weekly goals list, that can be tied to the daily to-do's. Fires will always break out during the day, but as long as you get your "Must Do's" completed, you can go home feeling good. The "Nice To Do's" can be moved to the next day. "Nice To Do's" that are tied to a weekly goal, should become a "Must Do" by Thursday, at the latest.
If you love what you do, and you don't consider it work then having the popular work-life balance issues aren't a problem for you. For everyone else, it may take a little extra effort, but you can make it happen. Finally, I do understand that not everyone works for someone (manager or a company) that will allow you to balance your work. Someone that wants you working 60 hours per week, and always on call on the weekend. For you, you have two options. You can speak with your management about the issue, and present them with alternatives that allow you to meet their expectations, while managing to work your life. Or, you find another employer. The latter is not always easy, but realize there are plenty of organizations out there that can utilize your skill. Life is too short to be stuck doing something that doesn't allow you to enjoy your life.