We’re all familiar with the pie chart that’s used as a proverbial tool to divide a person’s life into neatly defined sections: work, sleep, personal time... But, thanks (or no thanks) to advances in technology, a competitive job market, and the rise in entrepreneurialism, that pie has become more like pudding: a soggy amorphous mix of life’s duties, relationships, career, and family, all slopped together into a messy, yet somewhat comfortably filled bowl of existence.
Gone are the days of working 9-5, and leaving business at the office to unwind at home. Now, work follows a person everywhere. Once upon a time, people had to learn to separate work life from home life; and once the work day was over, the briefcase was to remain buckled while family time was enjoyed. But cell phones, Blackberries, laptops and home broadband connections, which lead us to phone calls, emails, instant messaging, business and social networking at all hours. have completely blurred the lines between the formerly well-defined slices of life’s pie, leaving nothing sacred anymore.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you take work with you to bed? On holiday?
- Is work the activity you like to do best and talk about most?
- Do you work more than 40 hours a week?
- Do you believe it is okay to work long hours if you love it?
- Do you think about your work while driving or falling asleep?
- Do you work or read during meals?
If you answered 'yes' to three or more of these questions, you are probably a workaholic, according to Workaholics Anonymous. The scary thing is that this sounds like me and a majority of the people I know. I can't imagine how a professional blogger cannot, in fact, have a totally collapsed division between 'work' and 'life'. I have read “tweets” from women who are in labor, about to deliver their baby. (I in fact, twittered my own birth last year). I have heard business negotiations go down on cell phones in bathroom stalls. The need has arisen for signage to be posted in gyms, banks, and coffee houses that read: “Please refrain from using your cell phone.” We now need this reminder: to spend one moment in silence, or to relate to another human being in the flesh, in the moment.
While technology has made it possible to enjoy the freedom life has to offer, via telecommuting and checking in while out and about, have we loosened the chains to the desk, or have we replaced them with psychological shackles of compulsion that we carry with us throughout life? It’s no secret that people in the United States put in more work hours than inhabitants of any other nation, and that’s not necessarily a top honor worth having. This fact also drives home the notion that we should all be ‘doing what we love’ in our careers, since we spend the bulk of our lives working. Entrepreneurs especially have no ‘off’ button. But, the argument may be made that if a person loves their profession, it ceases to be work, and instead becomes a rewarding, impassioned enterprise. That said, there is still a need to carve out personal time so one may remain a well-balanced human being while staying connected to family and friends.
Albert Einstein said, “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” According to him, work/life homogenization would probably be a misuse of time. We might need to start figuring out how to use technology to put the slices back in the pie chart of life, and keep the pudding as a dessert.