This is a guest post by Nader Mowlaee
To have a good work-life balance, you can’t live your life to work. It should be the other way around: Work so you can have a good life. That may sound too good to be true for you right now, but don’t allow—not even for one second—any doubt to settle in your heart or your mind that you can’t have that. We have all been there at least once, working on projects 50 to 60 hours per week and still feeling like we’re spinning our wheels.
I understand that deadlines don’t often change, and that in tough times we must go all-in to finish projects on time. But this means that you’re getting deep into working overtime while at the same time training yourself and everyone around you that you are capable of working more than you should—and since you want to be a good sport, you can work overtime while keeping a good attitude.
But how long can you play that role? How long can you afford to put aside your personal life and attend to the demanding needs of engineering projects, activities, and obligations at work? This is the work-life conflict. It creeps in when you don’t realize it, being busy working on engineering projects and getting pulled in multiple directions at the same time. If these demands of work and personal life aren’t compatible with your ideal lifestyle, you ought to point them out early and speak with your engineering manager to find a solution.
This will likely result in more stress in personal relationships and your working life initially (until you learn to manage your 9-to-5 job while living your own life comfortably). This often requires you to improve your productivity and performance at work so that you can complete the same work that used to take you 10 hours within the typical eight-hour workday.
Show up Early and Stay Late?
There is much bad advice out there, such as “show up early and stay late.” Trust me, I used to do that for years—until I realized the short-term and long-term adverse effects of that. In the beginning, my supervisor assumed I wasn’t capable of finishing my work within eight hours due to personal or technical weaknesses, and then it became an expectation from my team leaders that I had to stay every day because that was the trend on an average day. Honestly, I tried to show up early and stay late to make myself look good, and I ended up looking dumb! That wasn’t fair. Are you making the same mistake?
Showing up early and staying late isn’t the answer to moving ahead or standing out among your colleagues. I now believe that if you want to be the best engineer you can be, you need to invest more in yourself and your capabilities. Think about it—wouldn’t you be a better and stronger engineer if you could complete a task in less time than it took your co-workers? Wouldn’t you feel better about yourself, in your heart, if you worked less to gain the same results as others, or even better results?
Many people believe a good work-life balance is about not working more than you should. That also isn’t fully true, because you can work as much as you want, on your own dreams and goals, and never get tired because you love everything about those goals—for starters, they’re yours!
You would be happy as long as you’re not working just to build someone else’s company or business. You have a dream too! And you have a family and they have dreams as well. Work harder on your dreams and your family’s dreams than you do on your boss’ dreams.
Encourage yourself today to make time for both life and work, and you will be surprised at what you can do to build a good work-life balance and become a happier version of yourself.
About Nader Mowlaee:
Nader is a career coach who believes you can get everything you want in life if you just help enough other people get what they want. He is inspired by motivating confidence in engineers and helping them take calculated actions to move forward towards their career and life goals. His mission is to enable engineers to break away from their fears and create the ideal lives and careers they desire. You can learn more about Nader through his LinkedIn account.
We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you might share about how you have built a good work-life balance.
Please leave your comments, feedback or questions in the section below.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success