Monday, 14 May 2012

Balancing work against all others

This unreal life of mine is coming to an end.. No work, not much responsibility. I can do anything I like, I can just stare out of the windows looking at people walk by, I can have long afternoon teas, I have so much time!

But I still have a sense of what real life means... For some strange reason, I'm thinking of a lot of things in these last days in Evanston, and one of these things is work.

In the last year of my full-time job, I was studying for a part-time diploma. With my boss’s blessings, I could leave office at 5.45 pm two days a week for my 6.30 pm class.

The first time I did that, I had a surprise.

Wow, all these people at the Tanjong Pagar MRT at 5.45 pm – are they taking part-time studies too??

But of course most of them were leaving work for home or dinner somewhere!

I immediately felt very unbalanced. Especially when I thought of the work I left behind, waiting for me to carry on when I got home after a three-hour class. And on days when I had no class, I usually had dinner at my desk.

The thing is, there are people who can leave work on time. There are people who can go home to make dinner for their family, have dinner with their family. There are people whose life doesn’t revolve around work.

Frankly speaking, my hours weren't too bad outside of certain periods. Maybe 50 hours weekly? Compared to Sito's 60-70 hours during his internship. He didn't need to work on Saturday and Sunday during his internship but that may change when he starts work in another firm and (more importantly) in Singapore.

That's the thing. Work in Singapore has no respect for life outside work. More than the hours, what I really didn't like was that work had no clear boundary with other parts of life.

I had a desktop in the office, a laptop at home and a PDA on the go. I could also be contacted via my personal mobile. There were times when work interrupted or disrupted my after-work / weekend plans. I was always frustrated because of this. Now on retrospect, I wonder if it wasn't work; I wonder if it was me who had allowed work to cross over to, and eat into, other aspects of my life.

I watched this TED talk by Nigel Marsh some time ago. He made four main points:

1) Some industries just don’t allow balance – think banking...
2) Government and employers won’t solve this for us; it’s up to us
3) There’s a timeframe for balance – “a day is too short, after retirement is too long”
4) Approach balance in a balanced way – the small things matter; no need big upheavals in life

These are things I need to remind myself when I go back to work, especially points 1 and 2. And also, I need to read and review this. It's up to me to live a balanced life! :)

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