4 Ways to Improve the Work-Life Balance Debate

December 25, 2013

3:00 pm

After turning 40, Earth Hour cofounder Nigel Marsh spent seven years trying to figure out work-life balance. In his TEDxSydney talk, “How to make work-life balance work,” he explains what he learned:

1. We need to face reality. Some jobs just aren’t compatible with spending a significant amount of time at home with young children.

2. We need to solve the problem ourselves. The companies we work for, or even our governments, aren’t going to solve it for us. We have to take control of and responsibility for the life we want to live.

“If you don’t design your life, someone else will design it for you, and you may just not like their idea of balance,” says Marsh. “We have to be responsible for setting and enforcing the boundaries that we want in our life.”

3. We need to be realistic. Marsh’s ideal work-life-balanced day, where he plays sports at lunchtime, meets his friends at the pub, and has sex four times, will probably never happen. But we shouldn’t wait until we retire to achieve work-life balance. Our timeframe should be sometime in between – say, a month or a year.

4. We need to think broadly. Balance doesn’t just mean signing up for a gym membership, which is what a workaholic friend of Marsh’s suggested. It means taking care of our intellectual, emotional, and spiritual lives.

None of this is easy, but it might be easier than we think. One day, Marsh left work an hour early and spent the evening with his son, playing in the park, eating pizza, and reading before bed. Before his son nodded off, he said, “Dad, this has been the best day of my life ever.” In other words, small changes can make a dramatic difference.

“We can change society’s definition of success away from the moronically simplistic notion that the person with the most money when he dies wins, to a more thoughtful and balanced definition of what a life well-lived looks like,” concludes Marsh.

For more, watch his TEDx talk:

[ted id=1069]


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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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