work life balance - 100% work, 0% life...
I use the dating site eHarmony, which is a great way to meet woman you like who won't date you, and the occasional woman who wants to date you but you have no interest in. One of the features of it's communication process is a list of must-haves and can't stands for a potential partner. One potential match sent me hers, which included "financial independence" and "ambition" as must haves and "workaholic" as a can't stand.
Which struck me as somewhat of an oxymoron - it's pretty hard to succeed financially or career-wise if you don't put some time into your work. She closed me out, so alas, I won't get to ask her.
In choosing a balance between work and life, I've always seem to choose work. Working in tech support, there are quite a few opportunities for overtime, and one of the perks of my job is that I'm hourly, so I get paid time and a half for it. Because I have a reputation for being willing to work OT, when there is a need for it, I'm usually the first person to be asked to do it. For nearly three years, I worked every Saturday at our grad center. I'm often asked to work overtime when night coverage is needed, or on times like this weekend, which is move-in weekend for the college I work for, and if I get backlogged on my normal responsibilities doing desktop support I'll work nights or weekends catching up. In the last pay period, I've put in about 40 hours of OT.
My thought on overtime has generally been that I should take advantage of it, because I don't know how much longer it will be there. It has tended to expand and contract with the whims of management and workload fluctuations. Having that extra money has helped - there is no way I could have put the downpayment on my house if I hadn't put in so much OT.
But socially, it's sort of a catch-22. Part of my willingness to work OT is because I don't have much else going on in my life - I'm single and haven't had any luck changing it, and I have a small circle of friends and don't go out much. I figure I might as well work, if all I'm going to be doing otherwise is sit home and watch TV. But if I'm working, I don't really have a reason to try to develop a social life. I wonder if I hadn't put in so much OT early in my post-college life, if I would have found a life instead - or if I would have become more frustrated more quickly with my lack of a life outside of work. I work because I don't have much else to do, and I don't have much else to do because I focus on work.
I also wonder, on the off-chance I'm ever actually in a relationship, how this would balance out. I'd like to think that if I had a reason to put less OT in, if I had a choice between happiness and time and a half, that I would go with the former. But I'm not sure what I would actually do.
The other thing is that work is starting to take a toll on some of the few things I enjoy outside of work. In the last few months, I've had to skip my usual gym workout most nights, because I've needed to work late. Now that school is back in session, the gym is open longer hours, so I should be able to work late and still work out, but in the meantime I've probably gained about 20 pounds, between lack of exercise and a diet of pizza, Chinese food, and Royal Farms sandwiches. I like going to the gym, not only for the physical health benefits, but because it's nice to be around other people (especially when they are cute college chicks in short-shorts), because it makes me feel better about myself, and because there are studies that suggest that regular exercise can release chemicals that fight depression. I've also had to skip quite a few auctions and yard sales for work. While I generally accept this, since I make more working OT than I do selling yard sale finds on eBay, I do get some enjoyment out of them - both the thrill of finding stuff and the people-watching aspect.
Economists tend to view everything as a trade-off, and work-life is a great example of one - the more free time, the less money. I'm just not sure where I should stop trading my money for free time, or if I'd be able to figure out how to make my free time enjoyable and thus actually worth something.