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Why there should be no such thing as work/life balance

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Why there should be no such thing as work/life balance

Is there such a thing as work/life balance? I don’t think so. And I don’t strive for it. For me, work is an essential and inspiring part of my life. I don’t feel the need to “balance” it.

I remember going away for a weekend with a friend. We’ll call her Kate. We rented a beachside pad and, as we sat on the balcony, she got stuck into a novel and I started answering some work emails. She bugged me to stop. I thought she was joking. But then she gave me a lecture that I shouldn’t be doing work while on holiday and actually turned off the wifi.

She was serious. This astounded me because it wasn’t as if I was ignoring her. After all, she wasn’t even making conversation because she was happily buried deep in her own book!

It made me wonder why she felt the need to deprive me of something that brought me so much joy. And I realised that’s because she simply didn’t understand what it was like to enjoy her work so much. Kate was in a job she wasn’t passionate about and felt that “work” and “life” should be separated. In her mind, one was a necessary evil in order to fund the other.

That’s why I can’t stand the term “work/life balance”. Because it implies that there is something inherently wrong with one of them. I love my work so much that I would actually do it for free. If I was already insanely rich, I’d still choose to the career and job I’m in now.

Don’t get me wrong. I do believe in balancing busy times with periods of rest and relaxation. But remember that busy-ness can come from too many social engagements, family commitments and functions that actually have nothing to do with work.

If you’re desperately seeking work/life balance then it might be worthwhile considering whether there’s a more important question you should be asking yourself. Are you in the right job/career? And would you care that much about work/life balance if you’re in a job that you love so much, you look forward to it every single day?

Valerie Khoo

Valerie Khoo is CEO of the Australian Writers’ Centre, one of the world’s leading centres for writing courses. She contributed to Fairfax for 13 years and has held senior editorial roles at ACP (now Bauer), Pacific Magazines and EMAP. She was editor of Business Chick’s Latte magazine for five years and regularly writes for corporate and consumer titles. Valerie began her career in chartered accounting at PwC before moving into public relations, journalism and then entrepreneurship. She is co-host of the podcast “So you want to be a writer”, recently listed as one of the top 30 podcasts for writers in the world, and “So you want to be a photographer”. Valerie is also a mentor with the Australian Businesswomen’s Network.

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