Diary of a Gen Y Professional

November 19, 2009

The quest for a work-life balance

Filed under: Uncategorized — kdonahue87 @ 6:43 pm
Tags: , , , ,

This past week has rendered me a zombie. I can understand why the average human doesn’t pull a 9 a.m. to 4 a.m. workday.

Working the odd hours I do doesn’t give me a lot of time (or motivation) to read up on my industry each and every day.

Luckily (well, unluckily…) a phone interview was pushed back, giving me the time and extra mental energy to devote to my Google Reader feed. Ahhh, my only day off this week wasn’t wasted after all!

One of the articles I stumbled across was “The 7 Harsh Realities of Social Media Marketing” from Copyblogger. The entire article was great, but one of the points really struck me.

“Harsh Reality #3 – It will eat your life (if you let it)

Social media marketing would be pretty easy if we never had to eat, sleep, shower, or hang out with our kids.

But if doing those things is important to you, you’re going to have to set some boundaries.

Know what you want to do with social media, keep yourself focused, and set a timer if you have to. The tools are amazing, but so is their power to distract you from what you’re trying to accomplish.”

This paragraph made me stop and think. A recurring struggle in my life has been boundaries. Yes, I love what I do, but how do I separate what I do and who I am? It’s difficult to achieve the optimal work-life balance.

For example, in 2007 when I started my second internship I threw myself into it completely, to the point where it consumed me.

The line between my personal and professional life was all but erased when I purchased my first smart phone. Oh, the BlackBerry Pearl. Sleek, powerful, and an ubiquitous part of my life at the time. I was 20 years old and had five e-mail accounts hooked up to my phone. Five!

Making myself available to the ever-changing whims of my CEO and co-workers took its toll on my life. At one point I was answering e-mails from 7 a.m. until midnight five days a week. I was stressed and cranky. Needless to say, I didn’t stay with that company much longer.

And that was just traditional PR.

As I’m sure you know, the social Web never sleeps. The concept of a 9-to-5 workday is outdated and unrealistic considering the amount of freelancers and telecommuters out there. Not to mention, consumers still shackled by the traditional workday don’t get their full social media fix until they get home from work or school.

To be truly effective, you need to be participating at what can end up being odd hours of the day and night. How are your two lives not supposed to overlap?

It gets even more confusing when there is an intentional overlap. For instance, I represent both myself and my company on LinkedIn and Brazen Careerist. Between LinkedIn, Brazen Careerist, Facebook, Twitter, my company’s Twitter, and a handful of other accounts, the line between work and my personal life becomes even more fuzzy.

I was afraid when I started my new job that I’d fall into the same trap as before. But this time I think I entered with a better mindset. Sure, I’m back up to three e-mail addresses on my iPhone, and I spend roughly eight hours a day on the computer (more when I’m not bartending), but that’s still progress, right?

Another issue I’ve come across is being on the computer without instantly rushing to my favorite social networking sites. One of the reasons I spend so much time online is for homework. I, like so many others my age, get distracted easily by the allure of Facebook and other sites. Luckily, I’ve found that Leechblock is extremely helpful with curbing these urges.

The self-help junkie in me likes to scour the Web in hopes on reaffirming her beliefs. I found a ton of articles that offered some great tips about achieving the elusive work-life balance.

Getting Control of Your Social Media Life – Absolutely terrific article. Covers ways to declutter your mind and break bad Internet habits. A must-read.

10 Ways for a Web Worker to Achieve Work-Life Balance – Offers a couple of great tips about batching tasks and the importance of to-do lists. To-do lists are probably one of the biggest helpers for me (kept in my handy-dandy moleskine, of course).

5 Ways to Strike a Work-Life Balance With Social Media – Ack! I violate all of these! I guess I need to reevaluate my plan…

HOW TO: Simplify Your Social Media Routine – Phew. This one makes me feel a lot better. I’m still trying to get into Ping.fm, but TweetDeck has changed my life. And the updated TweetDeck iPhone App (because yes, I will always be addicted to smartphones) is amazing.

I know that I still have a long way to go in finding my perfect balance. I’m going to try and incorporate some of the tips from these articles into my daily life and see if they work for me.

What helps you stay balanced?


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