Sunday, December 2, 2007

Work-Life Balance

One of the biggest dangers of being solo-expatriate is that there is no governor on my work habits.

I really like what I do and there is no end to the time that I can spend on it.  Worse, the US wakes up at mid-afternoon here, and the West Coast is just getting going at 5pm.  If I allow their phone calls and e-mails to hook me, I can easily stay in the office until 10 pm.  Even when I come home, the apartment is empty, and I can rationalize a hurried dinner while catching up on e-mails or pushing a bit ahead for the next day. 

The Dutch seem to have a better work-life Balance that I've tried to emulate (and accommodate). They work hard during the day, but arrive at 8:45, strictly, and leave at 5:00, strictly.  They simply don't do work outside of work, rarely joining evening phone calls or participating in a business dinner only if it's arranged at least a week ahead.

It makes sense: I don't think that the 'normal' 11-hour day and zero-vacation-day years did me any good in the US. When I went on sabbatical two years ago, I was actually 'on vacation' for the first six months, simply using up my accrued time off.  The forced simplicity of returning to school and cutting off the US workplace helped me to rediscover my ABC's: my proper Ambitions, my Balance of professional and personal sides of my life, and strengthening (and, regrettably, breaking) Connections with others.  It was a good lesson, but now that I'm back at work, I still battle my Type-A side to maintain these principles, putting them into practice each day (leaving by 5:30, for example).  At least, among the Dutch, there isn't pressure on me to break the rules.

And, on reflection, maybe there never was...

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