off balance on purpose

2 minute read

Some few months ago, this tweet came up.

It stirred a reaction, with many claiming you don’t have to work on weekends. My personal opinion is that to achieve anything outstanding, it is going to require an inordinate amount of work. How that gets structured is up to an individual but in the end, the total volume of work will be high. I’ve yet to see anyone do anything at the peak of (their) human ability while simultaneously taking it easy. We intuitively understand this for sports and arts, the same principle applies for everything else.

What is unique about the tech industry is that we talk about working hard in perpetuity. It’s not “work on weekends”, it’s “work every weekend”. I think we’d do well as an industry to talk about how we structure our work lives in service of being good (or great or generational) at our pursuit. With that, here’s mine.

There’s a book, off balance on purpose, which I admit I’ve never read. I was introduced to the book through a TEDx talk, that I admit again, I didn’t pay attention to. However, the phrase “off balance on purpose” stuck with me. It gave me a framework for thinking about my work-life balance.

I am naturally an unbalanced person, I tend to operate near extremes. If I’m working hard, much of my life is adjusted in service of that aim. If I am socialising, the same effect happens. What I’ve come to realise is that I can be unbalanced at any instant in time but feel1 balanced overall. I purposefully live my life off-balance, I just trade between extremes. You can think of it as having an on and off season.

This has helped me immensely with my career. For months at a time (usually winter months), I’m happy to spend the majority of my time working2. If my weekends are spent learning new technology or just hacking away at personal projects, it’s all good with me. For the other months, you’ll barely find me working on a weekend. In the summer specifically, there are many activities I’d rather do with my free time than sitting inside with my laptop fighting bugs. With this structure3, it makes it easy for me to allocate free time towards my career. It even makes it enjoyable since I have regular changes of pace throughout the year.

  1. What’s important is not that your life is objectively balanced, but that it feels balanced. This is different for everyone. Some feel balance with working being 60% and life being 40%, others 80/20, others 50/50. Discover what works for you. ↩︎

  2. I decided many moons ago that additional time working will be dedicated to personal learning as opposed to my job. ↩︎

  3. There are some aspects I try keep balanced all throughout, like health and fitness even though I do a poor job of it ↩︎