Last week, during our group chat session, we began discussing the topic of Work-Life balance. I was surprised to see the difference in the weekend life styles of many of the program participants.
One of the constant struggles that we have encountered during this program is what I like to call, “The Battle for the Weekends”. The Battle is pretty simple. In one corner we have work. In the other corner we have life. Finding a balance between the two can be really tough. Let’s take a look at both opponents.
We have all been given amazing opportunities to be in Silicon Valley for the summer. For me, this amazing opportunity includes incubating my company, FlightPin.com, at Dogpatch Labs in Palo Alto, California. Work, at least for me, is enjoyable but the hours are pretty rough. I never feel that I am completely away from work due to the heavy stream of emails and other forms of communication that are now routed to my phone. In addition, I feel great after I’ve fixed a bug, or implemented a new feature to the product. There are, however, some definite downsides. I don’t see my friends in the bay area much at all. When I do go out with friends, I have to put up with constant harassment because I’m always responding to emails from my phone.
Silicon Valley has some of the best culture and outdoor opportunities in the United States. Yosemite is only a three hour drive away, wine country is only one hour away, and San Francisco is less than an hour by either train or car. Additionally, I have many friends in the bay area that are out here for internships, studying at Stanford, or have graduated and are starting their careers. I always have a great time when I choose the play option. I am far less stressed, get to spend time with people that I choose to be with, and generally get to have new experiences and meet new people.
The Secret Mix:
Obviously, this is different for everyone. Even for individuals, this mix varies based on the week, the stage of your company, etc…
Personally, I started my time in Silicon Valley with more focus on Life on the weekends. I had just gotten into town, had many friends that I wanted to catch up with, and usually spent at least one day on the weekend being with friends and relaxing.
As the program has progressed, however, I feel that I am moving more towards a Work centric mix. FlightPin is progressing, and that’s really motivating. Any day that goes by where the majority of my waking time isn’t spent on FlightPin feels like a let down for me. I have a hard time enjoying myself when I do go out with friends on the weekends because I am constantly thinking about the things I need to be accomplishing at work.
To many, this work centric balance may sound less than ideal. “Someone who is unable to break away from work isn’t living a healthy lifestyle” – The problem with this rational is that working actually makes me happy. When I’m at work, I’m not worried about anything. I’m excited to be creating something and ecstatic that I’m doing it in Silicon Valley.
However, even the most work focused person still needs to take some time off. I’ve got friends and family that I want to spend time with and who (I hope) still want to spend time with me. The best way that I have found to keep these people as close as possible is to spend time with them on the weekends, but first set specific parameters. For example, if I want to hang out with David on the weekend, instead of telling him, “Hey, we should hang out Saturday.” I set up a specific event and ask something more concrete like, “Dave, are you free for brunch on Saturday?” This way I still get to hang out with David, but I don’t have to worry about spending the entire day figuring out what to do or when to meet up.
Also, pitch your friends and give them updates on what you’re doing. Not only will this let them know why you can’t always hang out, but it will provide you with some feedback (obviously biased) and word of mouth advertising. Any time one of your friends is engaged in a conversation and a topic that is addressed by your startup is brought up, they WILL mention your name and company.
If you’re not sure about your balance, spend all day Saturday working and all day Sunday with friends. Make sure to think about how you feel at the end of each day. On Monday, you should have a general metric for what’s more important for you and what will make you happier to devote your time to.
When it comes down to it, I think the easiest way to determine if your work-life balance is correct is just to ask your self if you’re happy. If you’re not, then there’s something not quite right. Remember, especially when working on a startup, that your current work-life balance is NOT going to last forever.
You will have to make sacrifices regardless of which aspect you decide to make time for. The great thing about life, though, is that you get a chance to change that work-life balance any time you want. Think of each week as a new way to test your personal Battle for the Weekend.