Finding work-life balance

life work balance

Working in the high tech field, it is not unusual to work for more than 40 hour a week. When people ask me if I start working at 9 AM and go home at 5 PM, I tend to reply that I have a flexible schedule and I determine my own work hours. They typically will give me a jealous look and tell me that it's awesome that I can determine my own work schedule. In reality, people that work in the high tech field will put in whatever time is needed to get the work done. This can mean working 30 hours a week, 40 hours a week, 60 hours a week, 80 hours a week, or even 100 hours a week. More than often, the actual work hours are more than 40 hours. Due to the ebbs and flows of projects, when there are "quiet" times, it's not unusual to find people showing up a bit later or/and leaving a bit early. Those who take advantage of these quiet times will find that the work hours eventually balance out... but there are also people that put in long work hours regardless. To me, work-life balance is very important. It brings me so much joy to be able to spend time playing with Baby T each day; it brings me joy and peace to be able to spend quality times with Mrs. T and have quality conversations. Unfortunately for some, work-life balance is non-existent. Below are some people that I have come across over the years that made me think twice about work-life balance.


Exhibit #1 Worker A
Worker A is a bit of a workaholic by nature. His daily commute takes 1.5 hour each way by train. He usually shows up to work around 9:30 AM to start his work day. Sounds alright but what you don't realize is that Worker A usually takes the last train that leaves just shortly before midnight to go home. When he gets home, although he's exhausted, he would grab a quick bite to eat, then finish checking his emails until close to 3 AM in the morning. He has been getting about 3 or so hours of sleep during weekdays; he tries to catch up on sleep on weekends by sleeping for more than 12 hours. He feels overwhelmed by his work and is completely exhausted. He has been doing this type of work hours for the lats 5 years and he has another 25 years before he reaches retirement age. He is really looking forward to his 15 year milestone with the company as the company gives any 15 year employees a 2 week paid sabbatical.


Exhibit #2 Corporate Ladder Guy A
Corporate Ladder Guy A is high up on the corporate ladder within his company. He travels about 50-60% of the year, flying all over the world. Because he deals with people all over the world, he usually starts his day early so he can catch people finishing their work day in the European time zones. He would work late into the evening so he can catch other people starting their work day in the Asian time zones. He rarely takes vacation during the year, even though he receives 25 days of vacation each year. On the rare occasion that he takes vacations, he always takes a few hours each day to reply emails and answering phone calls. He doesn't believe in disconnecting from work while on vacation.


Exhibit #3 Worker B
Worker B has been jumping around companies the last few years. His current company is known among the industry as a tech sweatshop. He's been with the company for about a year now. He is making great salary compared to his friends but he works for 12+ hours every day. Due to the insane project milestones and constant demands from management to meet all the deadlines, he was required to work 7 days a week for the last 6 months. There's no end sight on when he can get back to having a regular weekends to himself. Because his work provides free food and many other free amenities, he sometimes finds himself sleeping at the office instead of going home. His wife has been complaining about not seeing him on a regular basis and he feels that they're drifting apart more and more. He often comes home to find that his wife has purchased yet another luxury item while he's at the office. He wanted to talk to his wife about wasting money on these luxury items but he's just too tired to have a discussion. He's afraid that they'll just get into yet another argument. He has thought about starting a family but has some doubts about being a responsible parent.


Exhibit #4 Corporate Ladder Guy B
Just like his buddy CLG A, Corporate Ladder Guy B travels a lot during the year. He spends about 80-85% of the time on the road, having meetings at the different corporate offices around the world, meeting customers, bidding on potential businesses, and attending conferences. He's more or less at the top of the corporate ladder. He's making a ton of money, living in a mansion, having all the latest electronic gadgets, driving luxury cars, and drinking expensive wines. He seems to be on top of the world and can show off all his wealth but he rarely gets any "free" time. He recently came back home from a 3 week work trip to find that his wife has filed for a divorce...


I don't know about you but I sure don't envy any of these guys. I truly believe that life is about having a balance. Having a work-life balance will allow us to have a higher quality of life. Work should not define who we are. We should have control over what we want to do in life. Isn't it funny that we often ask someone that we just met what he or she does for work? Why do we spend so much emphasis on work? Rather, shouldn't we focus more on what we do in life and what we have done to improve our lives and other around us?


I'll finish this post with a question. Would you take a promotion and get a 15% pay raise when you are expected to work extra 10-20 hours each week and often the extra hours are during the weekend?

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  • Reply
    Zero to Zeros
    April 16, 2015 at 2:30 am

    I'm totally with you on this one Tawcan. For me, work-life balance is one of the most important factors I'd consider when looking at a job, and I personally wouldn't trade an extra 10-20 hours a week with extra weekend hours for a 15% pay raise. I'd much rather put all those hours of free time to use in pursuing my passions, moonlighting on my own terms, building a side business, exercising, and relaxing.

    My current job pays a modest salary but it comes with an unbeatable work-life balance that completely satisfies me. I usually don't work more than 40 hours a week, and my manager gives me a ton of flexibility with my hours and really only cares that I get my work done, not that I sit at a desk every day for the exact same amount of time and during the exact same hours. I often come in around noon and leave around 7, which suits me well because I am a night owl. And on top of that, my commute is around 8-9 minutes, which I wouldn't trade for anything haha.

    And by living frugally, saving, and investing, I am still capable of slowly but steadily building a portfolio that should allow me to retire early.

    I really enjoyed this post, keep up the great work! 😀


    • Reply
      April 16, 2015 at 11:38 am

      Hi Zero to Zeros,

      I think we're on the same page when it comes to work-life balance. Sounds like you have a pretty good set up with your current job. Commute time of 8-9 minutes is pretty awesome.

  • Reply
    Mr Zombie
    April 16, 2015 at 3:09 am

    In answer to your question. Hell no! Time is too important.

    I don't mind working hard or long hours when it's required. It's almost part of any professional job. But when it becomes the normal rather than the exception that's when things turn sour for me. Some people seem to expect long hours of others just because they put in these hours themselves. That culture was pretty prevalent in accountancy practice. So I left 🙂

    There was a guy here who is a director. Earns good money (I imagine) but is really busy all the time, a lot of travel and early mornings. He ended up having a heart attack. Thankfully he's ok. But it makes you wonder!

    Mr Z

    • Reply
      April 16, 2015 at 11:39 am

      Hi Mr Zombie,

      We all have a finite amount of time on earth. Does it make sense to work away extra time when you could do something more rewarding?

  • Reply
    Fervent Finance
    April 16, 2015 at 6:54 am

    No I would not, 15% is no where close enough to what I'd need.

    I left at 4:45pm yesterday to enjoy the nice weather we're having in NYC. That RARELY happens since I'm in a client-facing / project driven role at my firm. But people do understand that when you have some downtime you need to take advantage of it. Sounds a lot like your position as well Tawcan.

    • Reply
      April 16, 2015 at 11:40 am

      Hi Fervent Finance,

      Leaving early is always nice. Sometimes I start my day early due to meetings and I always try to leave work early so I can spend some quality times with Baby T and Mrs. T in the late afternoon. Down time is so important.

  • Reply
    Adam @
    April 16, 2015 at 8:49 am

    Depends on the longer term payoff, but definitely not for that basic question. I think most people take that option of the work/money because it moves them up the ladder and over time that compounds in to A LOT more money than that initial 15%.

    • Reply
      April 16, 2015 at 11:41 am

      Hi Adam,

      Agree that as you move up the ladder the salary increase compounds overtime, so it will be more than the initial 15%. However as you climb up the ladder, your working hours will probably increase as well. So that still begs the question whether it's worth it or not.

  • Reply
    Dividend Family Guy
    April 16, 2015 at 9:38 am

    What good is money if you don't have time to enjoy it. I have a co-worker on my team that is in the office from 9-7 everyday, goes home, eats and starts back up at work again. Yes he makes more money than me but he only sees his kids when they are going to bed and works on the weekends too. I would bet in 5 years he will be divorced unless his wife likes money. My family and wife are higher on the priority list than work.

    • Reply
      April 16, 2015 at 11:44 am

      Hi Dividend Family Guy,

      Totally agree. If you don't have time to enjoy your money then what's the point of having it? Not sure if you have watched the movie called "Jiro Dreams of Sushi." This sushi chef is so dedicated to his work and worked so hard his own kids couldn't recognize him when he's back home on the weekend. What's the point? Work isn't everything... there are more important things in life.

  • Reply
    My Dividend Pipeline
    April 16, 2015 at 2:43 pm


    Great article. I think I resemble Worker A except I don't have a long commute, only about 15 minutes each way. As far as the rest of the day goes it is pretty similar. I have been working on cutting back the hours this year, but I still am in the 50-55 hour per week range. I did make the commitment to leave work at noon once a week this year and so far no pushback from upper management. Maybe next year I will shoot for two half days.


    • Reply
      April 20, 2015 at 5:01 pm

      Hi My Dividend Pipeline,

      15 minute commute time each way is really good, however working 50-55 hours per week can be tough. It's good that you're realizing that you should cut back to spend more time at home.

  • Reply
    Dividend Hustler
    April 16, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    Hey Tawcan. Thanks for the article. Hmm, all those guys are have it tough. I guess thats the path they have chosen. However, what's it all for? Working and hustling so hard... I hope they reach their goal hopefully by investing so they can get out of that rat race of theirs.
    If I was in their shoes and promotion comes up.. It'll be hard to pass and of course... more money, more responsibility? There's never a clean deal eh?
    Luckily, my job is chill and I can take any time off but I'm a bit OCD...
    Thanks for the read Tawcan. You take care of yourself and have fun with that baby. Cheers my friend. Have a nice weekend.

    • Reply
      April 20, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      Hi Dividend Hustler,

      There's never a clean deal, something got to give I suppose. If same situation come up for me I'll definitely have to evaluate and determine the best option for me and my family.

  • Reply
    April 17, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    Great article Tawcan!

    I fully agree that the work / life balance is extremely important. The question is: Should we make that extra effort to work more in order to reach financial independence earlier, or should we start to back off early - which may delay our plans to become financially independent. What do you think?


    • Reply
      April 20, 2015 at 5:07 pm

      Hi independentbunny,

      It's a tough decision and the choice may be different for each individual. If you can gain more money which leads to achieving FI by like 5-10 years earlier than perhaps it would be worth it. However if it means achieving FI by only 1 year or less than maybe you need to re-consider. Furthermore, if backing off means better quality of life and only delay your FI by a couple years, perhaps that's worth it.

  • Reply
    April 17, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    Great post, Tawcan. I would say no in answer to your question.

    I've done 60+ hour weeks before but no more - if something needs completing, I work at it, go in on the odd weekend, but it's no longer the norm. While working those long hours, I was run down all the time, lost a lot of weight, drank more and suffered from insomnia. I was also too tired to do anything at weekends. I don't think it's worth it although I can see why some people do it because they feel that have to earn the big bucks.

    • Reply
      April 20, 2015 at 5:08 pm

      Hi weeinie,

      Working 60+ hour weeks are tough... I've been there and that was no fun. Your life is definitely not balanced when you work that much and you start to suffer.

  • Reply
    April 18, 2015 at 3:27 am

    I am worker A, except I get little sleep because I just never let go. I am still up now at 5:30. However, I do just take off and go, but work like mad to get caught up. Nice list of personalities. Good job.

    Keep cranking,

    Robert the DividendDreamer

    • Reply
      April 20, 2015 at 5:10 pm

      Hi Robert,

      I think the first step is realizing what you're doing. Hopefully you can let go and get more sleep. 🙂

  • Reply
    April 21, 2015 at 11:58 pm

    Agree fully on the work life balance!

    I've probably done some periods of 60-80 hours/week but never 100. That must be killer!

    I've kinda worked my way up in my company and now rather than using my position to keep working longer hours, having more stress and earning more money I've asked for more time back instead. Still waiting to hear back on 100% confirmation but soon I will hopefully be only working two thirds of the year... Boom! 🙂

    • Reply
      April 25, 2015 at 2:26 pm

      Hi theFirestarter,

      I've done 100 hours before and that was no fun. 60-80 hours is pretty rough if you have to do that for a prolonged period of time. Glad to hear that you're able to get some time back to enjoy your life.

  • Reply
    No More Waffles
    April 22, 2015 at 7:38 am


    I'm definitely one of those people that works more than 40 hours every week. The more responsibilities you take on, the bigger the overhead becomes, thus doubling the time needed to get things done.

    The only rule I have set for myself is that weekends are for myself. Nobody is allowed to bother me during those two holy days as I need them to rebuild my energy for the coming week.

    Because I like my job I don't mind it all that much. Besides, in the near future it will result to more pay, which should shorten my time until FI.

    Best wishes,

    • Reply
      April 25, 2015 at 2:27 pm

      Hi No More Waffles,

      While I think working for more than 40 hours is common as you get more responsibilities, you can certainly keep the 40 hours work week by delicate lower priority works so you can focus on the more important work. Good rule on setting weekends to yourself.

  • Reply
    April 24, 2015 at 3:43 am

    Getting work-life balance is extremely challenging due to my career. Accountant don't typically get good work-life balance unless I work in a well settled major company or public sector. Should have been something else like a vet or a family doctor. Haha.. Too late for that....


    • Reply
      April 25, 2015 at 2:29 pm

      Hi BeSmartRich,

      Accountants seem to be especially busy during quarterly ends and at tax times. Hopefully you can find work-life balance with your work.

  • Reply
    May 8, 2015 at 5:44 am

    Working extra hours or taking time off weekends for work is generally not a good idea for me. Unless of course, I have some kind of an insane action plan that includes busting my ass working for up to 1 year, saving as much as possible and then changing the life big time afterwards.

    But no, 15%, even 25% is not worth +20 hours a week.

    There would be extreme circumstances that will justify such a decision, I do realise that. My father had huge debt issues back in the day and took on an extra job to be able to make the payments so thats one occasion when it would be acceptable.

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