Work-life balance: what you need to know that no-one tells you

Our columnist Matthew Reeves on what he's learnt about work-life balance from his own somewhat unusual experiences

I have many dislikes. Here's a sample:

Slow walkers.

Products labels that tell me what to do (I should be allowed to choose what and how much I drink of anything, not some packaging designer).

And people who are defined by their jobs. You will have met them. They preface statements unrelated to their job with some spiel about their job. At university, they're the kind of people who say things like: "As an art history student, I really feel strongly that mushy peas are important to the identity of Britain as a whole."

I firmly believe that you shouldn't let the hours you spend renting out your mind to somebody else define you.

Perhaps I'm jealous that these people have managed to con themselves into thinking that they like what they do. Or then again, I'm probably just jealous they're art history students and about to inherit the family chain of auction houses.

But nobody ever says "I wish I'd worked more". When people are on their deathbeds, surrounded by their loving family, all dreams fulfilled, and feeling they've accomplished all they wanted to do, these are rare words to hear.

However, much as I hate people who only care about their work, I also hate the phrase work-life balance because it suggests that work isn't life, when work is life - a massive part of your life.

Talking about wanting a better "work-life balance" is already an admission of defeat. It's admitting that you don't like your work.

I remember looking at an advertisement for an internship and reading: "We value work-life balance", which is the marketer's way of saying, "not rewarding mentally or in remuneration terms, but at least it's not investment banking hours!".

If you ever look at a job advertisement as a graduate and care most about the work-life balance, don't apply. Do something else - anything.

I don't want my main comment on my deathbed about the place I spend a third of my life being, "at least my boss let me out at 5.30pm".

Your work shouldn't take over your life, but make sure it's a real part of it.

Image: Gianni Dominici (