I have a confession: my work life balance totally turned to custard the first week back at work. Not to put too fine a point on it, this was of great concern to me. Was this the end of my quest for a new lifestyle? Why had it happened and could it be sorted? I had some thinking to do.

It transpired that my work life balance had been compromised by two things; the eight hour working day being the first. This is of course a misnomer; with travel and lunch factored in, it is for me the 10 hour  day.  This scenario is repeated 5 days per week.  In many respects, I am lucky as my travelling time is only half an hour driving each way to my temporary site*. Indeed, I have had commutes in the past that have totalled two to three hours per day. And these times are the best case scenarios; if the roads are gridlocked for whatever reason, the travelling time can be pushed out even further. I have had two experiences of one hour journeys turning into three hour marathons as the result of accidents. These were years ago, but the not so fond memories linger.

Now I do reside in New Zealand’s biggest city with its notoriously poor transport links and I have been known to live on one side of the city and work on the other. I should say at this stage that I am not trying to elicit sympathy, rather there is personal responsibility at play here and living and working at opposite ends of the city is a choice I made (uninformed perhaps, but my choice nonetheless!)**

The point is that working a 40 hour working week with travelling and lunch breaks added in becomes a 50 to 60 hour weekly commitment without too much trouble.  When I get home from work and dinner is made and eaten, there are two to three hours remaining before bed beckons.  (I am a person who needs 8 hours a night sleep).

Now in theory two to three hours should be enough time to introduce at least some balance, but I have found that there is a direct  correlation with what happens at work and what I am capable of doing when I get home.The reality is a full on working day at the coal face means I am tired at the end of the day, so it is not unknown for me to sometimes default to the ‘zone out in front of the TV’ leisure option. Yes, complete with the dress code of unattractive, but incredibly comfortable pyjamas, and slippers that have seen better days.  I am the first to admit that TV watching is not a productive use of my day, especially when I have other more important things to achieve like a healthy work life balance, but the fact is it happens and happen it did last week.

Which brings me to the second reason my work life balance was derailed when I returned to work.** It transpired I was not just tired, I was fighting off an illness. It won. Sadly, it presented itself as the ‘just well enough to go to work, but once home, go straight to bed’  variety of sickness, rather than the ‘stay at home tucked up warmly with a good book’ type. This resulted in there being work in my day, but zip anything else.

This week I am pleased to report I am better. I have energy and am back to using my three hours per night to live a more balanced life. Having said this, it is still a far cry from the lifestyle that the man and I think is optimal for us. We therefore remain committed to our goal of working less to live more within two years (21 months to go!). In the meantime, I have made the following note to self:

  1. The commute to work cannot be at the expense of slow living – remember this when choosing the 3 day per week job.
  2. Watch TV selectively and turn it off at end of programme.
  3. Treading water, even going backwards, when making changes will happen. This is OK.
  4. Wearing comfortable pyjamas and scruffy slippers*** is always de rigueur for the over 50s.

* Public transport is a very convoluted affair: 2 buses and 2 hours more travelling time added to my day.

** Commuting across town was for a great job.

*** Scruffy slippers were too awful to photograph!