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How you guys balance your work life and personal life. Being a developer, I'm finding it very difficult to find out how to balance it. If I concentrate on work, I lose many things in my personal life and vice versa.

It would be great if you guys could give me some pointers or throw light on how to balance it.

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have you read anything about time management and strategies to achieve life balance ? – Radolino Sep 6 '13 at 11:52
just dont forget that: you work to live, not live to work.Specify your own work time and work diligenly at that time, but when work time has over, just live and dont think about your work. it's easy to say and hard to act.but I decided do this one month ago and I'm better now. – masoumeh karvar Nov 5 '13 at 17:27

15 Answers 15

up vote 15 down vote accepted

It is worthwhile weighing up the things that are important to you now, as @JeffO correctly states, and the things that might be more important to you longer term.

For example, you may be willing to have a reduced quality of personal time now (eg working 100 hour weeks) if you feel it will help you get to a point (income, promotion, etc) later in life where you want money, time, family etc.

But you need to be aware that all future estimates are exactly that. I have seen people put off family or personal time, expecting to get to it once they reach a certain set of goals, and then find that those options are gone - the person they wanted to settle down with has given up, the opportunity they were looking forward to has closed etc. So when you weigh up all current and probably future pros and cons, make sure you score them along with their probability (as best you can)

At the end of the day, spending 40 years working hard and never having a personal life suits some people, but others like to enjoy the world around them. Totally up to you.

From that master of life management, Ferris Bueller:

Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

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+1 Bueller? Bueller? – dwwilson66 Sep 4 '13 at 19:04

This is obvious, but sometimes we may need a reminder, of something like:

Work is done at work. What is done at work, stays at work. Everything else is not work.

So, when you leave work, try to keep the work-related thoughts out of your head and relax; it's now your own personal time. Have a break. Have a ... you know, relax. But when you get back to work, get back to work-mode.

Bottom line: Find that mental switch - Work-mode on/off.

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Identify the important things in your personal life and use all the scheduling and planning techniques you can to make sure they happen.

Work with the people in your life and ask them to help you. Maybe you can spend more time with them if they're willing to help you develop a schedule. Otherwise, you'll get caught-up in your work and forget about it or worse, you'll spend time with them but be preoccupied with work.

If you enjoy your job, that's great. Just make sure you are realistic about what are the work expectations. Some people feel they have to answer email immediately when everyone on the receiving end is willing to wait. It's easy to get sucked into spending extra hours at the office because everyone else does and you don't want to look like a slacker.

There is no perfect amount of time. Think about the quality of life you're having along with having the things you value. If your significant other or finding a significant other is important, make sure you're doing what it takes. Don't wait until the last minute do find you've been taking things for granted: health, friends, family, hobbies, other interests, spouses, pets, etc.

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From the way you phrased your question, I am assuming you mean that work stuff is invading into your personal time, and not that you're simply working (at work) too much (i.e. long hours). This answer is geared towards the former, but it would help if you could give some examples of "If I concentrate on work, I lose many things in my personal life and vice versa."

For me, simply, work is done at work. If I'm not at work, I'm not working, except in an emergency.

I don't check work email when I'm not at work. To do so, I have to be on my computer, run the VPN, use my SecureID key, and connect to my work computer. Very cumbersome. If I'm not on my personal computer (e.g. at a friend's place), it's even harder as I have to download and configure the VPN software first.

I can't check work email on my phone, and (hopefully, unless my job requires it) never will.

The point is that if you're in the habit of working when you're not at work, you should make it very difficult to do so. If I could check my work email on my phone, then I would. So I don't even myself the option.

Tell your co-workers that you're always reachable if it's an emergency, and they can call you at any time. You'll be amazed at how few "really important" emails are worth calling you over.

There's really not much else. Sure, you'll sometimes be thinking about work when you're at home or out somewhere, but that happens pretty rarely for me. As long as you're not actively looking at anything (essentially your email) you should be ok.

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Work is an activity you do for an established amount of time, in exchange for money. Personal life is what you do in the remainder of your time.

Work typically has an established timetable. If you're an employee, your contract should specify it. If you work for yourself, it is a good policy to establish it anyway, to keep a healthy and balanced life.

Since people usually enjoy personal life more than work, they tend to accomplish work for the specified timetable and after that, go back to their personal lifes. Try to do that.

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I make recurring lists of things I want to do and check them off. As silly as it sounds, on Mondays I have things like: "Walk with wife", "Read", etc. etc. It's amazing how much it helps to feel like I'm "working" at my personal life and checking things off. Work on the other hand is easy to do this with most of the time. :-)

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I really like this idea, it's more focused on your personal life than writing down your work tasks – MattP Jan 13 '14 at 12:50

Part of the trick with this is to separate your work and home life. This can be tough if you work from home.

Here are some tips:

  1. Have set times of the day you work and set times for personal life
  2. Get a separate business line and turn the ringer off when you are done for the day
  3. Don't check your work email in the evening or weekends
  4. Don't give your customers/employers your cell phone number
  5. If you catch yourself thinking about work - think about something else.

"Captain Time" Garland Coulson

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imho, being a developer is one of the best ways to combine work and life:

1) you can work flexible hours - this should give you enough time to spend with your family

2) even if you are not at work, your brain continues to turn around all those great ideas which you will be able to implement later

3) you can combine your work and hobby (almost) - there are lots of developers doing some side projects for fun

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Let's throw a web app which graphically helps: and its Life Game. Note: I do not work for them. I'm just a fan.

The web app gives you status on how you are doing in the different areas of your life. It supports action items. It also supports vision statements that support why you are doing those actions. They have videos that tell you more about it. Good luck! :)

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As a fellow developer working both full time 9-5 and self-employed in the evenings I have similar issues. A couple of things I do are:

  • One day a week I do not turn on a computer, for work or personal use.
  • If you're working outside the usual day in the office write down tasks and focus on completing the list and nothing else, anything that comes in after the end of the normal working day can wait until the day after at least.

I really like the idea from Douglas and will be trying it, writing down personal tasks and working around them rather working around your work tasks.

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I put a set limit on my maximum work time. It's 12 Pomodoros/day for me, 40 Pomodoros/week, with 8 Pomodoros/week dedicated to training (reading books, doing courses, practicing). Write a report on what you spent that time on. The training bit really helps in the long run.

With software engineering or any other creative work, you tend to spend too much time on work. This actually hurts productivity because you can't really be creative while you're tired and stressed.

This time limit also has the brilliant side effect of me working on important things first, instead of trying to get everything perfect and never completed. I can also clearly see when I'm wasting a lot of time. Once you've hit your 40 Pomodoros/week just spend time analyzing your report. By taking an external view to what you're doing, you can strategically plan your work more efficiently.

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  • Write what you want. And keep updating it.

  • As you become experienced you will learn on your own.

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The solution you will implement depends on how you frame the problem:

  • Work/Life Balance: you consider that there is some kind of equilibrium that can be attained over a given period of time. Your goal is then to define that period and plan accordingly.

  • Work/Life Trade-off: you consider that you can't have it all. It will be either work or Life, or a part of each one. "To choose is to foresake". Your goal is then to chose what you want to do and forget what you can't do.

  • Work/Life Integration: you consider that you can design your life around the two. Your goal is then to adjust both your work and your life to integrate.

There are certainly other way of framing the problem that I am not aware of.

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This was the story of my life, finding work life balance and only did I succeed thanks to a few things / lessons: - I had a coach to discuss this issue, and as I was first waiting for her to give me the right tip that would work, instead she went very deep on the why, and I discovered it is nothing external that will help me but how much do I really want to balance it. You always have the choice. You set the limit and then sticking to them is only willpower and your deep priority. - then, balance means different things for different people. It can be ok to work long hours one night, but then the next day you compensate with reduced hours. For others, it will be regular hours, for others it is not working on week ends. If you are looking for constraints to 'force you' get a balance, this won't work. You need to find what is feeling right for you. - nothing is better now than to commit to making a change with people around you and ask them to support you to achieve it. There are even Apps or website with reminders but nothing is more powerful to make a change than sharing your goal with close ones and seeking their help to really achieve it. If you are not willing to make this step, it might mean you are not that serious about making the change.

The best thing is that when you commit and make the change happen, I can tell you you will feel so proud, strong and in control of your own life, it is totally worth it ;) also people around you will respect you even more for your effort. Good luck

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I really think we're lied to find this kind of equilibrium which does not exist and is not suppose to. It's like looking for equilibrium between the forest and the trees. The forest contains the trees and not the other way around. Life/personal life contains work and not the other way around. Life without work it doesn't exist, work without a life ... no way, BUT you have to always remind yourself that is the LIFE that contains the WORK and many other things in it not the other way around. Try to change your mindset like this, constantly and really RELAX over this and you'll see a boost in your focus, quality of life and energy each day.

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