Why Are We So Busy?

As a society, we have increased the quantity and quality of our leisure time tremendously. Many of us aren’t aware—or have forgotten—that not too long ago, we worked six days per week. On May 21, 1989, India’s late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi reduced the workweek to five days for Central Government officials. With the globalization of the workforce, many new companies introduced a five-day workweek. While many industries, including construction, still work six days per week, most are generally shifting towards a five-day workweek. This work schedule offers us two-day weekends, which equate to 104 weekend days per year for leisure. Additionally, we take vacation days and holidays.

Despite having fewer work days, today we are expected to fulfill many more obligations than even 10 or 15 years ago. These obligations relate to transportation, travel, health, entertainment, shopping, and social media, among other things. Our choices regarding how we use our time are greatly influenced by the broader society, co-workers, friends, and family.

Rather than thinking of these challenges in terms of “work-life balance,” we should think of leading an integrated life. Integrated life views family, work, community, and health as part of the same picture, not as opposing forces. My own life includes work, family, social service, and my health. As a professional, I must integrate every part of life. To balance my life, I decide how much energy I will spend on each of the four areas of my life.

All of us must pay attention to the four integrated life domains of our lives. The first domain revolves around ourselves, which includes our physical, mental, and spiritual health. The second domain involves our professional lives at work. The third domain involves our immediate and extended families, including our parents, spouse, and children. The fourth domain involves the broader community, such as alumni associations and volunteer activities in temple or in the community.

Achieving balance is not easy and is not a given for anyone. With age, I have gained the confidence to focus on a few ideas or values that matter the most to me. I have tried to cut down on non-essential activities in all four aspects of my life, including work.

Most of us aspire to find balance in our lives. With time, we can gain clarity on our life goals. With deliberate effort, I have been able to integrate my four life domains to improve performance in each. I am still working to further improve balance in my life.

The above post is an excerpt from my book, What I Did Not Learn in B-school: Insights for New Managers. The book examines key common issues faced by new and aspiring managers.