As I’m writing this very article, it’s 9:30 PM on a Thursday.
I’ve already put in at least a solid 11 hours of work today and—in all honesty—I still feel like I’m going pretty strong. I have another full day on the schedule for tomorrow, and will likely spend several more hours working over the weekend.
Does that thought fill me with dread? Nope. Quite the opposite, actually.
During an average week, I spend about 60 hours parked in front of my computer. Yes, it’s longer than the traditional workweek, but I really don’t mind.
Granted, I’ll be the first to admit that my situation’s a bit different from somebody who works in an office. I’m a freelancer, which means that—in addition to fulfilling that whole “working in my pajamas” cliché—I also get to set my own hours, choose the projects I’d like to work on, and occasionally even have trashy daytime television playing in the background. It’s not the same as being surrounded by chatting co-workers and a boss breathing down my neck—I get that. (And I’ll be the first to say that maybe I’d feel a little differently about my demanding schedule if I was in that sort of scenario.)
However, right now I love what I do, which means I spend a lot of time, well, doing it. I’ve said before that being passionate about my work doesn’t mean that I think every day is a walk in the park, but it does help to make those long hours far more tolerable—and sometimes even enjoyable.
But, being that I make my living writing and reading an abundance of career advice, I’m constantly surrounded by recommendations, tips, and phrases that look something like this (hey, I’ve even written some of them):
Maintain adequate work-life balance. Don’t become a workaholic. Shut down at a certain time each evening. You should only work this number of hours in a day. Don’t check your email on the weekends. You’re going to burn out.
Listen, I understand it—this advice comes from a well-meaning place. I never want to be the one to advocate letting your job consume your life, and I definitely don’t want to glorify becoming a workaholic. However, I do feel the need to stand up and be a mouthpiece for those of us who work what others might consider “crazy hours.” Because seeing these tips over and over and over makes me feel guilty when I take a look back at my week and see that the majority of my time was spent working. And that’s not fair to me!
Don’t get me wrong: I believe work-life balance is important. But, much like the rest of your career, what you consider to be an adequate balance is personal. And if there’s one thing I want you to realize, it’s this: It’s not anybody else’s job to dictate what another person’s idea of career happiness should look like. If your current schedule truly fulfils you, who is anybody else to tell you otherwise?
When it comes to our work lives, I see this same principle come up again and again—the idea of living up to someone else’s standards and expectations, rather than your own individual ideals. You should be on this career track, or you’re doing it all wrong. You should do this before heading to the office every morning, or your day will be off to a bad start. You should want to chase promotion after promotion and climb that proverbial ladder, or you’re going nowhere.
But, when you boil it all down, what all of us really want is simply a job that makes us happy. And, ultimately, the key to finding that is knowing yourself and then using that knowledge to build the career and the life that you want—whether that fits with the standard advice you’ve grown used to hearing or not. Because, at the end of the day, nobody knows you the way that you do.