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How to make work-life balance work | Nigel Marsh

How to make work-life balance work | Nigel Marsh

What I thought I would do is I would start with a simple request. I’d like all of you to pause for a moment, you wretched weaklings, and take stock of your miserable existence. (Laughter) Now that was the advice that St. Benedict gave his rather startled followers in the fifth century. It was the advice that I decided to follow myself when I turned 40. Up until that moment, I had been that classic corporate warrior — I was eating too much, I was drinking too much, I was working too hard and I was neglecting the family. And I decided that I would try and turn my life around. In particular, I decided I would try to address the thorny issue of work-life balance. So I stepped back from the workforce, and I spent a year at home with my wife and four young children. But all I learned about work-life balance from that year was that I found it quite easy to balance work and life when I didn’t have any work. (Laughter) Not a very useful skill, especially when the money runs out. So I went back to work, and I’ve spent these seven years since struggling with, studying and writing about work-life balance. And I have four observations I’d like to share with you today. The first is: if society’s to make any progress on this issue, we need an honest debate. But the trouble is so many people talk so much rubbish about work-life balance. All the discussions about flexi-time or dress-down Fridays or paternity leave only serve to mask the core issue, which is that certain job and career choices are fundamentally incompatible with being meaningfully engaged on a day-to-day basis with a young family. Now the first step in solving any problem is acknowledging the reality of the situation you’re in. And the reality of the society that we’re in is there are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like. (Laughter) (Applause) It’s my contention that going to work on Friday in jeans and [a] T-shirt isn’t really getting to the nub of the issue. (Laughter) The second observation I’d like to make is we need to face the truth that governments and corporations aren’t going to solve this issue for us. We should stop looking outside. It’s up to us as individuals to take control and responsibility for the type of lives that we want to lead. If you don’t design your life, someone else will design it for you, and you may just not like their idea of balance. It’s particularly important — this isn’t on the World Wide Web, is it? I’m about to get fired — it’s particularly important that you never put the quality of your life in the hands of a commercial corporation. Now I’m not talking here just about the bad companies — the “abattoirs of the human soul,” as I call them. (Laughter) I’m talking about all companies. Because commercial companies are inherently designed to get as much out of you [as] they can get away with. It’s in their nature; it’s in their DNA; it’s what they do — even the good, well-intentioned companies. On the one hand, putting childcare facilities in the workplace is wonderful and enlightened. On the other hand, it’s a nightmare — it just means you spend more time at the bloody office. We have to be responsible for setting and enforcing the boundaries that we want in our life. The third observation is we have to be careful with the time frame that we choose upon which to judge our balance. Before I went back to work after my year at home, I sat down and I wrote out a detailed, step-by-step description of the ideal balanced day that I aspired to. And it went like this: wake up well rested after a good night’s sleep. Have sex. Walk the dog. Have breakfast with my wife and children. Have sex again. (Laughter) Drive the kids to school on the way to the office. Do three hours’ work. Play a sport with a friend at lunchtime. Do another three hours’ work. Meet some mates in the pub for an early evening drink. Drive home for dinner with my wife and kids. Meditate for half an hour. Have sex. Walk the dog. Have sex again. Go to bed. (Applause) How often do you think I have that day? (Laughter) We need to be realistic. You can’t do it all in one day. We need to elongate the time frame upon which we judge the balance in our life, but we need to elongate it without falling into the trap of the “I’ll have a life when I retire, when my kids have left home, when my wife has divorced me, my health is failing, I’ve got no mates or interests left.” (Laughter) A day is too short; “after I retire” is too long. There’s got to be a middle way. A fourth observation: We need to approach balance in a balanced way. A friend came to see me last year — and she doesn’t mind me telling this story — a friend came to see me last year and said, “Nigel, I’ve read your book. And I realize that my life is completely out of balance. It’s totally dominated by work. I work 10 hours a day; I commute two hours a day. All of my relationships have failed. There’s nothing in my life apart from my work. So I’ve decided to get a grip and sort it out. So I joined a gym.” (Laughter) Now I don’t mean to mock, but being a fit 10-hour-a-day office rat isn’t more balanced; it’s more fit. (Laughter) Lovely though physical exercise may be, there are other parts to life — there’s the intellectual side; there’s the emotional side; there’s the spiritual side. And to be balanced, I believe we have to attend to all of those areas — not just do 50 stomach crunches. Now that can be daunting. Because people say, “Bloody hell mate, I haven’t got time to get fit. You want me to go to church and call my mother.” And I understand. I truly understand how that can be daunting. But an incident that happened a couple of years ago gave me a new perspective. My wife, who is somewhere in the audience today, called me up at the office and said, “Nigel, you need to pick our youngest son” — Harry — “up from school.” Because she had to be somewhere else with the other three children for that evening. So I left work an hour early that afternoon and picked Harry up at the school gates. We walked down to the local park, messed around on the swings, played some silly games. I then walked him up the hill to the local cafe, and we shared a pizza for two, then walked down the hill to our home, and I gave him his bath and put him in his Batman pajamas. I then read him a chapter of Roald Dahl’s “James and the Giant Peach.” I then put him to bed, tucked him in, gave him a kiss on his forehead and said, “Goodnight, mate,” and walked out of his bedroom. As I was walking out of his bedroom, he said, “Dad?” I went, “Yes, mate?” He went, “Dad, this has been the best day of my life, ever.” I hadn’t done anything, hadn’t taken him to Disney World or bought him a Playstation. Now my point is the small things matter. Being more balanced doesn’t mean dramatic upheaval in your life. With the smallest investment in the right places, you can radically transform the quality of your relationships and the quality of your life. Moreover, I think, it can transform society. Because if enough people do it, we can change society’s definition of success away from the moronically simplistic notion that the person with the most money when he dies wins, to a more thoughtful and balanced definition of what a life well lived looks like. And that, I think, is an idea worth spreading. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “How to make work-life balance work | Nigel Marsh”

  1. Having our tires balanced is of high importance without it we wear everything else out on our car and have a rough ride through life. We have many discussions on balancing career and family, our personal lives and work lives. We balance our checkbooks and finances, sometimes we call it balancing the books. Then of course we need to have a balanced diet and balance the nutrients we take in.
    Take a look at this sit (lifescalebalance),usefull info

  2. One of the definitions of happiness is a good balance between work and play but to really make it work you need to educate yourself in the art of self reliance so that you don't have to rely on others for your own levels of success and happiness. Live work and play your way!

  3. 2012 Thanksgiving I refused to work for only $1.50 more/hr. The boss got mad. He didn't fire me but threatened to report it to HR. I said I would work for time and a half and not less. I wasn't going to leave my friends to work a four hour shift for such little pay. Corporations will fire us for such things. To them we are commodities, not contributors. Without strong labor unions companies will continue to abuse us. Without strong unions Marsh's ideas can't become reality for the common man.

  4. The Rolex Oyster ad is truly ironic – how many kids haven't had their parents attention as Nigel describes because they were too busy chasing more additions to their lives such as a Rolex.

  5. A Rolex ad that's a third the length of a talk about self-fulfillment and pulling away from consumerism?
    Great placement…………….

  6. Hey there, have you heard about Pudgy Paycheck Secret? (Google it) You will learn about the serious crimes we commit against our financial lives. With Pudgy Paycheck Secret, you will discover how to make extra income fast.

  7. I read through most of the comments however I think that that's a solid clip. My cousin wishes to get perfect with chicks. He uncovered a fuck load from Master Attraction. (Google it if you want pretty good emails on picking up girls.) The help and advice concerned with how to get girls at night clubs in the emails through that website gave got him his very first lays in a few long years. I have been pissed though as I heard them all.

  8. Great talk. The bottom line is 'YOU' are responsible. We can do something about it if we are willing to.

  9. Not sure why this video gets so many thumbs up when there's no new info here (obviously corporations want to take as much as they can) and no solutions, or even suggestions beyond "set your own terms".

  10. Life sucks. My buddy has started going out with a ten as 2 months ago he registered to a website named Master Attraction (Google it if you desire to know more.) I'm so jealous because I wish to fall in love too. How come it's so difficult? I'm gonna take a look at this Jake Ayres man's stuff. Surprising point is, my friend used to have Zero luck with girls. How do you transform that quickly? His lady's a fucking model…

  11. Bhalateyara once said, believe that only when the confidence level is believed to be without any reason. Trust in Almighty God, that life in the dark at the moment to help you. I believe you are the stroke and heart open to the public. Dark cave it in front of you to proceed with confidence in the bales and courageous.
    Effective action full preference choose a word, I trust that you will create. Quote your wallet or expandability save.

  12. Let’s get it out there. I’m jealous with regards to my brother. He has actually been alone permanently. But, he’s managed to get a part-time model to tell him she is head over heels in love with him in less than a thirty day period. Just how is that possible? He mentioned he obtained the Cupid Love System (Google it!) I wish someone wonderful told me that… I cannot recall ever seeing him so cheerful. Sort of makes me sick.

  13. Greatest Video!

    i figured out that i was spending a lot of time on only few roles using "iRoles" iPhone app and it reminded me to make sure i do justice to all roles, not just as worker

  14. "If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their Fathers conquered…I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies… The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs." – Thomas Jefferson

    Thomas Jefferson warned us yet the issuing power was never taken from the banks.  The banks and corporations have grown up around us and now we live in a fascist world where it's all about the money.  What are we working for, slavery?  85 people own over half the world's wealth. 

    Working tirelessly we spend our entire lives living paycheck to paycheck working jobs we hate in an endless pursuit of paper while completely dependent upon the system manufactured around us.  Since 1913 the dollar has been devalued over 97%.  Two people in a household now have to work full time just to keep their heads above water.  We have become accustomed to drudge our lives away in the grind so the wealthy can reap the fruits of our labor and live fabulous lifestyles.  They use our energy to build and maintain the very machine that controls us.  We are constantly on the hamster wheel attempting to win a rat race with no finish line.  We are slaves living in a prison without bars.

    Take the power away from these banks and corporations that control our governments.  Stop allowing them to control and manipulate our money.  Put an end to the fractional reserve banking system that allows the banks to create money out of nothing.  No more fiat currencies.  Break these chains of bondage that maintain our subservient status.  Let's take our freedom back.

  15. Balancing work and family life is hard. Your family tends to get neglected. Change that by doing something simple like eating supper as a family everyday. This helps bring each member closer just by seeing each other at the end of a long day.

  16. i think for work, it should be short but more productive. less working hours but more output. : )
    some people spend more time at work (9 to 10 hours) but less productive.

  17. Nie pozwól innym projektować Twojego życia i przekraczać Twoich granic. To małe czynności mają znaczenie dla równowagi. Bywa, że  lepszy krótki spacer, niż narzucony dzień wolny.

  18. 12-14 hour work days Monday through Friday yeah thats a real killer thats why I had to leave my last job , 9-10 hours is nothing that would be great I would still have time to be with my family and hang out

  19. Be a slave to your job in order to buy crap you don't need to impress people you don't like….. and then the Rolex commercial comes on…. damn that's a nice watch,,, wait a minute is this some kind of sick joke? Pretty bold move Rolex, well played. 

  20. I think a life well lived is making a dent in the your world. An Impact. Finding something you love to do, and sharing that with the world without fear of what they think.  Giving back to life, improving the quality of life , and being the best version of ourselves how we bring more life to our lives.  Instead of seeing all the absurdity and chaos, what can you do to make our world a better place?.  I think this is an Idea worth spreading, worth loving , and being passionate about?.

  21. "There's no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences."
    Jack Welch

  22. This guy has the guts to refuse compromise in his well being and that of his family, the guts to stand up for himself and go his own way. And if you don't have that as a human being it's probable that at the end of your life you'll feel like nothing you did during it really had any worth.

  23. this really helps you look at work differently. It's so easy to get sucked into the corporate workaholic ratrace and not even realize what you're sacrificing just to make two insignificant people at work say "good job". I show this video to all my workaholic colleagues.

  24. I LOVE the day he described with his son. I took the time during lunch today to watch a TED Talk episode, some days I read a chapter in a book (big fan of Roald Dahl's short stories), and other days I watch cartoons or something having to do with the industry I'm in but is refreshing and inspires my life and/or work. One of my coworkers goes ice-skating in Millennium Park during break. I think that is what Marsh is getting at – engaging in tiny yet meaningful experiences that enrich your well-being on an emotional, intellectual, and physical level on a day-to-day basis. Be purposeful in all that you do whether it be leisure time or work. The answers are there in his talk. 🙂

  25. the answer is : work your way to where you are able to live your life in the most comfortable condition, but in most cases, the way to get there is involving years of praising hard labor and discomfortable work life until you are capable of designing your own life.

  26. So well said Nigel – loved all your ideas – especially about the small things it takes to really change our world!

  27. i work everyday even on saturdays and sundays but still gets thrashing from everyone for not working. I study for as much time in a day i can but due to low grades my parents and teachers think i'm not doing anything. plz suggest me what should i do. anyone

  28. When Nigel said there are some fundamentally incompatible job choices for work-life balance, I wonder what those jobs were? But anyways, a friend of mine told me that if you want work-life balance, you're the one that needs to make it happen…. every job will make you give more and at some point you need to put your foot down or find another job. Like he said, you need to design your life… that might be scary & maybe uncomfortable at first, but if you don't, then the corporations will do it for you.

  29. Availing an expert's assistance for offloading stress is a nifty way to strike the balance. Using modern resources like Virtual Assistance is helpful

  30. "People are working long hard hours at jobs they hate, to earn money to buy things they don't need, to impress people they don't like" -That just hit home

  31. Hello everyone. I have created this video on work life balance and in the video I show how you can create more time for your personal life. Here is the link, check it out and do leave your comments

  32. I hate the expression "work-life balance", which was emphasised in almost every sentence of the speech. Most of us have to spend the best part of the day at work and we hate working for that reason.
    I would like much more the expression "balance-at-work", because everyone needs money (by everyone I mean everyone, who needs to work for money). We should be looking for a way to create and maintain harmony with our coworkers, customers, bosses as far as possible. Of course we should try to be also more creative and tolerate changes, ect. Finally, your husband or wife would be happy to bring positive energy at home, instead of exhausted, bored face.

  33. It is definitely true how the life well lived should look like, isn't it? 🙂 I think it's a good idea to aspire to something like this.

  34. So true. America does not support us the way other countries do. We definitely need to take accountability for designing our own lives.

  35. Interesting take on navigating work and life! Thought you'd be interested to hear my take on work-life balance: Feedback would be much appreciated.

  36. This is so inspiring. We always make sure to give some time to each other as we are committed to have a wonderful life together. We can't let our corporate jobs ruin that as we won't get this time back. Three Cheers for Nigel!

  37. I have found it's even harder for those of us that work from home. We don't have a clear distinction between work and personal life when it's only one room away. It takes a real diligence of aligning out actions with our values on a CONSISTENT basis – I actually look at my schedule at least once a week to ensure I'm aligning it with my values and my needs.

  38. He's just saying what everyone thinks, now he's getting paid for it and is maintaining his work/ life balance through this new career.

  39. Certain jobs especially in engineering and operations are very difficult to do with a young family that needs your attention.. some jobs can't be done in 7 hours.. especially if you are looking to excel in your workplace..

    Everyone has their own definition of "quality of life". You need to then work towards building that.
    "Commercial companies are designed to get them most out of you.. " it's by choice that you choose to work for those organizations. Define what goals you are working to meet and by when and design your life around that…

  40. I wish he'd touched on the concept of having to be available 24/7 for your job. This, as seems to me, is the biggest corporate crime against humanity.

  41. I like the ideas about the perfect balance day i think once you write it down you are more able to maintain your most likly work balance

  42. Someone gave me a job offer with salary 300000 a year. But it is going to consume my life. There will be no days off. A working day is irregular shift with 12 hours plus.
    I may end up with divorce. My children is not going to know who I am.

  43. 4 love making sessions with the wife and 6 hours of work in 3 hour increments per day. Best work-life balance model I've heard of. I applaud this man.

  44. Does anyone else think that these people behind the second row are just a screen filming people? My argument is perspective and light. (at 0:34)

  45. Curious to know about any entrepreneurs here that struggle with stress. I'm a big believer of self care and would love to know more about what causes your stress for my research.

    As an entrepreneur, what are the 2 main issues you are facing with stress?

    Regarding stress, what do you want more than anything else?

    Looking forward to hearing your answers, thanks in advance and very grateful for any help!

  46. I've watched it and still don't know how to balance my work and life? It's a pity he didn't say what he would advise his friend who joined the gym, what some better options would be for her?

  47. There is a thin line of difference between employee satisfaction and employee engagement. It is important to understand the difference between the two to ensure that your practices are channeled in the right direction. Know more about employee satisfaction and drive motivation and productivity the right way through this blog.

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