‘Work/life balance’. An empty phrase we’re all meant to achieve. I thought it meant keeping your job on the desk and working a 35-hour week.

When my friends work long hours, I worry. Ali is a commodity trader who views an hour lunch break as a ‘luxury’. Nathan is a personal trainer seeing clients 45 hours every week. Chris travels across Essex to cut hair at home and in his barbershop. Other friends are ‘really busy at work’ so we weren’t able to have a #TacheTalk.

Nathan, a personal trainer in Essex
Those working styles are alien to me. I clock off at 5pm, forget about work and go home to bake a cake, do the washing, blog, catch up on Lorraine, have a friend round for dinner, buy Christmas decorations, run, race through the latest read for book club, spend half an hour writing a birthday card and sleep.
OK, that’s more accurately one week rather than one day. I’m not busy with long hours at work, but busy with long hours after work and you probably are too. How we use our finite time is dominated by demands to keep living, the pressure we place on ourselves and a fear of missing out. The clocks we set ourselves can feel constraining.

Allow your passions and priorities to guide your time. The passion Ali, Nathan and Chris have for their chosen careers is obvious, inspiring and beautiful. They love their work, and are appropriately rewarded for it. ‘Long hours’ aren’t the burden or worry I painted for them. Inevitably there are overlaps and compromises. Nathan recently won a men’s regional physique competition, but turned down his place in the final as his family came first at that time.

Let’s ditch work/life balance. It’s a poor shorthand that suggests a false dichotomy and a divide between the ‘balanced’ and ‘unbalanced’. I want to stop judging my friends for how long they work and focus on my own busyness. If it’s not a passion or a priority, if it’s not helping me stay happy and healthy, why am I doing it?

John with his American Football

My friend John has a good outlook. When I talked with him about being busy, he offered this view: ‘What do I do with my time? This is my chance to leave more than just DVDs and books for my children to take to charity shops.’

You can see everyone I’ve talked to and donate to Movember here
Tomorrow: Fantasies and realities