Mastering the Work Life Shuffle


Chief Master Sgt. Daniel Tester, 50th Mission Support Group chief enlisted manager. (Courtesy photo)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Balance in all things is the key to happiness and health, at least that is what we are led to believe. Many people talk about the same thing when it comes to your relationship between work and life, but I’m here to tell you that the word “balance” may not be the correct term. Balance, by its very definition is “having different parts or elements properly or effectively arranged, proportioned, regulated, equally considered, etc.”

The issue is when it comes to work-life versus personal-life there are rarely equal shares of time and consideration given between the two, with normal life usually coming up on the short end of the stick. Just by sheer numbers alone, we spend more time at work than we do with our families, unless you count sleeping. True balance of time is not an attainable goal, to me, it’s more of a constant work-life shuffle.

So, what does that mean? Does work life shuffle mean it is impossible to have a life outside of work and be successful in your career as well? Many people share that view, and develop an all-or-nothing mentality tipped toward one side of the scale or the other. Meaning, some people will stay at work countless hours, then take work home and stay on their phone because they feel that is what is expected or they place that pressure on themselves.

People tell me all the time, “there is no way I would ever want to be a chief, I enjoy spending time with my family too much.”

Are there additional time burdens with certain positions? Yes, but regardless of your rank or position every individual has to make the choice on how to divide their time. Maybe it means you spent a little more time playing “Fortnite” or “Call of Duty” last night so today you have to not play at all and study your Career Development Courses, or do some extra cardio at the gym because you skipped yesterday.

This is no different with work. There are days where you need to shut down your computer and go home early so you don’t miss that soccer game or dance recital. There are days when you will get home and still have work to do on your computer, but it may just mean taking the time to sit down to read a story real quick or play superheroes or play catch for 15 minutes. Now, that may mean you are going to stay up a little later working on that Enlisted Performance Report or awards package or come in early the next day, but that’s the shuffle.

It will never be balanced, but when it comes to work life and personal life it really is more about quality versus quantity. Go to that game, sit down and play “Madden,” hang out with that friend who is in town visiting; don’t miss those things you always said you would never miss, just make sure you shuffle afterwards.

You only get one life to live so make sure you are making the time for the activities and people you love. The truth is there is no perfect equation for this shuffle and you will get it wrong from time to time and that’s OK, you learn, you adjust, and you move on.