Working more than 40 hours a week seems normal today - at least in the US. My clients tell me they consistently work into the night and over weekends. Blackberries and other smart phones enable employees to be on call at any hour day or night. It has become an accepted way of life here. Is it healthy?

The latest research shows that working too many hours is not good for your health. The research, published online in the "European Heart Journal", found that, compared with people who did not work overtime, people who worked ten or more hours a day had a 60 percent higher risk of heart-related problems such as death due to heart disease, nonfatal heart attacks and angina.

What happens to finding the balance between work and leisure when people work over 60 plus hours a week? I attended a meeting in which work-life balance was the topic of the discussion. For those with children who were present at the meeting working and having other family responsibilities is an important and difficult issue.

No one there considered health issues (except maybe how to go to pediatrician appointments during the day). They were merely trying to find the balance that allowed them to care for the family and stay gainfully employed. It is not easy. For some working part time is an answer. For others setting firm boundaries is another.

One woman told of picking up her child at daycare at 5:30pm and having her phone ring just as they were walking home. She answered the phone and told the colleague at the other end that she was with her child so she could not talk but would call the colleague back in the morning. That is a firm boundary.

Others might choose to work and care for the child at the same time. Having half your attention on the work and half on the child is not a very satisfactory solution. Depending on what is going on with each, your work or your child might be in jeopardy.

There are no simple solutions to this. If you think I have the answer, guess again. Managers are consistently expecting employees to work beyond 5 pm. New work is piled on at the end of the day with the expectation that it will be completed during the next day or sometimes immediately. It is hard to get everything into 40 hours. So 40 hours of work a week becomes the new "part time".

One suggestion I make to my clients is to have a planning session every week preferably on Friday afternoon. Look at what deadlines are ahead for you and decide what you need to do during the next week. Make a "to do" and then fill in the items on your list in the open times on your calendar.

This may not make your number of hours fewer but if you make and follow a schedule you will be more efficient. Consistently doing this may make you more confident when you negotiate time frames with your employer. You will also become aware of how much time is wasted between activities. All of that can help to make your hours more reasonable. Keeping your work hours in check will contribute to a healthier and happier life and maybe even to achieving that elusive work-life balance.

Take Action

1. What does work-life balance look like for you? To achieve your desired "balance" when would you have to leave work?

2. Make a schedule for next week using the time you would like to leave work as the end time of your day.

3. Assess how scheduling worked for you at the end of the first week. What must you do to improve your scheduling?

4. Schedule the next week using what you have learned.

Author's Bio: 

Alvah Parker is a Practice Advisor (The Attorneys’ Coach) and a Career Changers’ Coach as well as publisher of Parker’s Points, an email tip list and Road to Success, an ezine. Subscribe now to these free monthly publications at her website http://www.asparker.com/samples.html Parker’s Value Program© enables her clients to find their own way to work that is more fulfilling and profitable. Her clients are attorneys and people in transition who want to find work that is in line with their own life purpose. Alvah is found on the web at http://www.asparker.com. She may also be reached at 781-598-0388 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              781-598-0388      end_of_the_skype_highlighting.