It's a cloudy Wednesday morning as I muddle my way through morning Silicon Valley traffic. Having a reverse commute makes the drive less painful, compared to the myriad of commuters heading in the opposite direction. My cellphone is blinking with a list of things to do, that are a combination of work tasks combined with personal things to get done. Call a vendor. Pick up milk on way home. Have new equipment in-house by Friday. Get dog groomed and nails clipped. Through my years as an employee I have slowly but steadily watched my life shift from a two-lane road that was work life and home life, into one big interlaced pattern, where the two facets overlap and sometimes even drive each other. More and more people are finding that their personal lives and their career lives are becoming one in the same.
The catalyst for this new paradigm varies from person to person. In my case, my career as a startup person meant that I had to make my work personal. Startup people are, in effect, part owners of the company, in terms of time, effort, and risk. You can't be in a startup company and just watch while the company evolves around you, like you can in a big company. There is no getting lost in a startup, and it forces you to take ownership of your role and your outcome.
But for many people, the idea of mixing work life and personal life is taboo. Sharing mental time between the two feels very foreign and very counter-intuitive to those who see work as little more than a way to pay bills. I have always wondered why people take such great efforts to keep work out of their personal space. I have experienced people who have a work persona is so different from their real personality that they have to separate the two to keep track of their efforts during the day. Being two people is a lot of work, after all.
I have also experienced the "actor"; the person who purposely acts one way at work -- very professional and polite -- and then transforms into a t-shirt and jeans/beer in hand person when the work day is done. I think a lot of people do this as a natural response to work, where the work environment dictates that clothing and personal hygiene force you to leave your flip-flops and cargo short at home.
But just because you wear a suit and tie doesn't mean that you can't mix work and personal time/space. As they say, "it's all in your mind." In some ways, allowing your brain to blend your career and your home life take away the burden of separating the two. It opens your mind to being more relaxed, and it also allows you to be creative in a way that a work-only mindset would only hinder. You could fix reports the same way that you fix leaky faucets, so to speak.
My commute ends in a small town south of San Jose, California, with my phone still blinking it's reminders of things to do, and tasks to complete. I have to laugh when I see the guy with the suit and tie, laptop in one hand, smartphone in the other, fielding emails and phone calls like a madman, because I realize that I'm getting done about as much as he is. Combining career and personal life means that there is no mental separation, which means that either can be handled the same way.
So I can take care of a $500,000 piece of equipment for work, while making an appointment to get my dog groomed...
It's good to be balanced...