According to the OECD Better Life Index, the Netherlands is the country with the best work-life balance globally. In Holland, only 0.4% of all employees work long hours. Also, the average Dutch employee spends more time on personal care and leisure activities than at work. Finally, the Netherlands has clear gender-equality policies, making it easier for women to find employment than in any other nation in Europe.
But what makes up a good work-life balance, especially for a woman? Is it having as much free time as possible? Is it working for eight hours a day, sleeping for another eight, and spending time on hobbies and other leisure activities the remaining hours?
Answers to these questions are not straightforward. Perhaps the best one is it depends. It depends on what kind of life you want and how much you are willing to sacrifice for it. Are you willing to work very hard now, so you don’t have to later on? Would you rather not work as hard but do so for a longer period?
No matter your specific views, finding a balance in your life starts with planning for retirement, establishing clear long-term goals, and enjoying what you have now.
Planning for Retirement
Retirement is much more than not working any longer. For example, retiring from AT&T and other multinational corporations entails a detailed process, one you should start looking into as soon as you join the workforce. As a rule of thumb, it is best to work with a retirement planning services firm. A reputable one will not only answer any questions you might have but also guide you on the most suitable course of action to guarantee a prosperous future life.
The main reason you should think about it as early as possible is time, the absence of it. Your working-life is limited, particularly if you are a female. As such, important questions to ask yourself are:
- At what age am I planning to retire?
- What can I do to make sure this is possible?
- Do I know the retirement policies of my company or organization?
- What investment options does my 401k provide?
- Do I have an estimate of my post-retirement expenses, including maintenance and healthcare?
Even though these questions might seem premature, it doesn’t hurt to think about them early.
The Importance of Long-term Goals
A goal is not a goal unless there is a detailed plan on how to achieve it. Most people fail to lose weight not because they are lazy or weak. It’s because they don’t know the proper way to do it. They don’t have a blueprint to follow and clear guidelines on how to follow it.
If you want to succeed in whatever you do, start by drawing the path that will take you there. Most importantly, be clear about what you want to accomplish in the years you have. If you don’t know, take the time to ask yourself. What is important to me? Do I want to have children and be a young mother? Do I first want to focus on my career and then engage in a meaningful relationship? How important is finding a husband?
Once these questions are answered, you can then set long-term goals. One example is I want to stop working full-time and start a family by the time I am 35. Another could be “my goal is to buy a house before I’m 40 and learn at least two more languages.”
Knowing what you want will let you create the most comprehensible scheme to get it.
Living in the Present
We’ve seen how important it is to look at the future and prepare yourself for what you might encounter. Still, the present is just as important, maybe even more valuable. The years you have now, you will never get back. Your physical strength and mental ability will never be as great as in your youth.
So take the time to enjoy your life, to be a bit reckless, but not too much. Make a conscious effort to relax, spend time doing what you like, build friendships and other relationships, be sexy, and laugh. This is why it is called a balance, finding harmony between doing what you need to do and what you want. If the scale is too heavy on either side, the entire system will collapse.
Having a proper work-life balance is hard. There are plenty of responsibilities we have in our lives. We have to work and make money to survive. At the same time, we need to take care of our spouses, children, and parents.
Yet, it is also not impossible to achieve. By thinking about the future while staying focused right here on the present, we are on the right path. Who knows, we can all soon be like the Dutch.