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Why you should stop living to work

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Step back for a moment. Do you ever wonder if you work so much that you’ve barely got time to live? In today’s fast-paced, high-demand world, it can be difficult to find time to pursue the things you love in your ever-vanishing free time.

What happens when you’re the head of a successful company and need more time away from your desk? And are there ways we can learn to work to live, rather than live to work? These are topics LinkedIn Influencers weighed in on this month. Here’s what two of them had to say.

Mohamed El-Erian, former chief executive officer at PIMCO

When you’re the chief executive of one of the biggest investment firms in the world, work can be all-consuming. That’s something El-Erian learned the hard way a year ago, he wrote in his post The Moment That Made Me Realise I Was Working Too Much. His daughter had presented him with “a list that she had compiled of her important events and activities that I had missed due to work commitments,” he wrote. “Talk about a wake-up call. The list contained 22 items, from her first day at school and first soccer match of the season to a parent-teacher meeting and a Halloween parade.”

“I had a good excuse for each missed event! Travel, important meetings, an urgent phone call, sudden to-dos,” El-Erian wrote. “But it dawned on me that I was missing an infinitely more important point. As much as I could rationalise it — as I had rationalised it — my work-life balance had gotten way out of whack.”

It’s a problem that many working parents experience, and work-life balance was something PIMCO had been devoting more time to, he wrote. But that wasn’t enough for El-Erian’s personal situation. “I decided to make a major professional change,” he wrote.

“I left… PIMCO and instead opted for a portfolio of part-time jobs that requires a lot less travel and offers a ton more flexibility — enough, I hope, to allow me to experience with my daughter more of those big and little moments that make up each day,” he wrote. “I am incredibly fortunate to be able to structure my life in this way.”

Not everyone has this luxury, of course, wrote El-Erian. But, “hopefully, as companies give more attention to the importance of work-life balance, more and more people will be in a better position to decide and act more holistically on what’s important to them.”

James Caan, chief executive officer at Hamilton Bradshaw Group

The discussion around balancing work and life has been more prominent in recent years, wrote Caan in his post Working to Live or Living to Work? “The fact that we have just been through the longest and deepest recession in living memory has also meant that the workplace is now more competitive than it has ever been” he wrote. “Everyone is having to go the extra mile to prove their commitment and justify their role.”

But if you’re living to work, what happens? Is it only your life that suffers, or also your work?

 “No one can survive for long if they are completely obsessed by work; that route will only lead to increased stress levels and can ultimately be counter-productive,” Caan wrote. It’s also healthy to take time to contemplate, he wrote. “Taking a step back to reflect on your achievements and note where you can improve is a critical part of any good career plan.”

As a boss Caan expects his employees to bring maximum productivity to their work. But at the same time, “it's good to have something else to focus on rather than just the office,” he wrote. Perhaps the most important aspect of a smart work and life balance, wrote Caan, “is how you actually view your job. Is it something you enjoy or do you see it as a burden?”