A few months ago I was touring a marketing and advertising agency with a group of design students. The students were looking towards completing their program and evaluating potential employment opportunities. One of the students asked the woman giving the tour “Can you tell me about the work/life balance here?” “HA! There isn’t any. You are here to work.”

The honesty was surprising.

The more I thought about it though, that seems right. If you are starting in a new industry you shouldn’t expect to have balance. You are entering into a new environment, with new processes and as such have much to learn. You should be working towards regaining your balance, towards becoming efficient again. And this will need extra hours and reprioritizing life for some time to do so.

But it shouldn’t be this way for the entirety of your career. At some point things should balance themselves out. We adapt to the flows of work. We get efficient with our processes. We learn to do more effective work in less time and we rediscover our balance.

But should we settle for balance?

As professionals we should be striving for positive work/life imbalance. We should work towards professional efficiency to allow room for personal enjoyment.

Here’s how I’m currently trying to work towards this.

Getting proficient with tools.
As a user experience(UX) designer there is emphasis on a build/test/iterate cycle on production. Knowing your tools and how best to use them saves time. Over the past six months I’ve moved from a Adobe CC toolkit, to a Sketch/Invision workflow. The time saved has been incredible.

Taking on work that is remote friendly and/or offers flex time.
I’ve worked with remote companies before. And in my experience it’s been great. Doing so allows for maximizing productivity when it is at it’s peak. I tend to be a morning person, meaning I’m more productive in the morning hours so that’s when I try to get work done.

Taking time to invest in interests.
If I’m getting the majority of my day’s work done in the morning, the afternoon is free to focus on other things. I take this opportunity to explore hobbies and learn new skills. I don’t wait to learn when I need to, I try to learn over time.

This is an interesting and developing concept that could be beneficial to professionals. I’ll be exploring it more to see how I can use it in the coming year.