Work-life balance, Mark Watney style

Over the past months I got really excited about The Martian, both the movie and the book… But I mean, who hasn’t? It’s one of those super believable sci-fi stories with an awesome character in an incredible setup and lots of SCIENCE. What could be better than that? But ok, nerd side aside, what does this even have to do with achieving work-life balance? Let me give you a little bit of context:

I recently moved to a new city, moved in with my wife into a new apartment (new for us at least) with a garden and started a new job. Also I have a super short commute (compared to my previous 3hr/day), so I suddenly found myself with way more time in my hands. I got excited thinking about all the things I was going to do with that time but sadly, what I’ve noticed is that, since my work is really engaging and interesting I let it took many more of those extra hours I thought I had available. Two months in and now I find myself barely having any time to come back home, have dinner and go to bed just to repeat it all over again. But this has to stop. And here’s when Mark Watney comes into play. I’m gonna science the shit out of it.

I love the mental process that Mark Watney is supposed to have. Very engineer-y. Maybe too engineer-y, but it just makes a lot of sense and I love when things make a lot of sense. So, following this process, here’s an attempt of calculating my work-life balance.

As I understand it, work life balance is achieved when time spent on things related to life is greater than the time spent on things related to work, or:


= Time spent in a life-related activity, and

= Time spent in a work-related activity

So first I have to list all the things I “need to”, “have to” and “want to” do with my time every week. Then I can prioritize them and allocate some time to them. So, let’s see…

Need to’s:

  • Work – 8hr/ day = 40hr/week
  • Eat – 2hr/day (all meals accounted) = 14hr/week
  • Sleep – 8hr/day = 40hr/week
  • Shower and bathroom – 1hr (total/day) = 7hr/week

Have to’s:

  • Cook/Bake (I “have to” eat, right?) – 1hr = 7hr/week
  • House chores  (cleaning, laundry, dishes, etc) – .5hr = 3.5hr/week
  • Personal finances – 1hr/ week
  • Commute – 1hr/day = 5hr/week

Want to’s:

  • Wife time – As much as possible
  • Family time (parents, siblings) – 1hr/week
  • Friends time (drinks, anybody?) – 6hr/week
  • Gardening – 4hr/week
  • Exercise (Parkour, Martial arts, gym) – 1hr/day = 7hr/week
  • Tinkering (oh so many projects) – 5hr/week
  • Read – .5hr/day = 3.5hr/week
  • Travel

So, all these together add up to 144hr/week plus “as much time as possible” shared with my wife, plus whatever time I have for short trips. Granted, most of the things I do at home I’m sharing them with my wife, but let’s say I want to spend a good whole hour with her every day as quality time in addition to whatever else we might be sharing. So all accounted for adds up to 151hr/week.

A week has 168hr so I still have 17hr of free time every week, or 2.4hr every day in which I should find myself having nothing to do! Now, as you may have noticed, exercising is part of the “want to’s” since I honestly am slowly turning into the quintessential couch potato, so that means that I have an extra free hour a day, or 3.4hrs every day that I should have nothing to do. Where the hell are those hours? It’s almost a whole day (23.8hr) every week that I’m losing somewhere somehow! I could be traveling one day every week, I could be taking a class, I could be training so hard! But I just don’t have time for it. What am I missing? I barely use the internet at home, just maybe to watch an episode here and there or a movie on the weekends, but those hours fall into the “as much time as possible” with my wife… maybe we watch too much TV??

Some of it might just be how the schedule gets “forced” by the course of the sun (day/night) and how that forces some activities to happen at specific times, but still… a whole day a week? Come on!

So, what I need to do now is really commit to my allocated times, especially the time allocated to the office, and see what happens. I might be able to put some extra hour here and there at the office, but can’t keep working 10, 12, 14hr days. I’m just going to burn out and I really like this job. Also, it’s going to be really cool to see me exercising seriously 1hr a day every day. Hooray for fitness!

That being said, it’s time for bed (commitment to the schedule, remember?). I guess I should also allocate some time a week for writing posts. Oh I have so many drafts that I need to finish! (or is it a “want to”?)

Am I a space pirate now?


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