My Healthy Work Life Balance Secret

We’re working longer and harder. At least we can work healthier.

WeWork asked me to write about how I try to make my work life balance healthy. Here’s what I do:

A major cause of stress is lack of control. I have crafted my work life to give me a lot of control. Notably, I’ve chosen to be self-employed, which gives me more freedom to do what I want when I want. That means maximizing time on tasks I’m good at and enjoy doing (counseling, writing, being on the radio, giving talks) on issues I know a lot about (career and education).  I don’t have to spend much time on things I’m bad at–like working on a team.

I work long hours because I believe that work-week hours 40 to 60+ are more wisely spent being productive than on what I’d otherwise be doing. I try to avoid the health risks of working long hours by trying not to rush or get angry.  Being self-employed creates an environment that makes it easier to go slow-and-steady and avoid situations likely to make me angry.

I also reduce stress by working at home: no stressful commute, and home is about as relaxing a place as exists: I set up my office exactly as I like: in a room with lots of windows, that’s quiet, with lots of plants. And I can take little breaks for gardening, playing the piano, and with my doggie, Einstein.

I try, not always successfully, to follow the new rule: Get out of your chair at least five minutes every hour. To facilitate that, I do my own housekeeping, laundry, etc.. And because I have a dog, I take him on frequent walks.

I am honest. If I believe a prospective client doesn’t need to hire me, for example, if a bit of free advice is what feels appropriate, I always do that. If I feel I can’t champion a particular client, I won’t work with him or her. If I believe a client would be better served by another career counselor, I make the referral. That all is de-stressing and thus healthy.

In my client sessions, I balance seriousness with humor. And as appropriate I’ll take them out to my garden or play the piano for them.

I try to eat frequent small relatively healthy meals. Typical day: Coffee and croissant at 9 AM. Plain yogurt with fruit added at 11. A salad with some tuna fish at 1, etc.  But I occasionally cheat and take myself out for, for example, an Indian buffet lunch, but try to keep the carbs and high-calorie sauces to a minimum.

For me, at least, that seems to be working. I’ll be 65 in June and have as much energy as ever, and in my most recent physical exam, my doctor, as usual, gave me a clean bill of health.

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© Copyright 2015 Marty Nemko, Ph.D., All rights Reserved.
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Named the San Francisco Bay Area's "Best Career Coach," Marty Nemko has been career and personal coach to 4,500 clients and enjoys a 96% client-satisfaction rate. The author of seven books (250,000 copies sold) including How to Do Life: What They Didn’t Teach You in School plus over 2,000(!) published articles, including on where he also writes, Marty Nemko is in his 26th year as host of Work with Marty Nemko on KALW-FM (NPR-San Francisco.) He was the one man in a one-man PBS-TV Pledge Drive Special. Marty Nemko holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of California, Berkeley and subsequently taught there. He is married to Barbara Nemko, the Napa County Superintendent of Schools. They have one daughter and one doggie: Einstein, whose name is false advertising: He's dumb as dirt but sweet as they come. The archive of Marty Nemko's writings and radio show plus an active blog and Twitter stream are at