For those who live and work in the Washington, D.C. area, striving for a more effective and efficient balancing acts between their careers, family, and personal life, is the norm. As with any major city, the busy and bustling pace of life can become overwhelming and demanding on an individual or family. In a recent article in the New York Times, author, Tim Krieder, wrote about the hectic pace in the life of the average American, and the often self-imposed obligations and stresses they are putting on themselves. Kreider notes:

“Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. I once knew a woman who interned at a magazine where she wasn’t allowed to take lunch hours out, lest she be urgently needed for some reason. This was an entertainment magazine whose raison d’être was obviated when “menu” buttons appeared on remotes, so it’s hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of institutional self-delusion. More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.”

A pretty harsh assessment, and a particularly offensive one to many in the Washington, D.C. area, who pride themselves on being employed in jobs where they "make a difference." In the nation’s capital, many people are employed by federal agencies, either as federal employees or contractors. Working for high-stress, high-energy organizations, such as the Department of Defense, can include very long hours and irregular schedules. Attempting to achieve balance and maintain equilibrium in a high pressure job can require a great deal of insight and understanding into the nature of the work, and the requirements of specific jobs. It begs the question, even if the job is vital to national security, should it demand a schedule that leads to exhaustion?

In any job situation, it is important to understand the scope of the particular role and gauge the expectations for the position. Advanced ability and understanding of time management skills, and the ability to perform in a role, is crucial for deciding if a job is the right fit for any interested applicant. Learning how to set expectations is a vital proficiency for any professional. An honest and truthful assessment of the job specifics is the best way to know if it is the right match.

Realistically, busyness is a normal and expected part of life, but becoming overwhelmed by work and neglecting family or personal life is a sure way to reach a level of job burn-out. Being a seasoned and dedicated professional does not mean working to excess or feeling anxious or guilty during times of rest or relaxation. The ability and preparation required to perform a job should be in sync with an individual’s skill-set and level of experience. In that way, the person will be able to do their job with ease and make more time for other activities outside of work.

Even those individuals at the highest levels of industry or government need breaks and vacations from their jobs. Ambition and the desire to achieve are not cancelled out because a person takes time to enjoy the fruits of their labors. As the author points out in the last sentence of the article: “Life is too short to be busy.”

Diana M. Rodriguez is a native Washingtonian who currently works as a professional writer, blogger, social media expert, commentator, editor and public affairs practitioner. Diana previously worked as an editor and senior communications analyst for the Department of Defense.

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Diana M. Rodriguez is a native Washingtonian who works as a professional freelance writer, commentator, and blogger; as well as a public affairs, website content and social media manager for the Department of Defense.