Work-Life Balance In UX Design


Many people new to UX design wonder if it offers good work-life balance. I’ve been working part-time from home for over a decade, so I say an emphatic yes! In this post I’ll share some tips and strategies that you can use as you craft your own path towards work-life balance.

Work-Life Balance Is A Myth

Wait a minute. Didn’t I just say UX design offers good work-life balance? Yes, it does – but according to my definition, which is unique to me and my family.

Your mileage may vary depending on your situation. In other words, before you can decide if a UX design career offers good work-life balance, you have to define what it means for you.

With that disclaimer out of the way, the reason I say it’s a myth is because for me it’s never perfect and it’s unrealistic to expect that. There is no imaginary teeter-totter with an ideal balance point between work and life. The two constantly intersect and intertwine from moment to moment.

Juggling Motherhood and Work

Here’s a typical example. Last week I was working on a huge proposal for a new client while making lunch for my daughter. She was home sick from school but the proposal still needed to go out on time. If I was an employee I could just take a sick day and not worry about work. But I’m not an employee. I’m a business owner.

Yesterday she had a dentist appointment in the morning, so I wasn’t able to start my work day until after lunch. Was that ok? Heck yeah!

What’s Your Vision Of A Perfect Day?

As an independent UX consultant I own my schedule most days, which is most important to me. Unless I’m up against a tight deadline, I choose what to work on and when to work on it.

Think about what a perfect day would look like for you. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What time do you want/need to get up in the morning?
  • What sort of UX design projects do you want to pursue?
  • Do you want to work on a team or independently?
  • Do you want to work remotely or in an office?
  • What about travel? If yes, how often and where to?
  • What activities outside of work do you want to participate in?
  • When does your family need you to be available?
  • What is the time commitment for everything on your list?

If you have a family, healthy meal preparation takes time. The time needed to do it must be accounted for if it’s going to be a priority.

And not just the time needed to prepare and serve the meals. Somebody has to go grocery shopping, so include that as part of your routine or share the responsibility with your significant other.

Likewise, everyone needs time for self-care and exercise. Super-mom (or dad) or not, at the end of the day you are human. You will function far more effectively with a good night’s sleep, daily exercise and a healthy diet. Trust me, this becomes even more important as you get older.

But What If You Are Employed Full-Time?

You won’t have nearly as much freedom as a full-time employee in any job. It’s just not possible due to the requirement to be available 40+ hours each week. But it is possible to negotiate things that are important to you.

For example, when my daughter was younger and I was working full-time, I asked to pick her up from school 3 days a week and work from home the balance of the day. I made sure I was super productive at home so my boss would be ok with it. It worked out pretty well and my husband picked up on alternate days.

I also had a network of other working moms in the neighborhood I could call on if necessary, which helped a lot. It really does take a village when you have young children.

Gaining Time Freedom Takes Work

If you decide to go the independent route, don’t assume it will be a walk in the park. Just as you might allocate resources for a given work project, it’s useful to do the same thing for your personal and work time.

My calendar is my lifeline – every activity, whether it’s personal or work related gets scheduled with a reminder. It’s the only way I can defend my personal time and make sure I have enough time to actually get work done.

Yes, it takes daily discipline, and yes, I occasionally slack off. It’s only natural. But being disciplined most of the time is the secret sauce to more freedom than I’ve ever known. I highly recommend it to both indies and employees.

Over To You

What’s your take on work-life balance? What works and doesn’t work? If this is something you’d like to discuss further in person, schedule a 15-minute call to start the conversation.

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