I woke up to a dark, frosty morning in January thinking about how employment and the system actually controls our lives. We need to work to get money to afford a comfortable lifestyle, but by going to work and giving so much of our time away, we don’t get to spend much time actually doing the things we love with the people we love.

I actually quite enjoy my current role. I have learnt many new skills and have achieved a range of things including a promotion within the last two years, which I am happy about. However, when I actually stop to think about work as a concept, whether you like or dislike, love or hate your job, you can’t escape the fact that it takes up most of your days and hours.

We are likely to spend more time each day with colleagues, rather than family or friends. And even when we go home, many of us will struggle to switch off from work. We will talk about it, think about it, plan for the next day, even include it in our personal goals. Some of us will work late into the night at home. Some of us will dwell on the possibilities of promotion, whether we should apply for other jobs or whether we should stay put? Just thinking about work can even consume our time if we let it.

Just think realistically for a second… From the day you enter the world of work, whether that is from school, college or university, you will generally get an average of just 20 to 25 days off work per year. Out of 365 days, that seems like nothing. What’s worse is the fact that with the exception of maternity/paternity leave, this is the maximum amount of time off from work that you will have per year, until you retire. (I hear a dramatic da da daaa in my head at this point).

Even if you have a full-time job with a decent “work life balance”, say Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm, after adding on your commute at either side and necessities such as eating and sleeping, you are left with just a few hours of your day that you can actually control.

Now although this is actually quite a depressing thought in the light of day, I believe that knowledge is power. So by being aware of the lack of free time you have, you owe it to yourself to make the most of every day and more so, every hour of your day that isn’t occupied by work. Make sure that you are truly being in the moment when you are where you choose to be, with who you choose to be with. Put down your phone, get rid of your distractions and just be.

To me, time really is the most precious thing. You can’t buy it or stop it or change it, so make your free time count.. Because after all, tomorrow you are going to have to get up for work and do it all over again.

A partial view of Manchester’s skyline; a great northern city – of opportunity and of lots of places to work!

Do you have a good work life balance?

How do you make the most of your free time?