I may be the worst person to write about work-life balance, but I understand the concept.

Over the summer there was a cute meme going around social media where a European businessperson’s out of office message reads: “Hi! I’m on holiday. Please contact me again in September.” An American’s out-of-office message says, “Hi! I’ve just gone in for major surgery, but I should be awake in before end of business today. I’ll get back in touch then.”

Honestly, I think this sums things up pretty well. Americans simply don’t know when to draw the line. They don’t know how to balance life and work. They work every day, seven days a week, sometimes for up to twelve hours a day.

I’m American.

I don’t work twelve hours a day, but I do work every single day of the week and feel guilty if I take a Sunday afternoon off to knit while watching a football game with my husband. This isn’t healthy!

Let me repeat that: I feel guilty when I take a few hours off and I know this isn’t right.

To lead a healthy life, we need to relax. We need to take time off, get out, go for a walk in the park or have a meal with friends. We need to spend time with our children or other loved ones.

This sort of behavior is NOT wasting time, it’s rejuvenating. It’s refilling the well. It’s stress relief. It’s something called, “enjoying life”.

I’m terrible at this.

Well… that’s not to say that I don’t do any of those things, I do! I go for a walk every afternoon, frequently to a local park where there are lovely paths through a forest. I will take a few hours off on a random weekday afternoon to have lunch with my friends. I do this because even though I know it’s the middle of a workday, in the middle of the week, it’s good for me!

My husband doesn’t do this. He works 9-7 every weekday and sometimes has dinner meetings that last until late at night, but he does take weekends off. And when he takes time off, he doesn’t think about work, he doesn’t do any work, he simply plays, relaxes, and watches sports on tv. This is good!

Writers, in particular, have a really hard time taking time off. For many of us, writing is our second or third job (you know, the one after the one that pays the bills, and the one that’s called “parenting”). For many writers, writing is their way of relaxing, but it’s also work. It’s damned hard work!

Yes, we get to live in a fantasy world for a time. We get to pretend and mentally play dress-up, but we’re working. We’re using our brains, we’re being creative, we’re doing research and being analytical. It’s all work. It may be fun work, but work is still work and it’s still exhausting.

So, I don’t know about you, but I’m really going to commit to trying to take more time off. I know, it’s not going to be easy. When I’ve got a book to write, I want to get it done. When I’ve got clients waiting on me to read and edit their work or get comments back to them, I want to do that. I don’t want to leave them waiting for too long.

On the other hand, if I’m exhausted or mentally stressed and can’t concentrate, I’m not going to do either of those things very well. So, I’m going to try to take more time off—and not feel guilty about it.

What about you? Are you able to take time off? Are you good and setting aside your work and just enjoying life?

Next week I’m going to have something special for you so don’t forget to stop by and check out a very special blog post!