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Jan. 5, 2023

How to choose a career that lines up with how you like to spend your time

How to choose a career that lines up with how you like to spend your time

BY Elizabeth Grace Saunders

When you’re searching for a job that will make you happy, it’s common to think about the kind of work you like doing, the impact you want to make in the world, the size of your paycheck, and how impressive the company name will sound on your LinkedIn profile. But as a time management coach, I find that one of the key factors in your overall job happiness is how much time you’ll need to put into your career. If the hours you work don’t align with how you like to spend your time, you can end up feeling miserable, even if you love the work and you’re paid well for it.

In fact, one of the top reasons people left their jobs during the recent Great Resignation was burnout. To make sure that you land in a work environment that will make you happy from a time commitment point of view, you’ll need to look into not only the job responsibilities, but also the job lifestyle.

Here are four factors to consider when evaluating the “time-fit” of a potential career.


One of the largest ways in which your job could extend beyond the 9-5 is through frequent required travel. At the high end, you may be tasked with business trips on a weekly basis. At the low end, you might be on the road once a quarter or less. And in some instances, your position may require no travel at all.

A job requiring travel—even extensive amounts—doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad time fit. The key is to think about whether the travel works for you with your goals, priorities, and personality.

If you want to really focus on career building, don’t have many location-dependent commitments like a family or pets, and enjoy the hotel lifestyle, a job with a lot of travel may be perfect for you. You can focus deeply on work during the week and then do more personal activities on the weekends. 

But if you’re someone who wants to tuck your kids into bed most nights and finds you don’t adapt well to living from a suitcase, then too much travel may be a deal breaker. Think about what you are or aren’t willing to do, and if needed, also discuss what works for the other people in your family. 


During the pandemic, many office workers got a respite from their daily commute. In some cases, that gave them back up to three to four hours a day. Now that many employers have had employees return to the office, at least on a hybrid basis, you may need to decide how much of your life—if any—you’re willing to give to traveling to and from your desk.

If you’re committed to staying fully remote, then look for a job that’s committed to giving you that option. Organizations without official offices at all or at least none specifically in your area will typically want you to work remotely. For example, I have some clients who manage sales territories hundreds of miles from their company’s headquarters. Working from home when they’re not with clients is the natural expectation.

If you’re okay with going into the office but desire a hybrid approach, try to find out if that’s the current norm. Also, inquire into whether the plan is to continue to operate in that way long term. If hybrid options are really important to you, you don’t want to sign up for a position now only to find out in six months that you’ll need to go in Monday through Friday.

Finally, whether you’ll land in the office five days a week or substantially less, look into the length of the commute. According to some studies, a 16-minute commute is the ideal distance for overall happiness. Pay attention to what’s true for you: Do you feel okay after 15 or 20 minutes but drained after 30 minutes or more of travel time? Then try to work at an office within that range or at least one where you have the ability to move closer if needed.


Even if your dream job doesn’t require extensive travel or a long commute, that doesn’t mean that your workday will always have clean edges. If you’re okay with a work-life blend where you’re always somewhat connected to the office, then that may not impact your job satisfaction. But if you’re someone who likes having a clear end to the work day or who struggles with setting boundaries, then after-hours expectations could become an issue.

When you look into a new role, look into things like whether you’ll be working with a global team and required to attend meetings at odd hours in the evening or wee hours of the morning. Also try to find out if you’ll be expected to be on call in terms of literally being available for emergencies 24/7 or simply needing to keep an eye on communication after you log off. 

Finally, make note of regular after-hours events. The annual holiday party isn’t a big crimp on your lifestyle. But if you’re required to entertain clients, attend industry networking events, or do other work-related responsibilities in the evening or on the weekend on a regular basis, it could impact how happy you may feel in the position.

As with travel, none of these after-hours expectations should keep you from taking a job. The key is to be aware of what’s expected in advance and to be honest with yourself about what really works for you. If having to see people from work after work makes you want to crawl into a little hole with a remote, then you probably will want to pass on these types of roles. If alternatively, it gives you energy and doesn’t detract from your other life priorities, go for it.


Some work environments have strict clock in, clock out cultures where you’ll see tumbleweeds in the office by 5:30 p.m. In other settings, if you leave by 5:30 p.m., people may think you don’t have enough work to do.

Again, there’s not a right or wrong answer in terms of which work environment is intrinsically better. What matters are your preferences and needs. If you like knowing that you can always leave at 5 p.m. without your boss raising an eyebrow because you need to pick your child up at daycare or want to attend your favorite Pilates class, then a place with more concrete timing will probably make you most happy. If you don’t mind working until 7 p.m.—or later—some nights when you’re really wrapped up in your projects, then maybe longer work hours won’t stress you out.

Think about how many hours you’re willing and able to put into your work and not compromise your health or other life priorities. Then look for a job where what you’re wanting to offer is what they’re looking for you to give. You don’t want to end up with an expectations mismatch where you feel resentful of how much time you’re giving to your career or where your boss feels you’re not committed enough.

Each person has unique desires when it comes to their job and to the time-fit that works for them. As you’re seeking out new opportunities, consider these lifestyle factors so that you’ll feel as great about doing the job as you did in accepting it.  

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