TIME health

We Talk So Much About ‘Natural Birth’—When Can We Discuss Natural Death?

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We can keep people alive to the point that their lives have almost no value, but doctors tend not to be trained to address the subject of mortality with their patients

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

Call it a run of bad luck, but I’ve had to watch a few people die lately. First, my grandmother descended into dementia and finally faded away. Then, my mother battled leukemia and lost her life to its treatment. Next, a great aunt died at age 102 in her home, very peacefully. And now I take care of my 92-year-old grandfather, and his time is drawing near.

In the six years since I had my son, I’ve watched my kid grow up while I’ve watched the rest of my family grow down. My son went from being wheeled in a stroller to toddling to walking. My elders went from walking to falling to wheelchairs.

Poised as I am between the beginning and the end of life, I had to ask myself, why do people talk so much about natural birth but not much about natural death? My friends with babies spent inordinate amounts of time discussing how and where to have them. Should they give birth in a hospital or in a kiddie pool? Should they use pain killing drugs or not? Google “natural birth,” and you’ll be treated to YouTube videos of moms popping out kids in the woods, heated debates about homebirth’s merits and dangers, and tons and tons of books, blogs, and so on.

A Google search on “natural death” doesn’t turn up much. Searching “hospice” brings up boilerplate readings, more about spiritual advice than concrete decision-making about end of life care.

I won’t start a debate here about the best way to give birth; it will suffice to say that being born is one of the most dangerous things you’ll ever do. But the risk of death when you die is… well, there’s no risk anymore. It’s 100% inevitable. Still, we don’t talk about it quite as much.

At least, I thought no one was talking about it, until, while doing some research to write this piece, I discovered and devoured Atul Gawande’s book, “Being Mortal.” Reviews are just coming out now, praising this book all over the place, and the praise is deserved.

The question I was struggling with is a big one. What is “natural death,” with all the advances of modern medicine? We can keep people alive to the point that their lives have almost no value, but doctors tend not to be trained to address the subject of mortality with their patients. Decision-making at the end becomes very difficult, as I can tell you from too much experience.

Gawande characterizes one type of doctor, the “information doctor,” who gives options but doesn’t truly explain what each means. That resonated with me. My mother consulted two oncologists, who gave different treatment paths but no accurate big picture.

What Mom’s doctors avoided telling us was that acute myeloid leukemia had her backed into a corner. She would not gain any meaningful additional days through treatment. Her only choices were how to make the best use of her remaining days. She certainly would have lived longer, and arguably better, without chemotherapy.

I can only see this now in retrospect, because I did not know what questions to ask when I needed to ask them. Even as a lifelong nurse, neither did Mom. She opted for aggressive treatment, which killed her very quickly. Chemotherapy weakened her immune system, and a fungal infection took over her lungs. She died on a respirator, in a way she would not ever have wanted, while searching for a cure. Only now do I understand that there simply was no cure for her. She was not a good candidate for aggressive treatment, due to numerous other health issues. She would have done better to live out her remaining few months peacefully, but she went suddenly, and the effect was traumatic for us all.

Living with my grandfather has made me consider my own old age and how I will spend it, should I be so lucky. Gramps won’t have a “natural death,” either, since he’s been essentially kept alive artificially for decades by medicine, from his pacemaker to the 20 medications he takes every day to keep his lungs absorbing oxygen properly, his insulin levels normal, his blood thin enough not to cause another stroke or heart attack, his gout at bay, the fluid from building up in his ankles, his Parkinson’s from advancing too quickly, his kidneys functioning, and his colon pooping regularly. He can no longer pig out on potatoes (too much potassium), eat cake (too much sugar), or have more than a smidgeon of wine per day. He can’t walk anymore. He needs help doing everything, from dressing to eating to toileting. (It’s really only when we’re very young and when we’re very old that we use toilet as a verb.)

All of that would drive me absolutely bananas. I wouldn’t want to live that way. Given a choice between old age and cake as means to my end, I choose cake! Give me some chocolate frosting and a martini, and I’ll live 20 fewer years. Anyway, that’s what I think now. Maybe I won’t feel the same when I have grandkids.

My grandfather, on the other hand, loves his life. He loves waking up, having coffee, and reading the paper. He loves going to the park and watching the dog. He loves “Judge Judy” and “Dateline.” He loves listening to classical music. For him, life is still worthwhile. He may not have long, but he’s going out in style — his style. If you have spent your life in a recliner, watching TV, old age isn’t so bad. I’m not being sarcastic; I think his outlook is pretty great. I don’t share his values, but with lifting the remote control as his only exercise, Gramps made it to 92. Who can argue with success?

Still, even for Grandpa, things will get to a point when medical interventions don’t make sense anymore. He has filled out an advance directive, so I know he doesn’t want to end up on life support. But there are other matters to consider when one gets old. Recently, his doctors advised him to have a prostate procedure. He went through with it, but it did no good at all. He pees on himself even more than before. Why did he have this pointless surgery, at the age of 92, when his other health issues are probably going to end things fairly soon? It didn’t make sense to me, and that is the kind of stuff you have to start to think about when you are old. Do you want to be in the hospital ANY longer than necessary when you might not have much time left? At a certain point, it’s better to just let nature take its course.

After reading Gawande’s book — which I’d recommend to anyone who, you know, might be planning to die someday — I stopped thinking about my grandfather’s medical care as much, and am focusing on trying to fill the time we have with meaningful activities. I watch football with him. I wheel him over to the park. He has a music therapist through his hospice program, and he plays the flute with her sometimes. Before this book, I was always dragging him to the next critical medical appointment and ordering his prescriptions and talking to doctors. I do that less now. Now I try to hang out with the guy. I think he’s feeling that the end is near, too, because he’s less anxious lately. He sleeps more. We’ll get to the cardiologist and the podiatrist soon, but eh, is it really something to stress out about, when it’s a nice day outside?

We’re looking more at how to make the next months or year or two as comfortable and meaningful as possible, rather than trying to “fix” a bunch of physical problems that are ultimately unfixable. Surgery for comfort is one thing, but in the end, our bodies just wear out. It’s coming, there’s no fighting it, and sometimes medicine just makes it worse than it needs to be.

As it turns out, doctors agree. Physicians tend to die with less treatment than the rest of us, because they know the limits of their practice. Recent coverage of Brittany Maynard shows us that end of life choices are definitely on the minds of the public now.

But most of us will not resort to taking our own lives in the face of a swift terminal illness. For most of us, the decline will be more gradual. If you are lucky enough not to die a sudden death, the end is slow and there are some terrible decisions along the way. So it’s worth thinking about how we exit—and it is as important, and can be as meaningful, as how we enter.

Julie Cross is a screenwriter and graduate of UCLA Film School.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Family

Why Your Sibling Is Good for Your Health

sisters
Reggie Casagrande—Getty Images

When they're not stealing your clothes or hogging your parents' attention, having a brother or sister can actually make you happier and healthier

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

Sometimes we get along. Other times they drive us bonkers, but overall (most of the time) we love our brothers and sisters. And research shows that the sibling bond is about more than family dinners and spontaneous wrestling matches over the remote. Growing up with a brother or sister may actually have an impact on our mental and physical health, not to mention it can shape who we become later in life. Here, the many benefits of siblings.

Having a sibling may make you more selfless.

New research suggests that having a sibling may help children develop sympathy. Researchers examined the relationship between siblings in more than 300 families and found having a quality relationship with a brother or sister may promote altruism in teens, especially boys.

“In our study, most relationships were not as important for boys as they were for girls,” study co-author Laura Padilla-Walker said in a university release. “But the sibling relationship was different—they seemed to report relying on sibling affection just as much as girls do. It’s an area where parents and therapists could really help boys.”

(MORE: 30 Secrets Your Body Language Gives Away)

They may improve our mental health.

Some of the same researchers at Brigham Young University found that sisters, specifically, seem to give siblings a mental health boost in ways that parents don’t. Results of a statistical analysis of nearly 400 families showed that, regardless of age-distance, having a sister protected adolescents against feeling lonely, unloved, guilty, self-conscious, and fearful. Even fights help by forming important tools, like how to better control emotion, according to Padilla-Walker.

(MORE: 7 Tips to Keep You Calm)

They make us happier.

For many, that sibling bond means a lifetime of emotional support, a close friendship, and an endless number of inside jokes. That’s why it should come as no surprise that holding onto a tight relationship with your brother or sister can lead to happiness later in life. Research shows that older people with living siblings have a higher sense of morale, so bonding with our brothers and sisters isn’t only important as we grow and mature, but may also bring major benefits later in life.

(MORE: Busting 10 Diet Myths)

Siblings keep us physically fit.

Although it may be fun to grab second helpings of dessert with your brother or sister, research shows that our siblings (and family and friends in general) can help us stay active. When it comes to fit-inspiration, 43 percent believe that friends and family have the largest impact on how healthy our lifestyles are. And staying fit together may help grow that sibling bond. Nearly one third of people with healthy habits distance themselves from those with less healthy ones.

(MORE: 5 Types of Friends Everyone Should Have)

They could help you live longer.

Not only can siblings boost mental health and physical fitness, but strong social ties may help you live longer, according to research published in the journal PLoS Medicine. On average, those with poor social connections died about 7.5 years earlier than those with solid bonds to friends and family. That’s about the same difference in length of life as the gap between smokers and non-smokers. This may be because caring about our friends and family inspires us to take better care of ourselves or it may be because we turn to loved ones to provide us with support when we’re sick or stressed, Time reports. No matter the reason, keeping that strong connection with our siblings could help us live a longer, happier, and healthier life.

(MORE: One Sneaky Trick to Boost Your Mood)

TIME Opinion

Is Your Kid Still Eating Halloween Candy? Read This.

What is a parent to do when it comes to squaring off against a bag-full of treats?

It’s Day Seven post-Trick or Treating and while the Halloween costumes are old news, the siren’s call of that big stash of processed sugar goes on. And good luck trying to stand between a child and their yearly candy harvest. It becomes a daily battle that almost always ends with someone near tears. (Usually me.) Is the only course of action left to eat all the candy myself?

I could always blame Jimmy Kimmel. The late night comedian staged his now-annual Halloween prank where he has parents inform their children they ate all their Halloween candy and record the inevitable meltdown. The reactions are both funny and sad, but while some saw the prank as uproarious and others viewed it as a cruel hoax, I thought: Hey, that’s not a bad idea. If the candy just disappeared, the struggle would be over in one fell swoop. Off with the proverbial band-aid and on with the limited intake of sugar. But it’s kind of mean and the ensuing tantrum would not be fun to weather. As a parent, though, do I need to make the healthy choice for my kid, whether he likes it or not?

In general, my kid can usually take or leave sugary junk food, but he spent a lot of energy collecting his plus-sized bag of Halloween treats and seems to view it as his own personal Candy Land version of Mt. Everest. Like a wizened mountaineer, he must surmount it, simply because it’s there. At this point, if the FDA had an RDA, or Recommended Dietary Allowances, of carnauba wax, I assure you, it’s been met as he determinedly makes his way over Mt. CandyCoatedChocolate. He doesn’t care about my equally large mountain of studies showing that while delicious, copious amounts of sugar are simply not healthy.

But what is a parent to do when it comes to squaring off against a bag-full of treats? Some parents are lucky enough to live near wily dentists who will buy Halloween candy for cold hard cash and deliver them to troops via Operation Gratitude. The more organized among us plan in advance with the brilliant Switch Witch gag where a “witch” steals the candy in the middle of the night and switches it out for toys. It’s a great ploy for those of with enough free time to pull it off. (Some of us would pay $2,700 for an extra hour in the day in which to plan a Switch Witch-style swap.)

If a parent doesn’t want to be seen as a real witch, though, what are the options? It’s just us vs. the candy and currently, the corn syrup is winning. At the risk of getting that Frozen song stuck in your head again, should we just let it go? Double up on the vegetables and double down on the flossing and brushing and let the kids eat every last fun-sized morsel and just let the sugar industry win this round, despite the studies that show that sugar is the only cause of tooth decay?

Maybe?

I know it’s something that my hippy mother struggled with when I was a child. Normally we were allowed no processed sweets—seriously, I got a box of sugary cereal from Santa each year, otherwise it was all health food store versions of Cheerios—so Halloween was a bonanza for us and a nightmare for my mother. Each year she had a new approach to the onslaught of sugar. One year we were allowed two pieces a day, which stretched the candy consumption until March and quickly became a supposedly fun-sized thing she would never do again. The next year we were told to eat all we wanted on Halloween and the rest would be done away with, the result being a now-infamous evening of candy-colored vomiting. After that, each year the candy trove seemed to be eaten by the dog, despite the fact that the stash was hidden on a tall shelf in the back of a closet and the dog was an overweight corgi with no vertical lift.

As a parent now, blaming the dog for a disappearing candy hoard doesn’t seem like a bad option at all, but I think I am going to attempt to strike a balance. I’ll let him have a few pieces a day for a few more days, while carefully supervising brushing and flossing and vegetable intake and side-eying a copy of the Year of No Sugar. After a week of daily candy intake, though, it might be time to take a page from my mother’s book and blame the dog when the stash disappears.

And if you don’t have a dog, well, there’s always Jimmy Kimmel to blame.

 

MONEY online shopping

There’s a New Way to Get Free Shipping—Overnight, No Less

Amazon.com packages move along long conveyor belts at an Amazon.com Fulfillment Center.
Three Amazon-owned companies are offering free overnight shipping on purchases—a perk that Amazon Prime members don't get. Ross D. Franklin—AP

Three Amazon-owned sites just introduced free overnight shipping on purchases of $49, but only for customers who live in the right zip codes.

On Wednesday, Quidsi, the Amazon-owned company that operates several e-retail sites, announced that consumers in the greater New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco areas will get free overnight shipping on all orders of $49 or more placed at Diapers.com, Soap.com or Wag.com.

The three sites specialize in baby products, health and beauty merchandise, and pet supplies, respectively, and the unprecedented overnight-shipping service, which requires no specific membership or annual fee, is clearly a play to win over suburban shoppers—moms in particular.

“An important part of our mom-centric mission is to deliver products to mom at the moment she needs them,” Quidsi CEO Maria Renz said in a statement announcing free overnight shipping. “We’re excited to further this commitment to moms by offering the greater convenience of free overnight shipping to our New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles customers. Order today, get it the next day. It’s that simple. Helping moms by making shopping easier and delivery even faster is what we’re all about.”

It’s not necessary to live within the actual bounds of each city to take advantage. Check out this link for a list of the hundreds and hundreds of zip codes where free overnight shipping is now available, so long as your order total is at least $49. From a quick glance, it looks like the offer is extended to virtually all of New Jersey, as well as parts of New York including Long Island and Westchester, Orange, Rockland, Sullivan, and Putnam counties. Likewise, in addition to San Francisco and Los Angeles proper, the free shipping service is available for California residents who live in counties including Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura, Mendocino, Santa Clara, Marin, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, and Napa. In most cases, customers elsewhere in the country can get free two-day shipping for orders of $49 or more at the three Quidsi sites.

On the one hand, the new service—which is being offered indefinitely rather than as some short-term promotion—makes sense as an offensive in the ongoing battle for moms involving Target, Amazon, Walmart, and plenty of other retail players. Women reportedly account for 85% of all consumer purchases, and despite the fact that today’s dads are taking care of more responsibility around the house, moms tend to still be in charge of most traditional household purchases—including but not limited to baby, pet, and health and beauty products.

On the other hand, however, the easy availability of free overnight shipping for goods you need regularly, with a reasonable minimum purchase, serves as an argument against the worthiness of paying $99 annually for Amazon Prime, which comes with “free” two-day shipping on most purchases. In other words, the new service—from Amazon companies, remember—makes it much easier for customers to stop paying for another Amazon service, one that has been enormously powerful and profitable for the world’s largest e-retailer.

TIME society

Every Infant Should Dress as Ruth Baby Ginsburg for Halloween

Stop trying. This is the best costume of 2014

Considering reproducing? We now submit Exhibit A for why having a baby could be the right choice for you: This infant dressed up as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Quick, someone give this kid a Notorious RBG shirt immediately. The Ruth Baby Ginsburg Halloween costume should be every infant’s Halloween costume.

(h/t: Elle)

MONEY deals

Free Donuts, $3 Burritos, and 6 More Scary Good Halloween Food Deals

Krispy Kreme Halloween donuts
courtesy of Krispy Kreme

Krispy Kreme, Chipotle, and other restaurant chains are giving customers freebies--or discounts so good they'll give you an excuse not to cook on Halloween.

This year’s Halloween food deals include free bacon and free donuts, as well as several options allowing kids to eat for free. In many cases, getting into the Halloween spirit—by way of wearing a costume—is required, so check the rules and dress accordingly.

Arby’s: No costume is required to take advantage of Arby’s Halloween freebie—instead, all customers need to do is say “Trick or meat” when ordering to get bacon added at no extra charge. Free bacon can be added to burgers and other sandwiches, or even mixed into milkshakes.

Baja Fresh: Click on the link for free kids meals for children in costume, when combined with the purchase of an adult entrée.

Boston Market: Use the linked coupon for a free kids meal with the purchase of any individual meal.

Chipotle: The annual Halloween “Boo-rito” promotion allows each patron in costume to order a burrito, tacos, salad, or bowl for $3, from 5 p.m. until closing only.

IHOP: All children ages 12 and under get a free Scary Face Pancake decorated with Oreos and candy corn (scary indeed!) from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Krispy Kreme: All customers in costume can select one donut free of charge today at participating Krispy Kreme locations in the U.S. and Canada.

Olive Garden: Follow the link to get a coupon for a free kid’s meal with the purchase of an adult entrée.

Outback Steakhouse: Kids in costumes eat free on Halloween—presumably also with the purchase of an adult meal, but the offer doesn’t specify.

TIME

Survey: Americans Would Pay $2,700 For An Extra Hour a Day

How much would you shell out to have more time?

Ideally, you would have been reading this article three hours ago.

But it couldn’t even be written before now. There was a deadline. And another. And the dog wouldn’t stop coughing so there was a vet appointment to be squeezed in. There were Halloween treats to be rushed out the door. And a phone call with an editor. And an urgent text from a friend locked in a dressing room in desperate need of first-date fashion advice. Dinner should be started at some point. There’s a Halloween costume to mend (or, more realistically, duct tape on the inside so no one can tell) before tomorrow and another list of deadlines starts lighting up the iCal. Perhaps most indicative of the current state of affairs—a promising email titled “Need More Hours in the Day? These Calendar Apps Will Find Them” has been unopened in my inbox for three days. An article titled “How to Achieve Work-Life Balance in 5 Steps” seems both inspirational and aspirational, based solely on the title, anyway as there has been no time to read the rest of it.

There’s too much to do in just 24 hours and it’s hard not to fantasize about adding hours to do the day. How much would you pay for an extra hour to work or sleep or read a book or, hey, finish the last season of Orange is the New Black (no spoilers!)? A new survey commissioned by Zico Coconut Water, says that more than half (58%) of Americans who were willing to pay cold hard cash in exchange for one more hour in their day, said they would be willing to fork over $2,725 to have that extra hour in their over-crowded day.

That’s no small change you could find in the couch (if you had time to vacuum the couch, which is on the priority list right below brushing the dog’s teeth and above washing the curtains).

The fact that people are willing to shell out that kind of cash is, well, sad, but also indicative of a larger problem that is unfortunately hard to buy your way out of: An out-of-whack work-life balance. For most of us, the work-life balance is unbalanced as the sad kid at the playground who can’t find anyone to sit on the other side of the seesaw—you’re just sitting on the ground wondering when the fun starts. It’s like a unicorn who lives in the pages of Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP or those mystical beings living Oprah’s Best Life.

According to the Zico survey, out of the 1,000 nationally representative U.S. adults ages 18+ surveyed, 74 % of them say they don’t feel “completely balanced” and actively seek ways to counteract their busy schedules, hence with the whole take-my-child’s-college-savings-for-a-measly-extra- hour thing. Only 27% of those surveyed said they are “completely balanced.”

As a person who is solidly in the other 73%, one can only imagine these 27-percenters who tell a pollster that they are “completely balanced” must send their last work email precisely at 5:30pm, arise from their ergonomic chair to walk the eight flights down to their spotless car with nary a fast-food wrapper in site. They arrive home in time to cook a well-balanced meal of superfoods for their children who are eager to finish their homework before diving into a delicious plate that is up to the FDA’s latest nutritional standards. The kids brush their teeth in tiny circles for two minutes, floss and then head to their organic-sheeted beds to read their bedtime books in Japanese, their third language. They fall asleep immediately giving their parents plenty of time to watch the final episode of Orange is the New Black and get a full eight hours of sleep without once checking their work email.

Being “completely balanced” sounds like you’re living in a catalog, which is great but some of us don’t have time to peruse a catalog. Some of us are too busy meeting deadlines, mending costumes and searching the couch for change in hopes of buying an extra hour in the day.

Besides, haven’t you heard? There’s no such thing as a work-life balance, so do the best you can and save your money for vacation. Or, you know, vet bills.

MONEY halloween

Here’s How to Turn Trick-or-Treat Candy Into Cold Hard Cash

dentures on top of candy
Aleksandar Mijatovic—Alamy

Hey kids, you know your parents aren't going to let you eat all of the candy hauled in on Halloween trick-or-treating rounds. So why not swap some of it for cash money?

The cash payoff isn’t the only reason kids might want to trade in candy soon after Halloween is over. Doing so also supports the troops overseas.

To participate in the annual program, called the Halloween Candy Buy Back, families should start by finding a participating nearby dentist’s office, via a search tool at the link or at the program’s Facebook page. There are thousands of participants around the country–in New Jersey, Ohio, California, and beyond. Chances are, there’s a poster up at your dentist’s office asking locals to join in its Candy Buy Back campaign.

While the particulars of each participating office may differ slightly, they generally all welcome unopened candy donations in the days right after Halloween, and they pay $1 per pound of candy dropped off, with a $5 maximum payout. Some also give treats or goodie bags for kids—toys, stickers, toothbrushes, sometimes pizza or local baked goods—as well as the chance to win iPods, gift cards, and other prizes. It softens the blow inherent in handing over the sweet and chocolatey fruits of one’s labor spent trick-or-treating.

The program was originally envisioned as a means to get massive quantities of Halloween candy “off the streets” and out of the bellies of America’s children, and the campaign truly caught fire when it partnered with Operation Gratitude, an organization that sends care packages to military veterans, new recruits, and most especially troops who are deployed overseas. Some 130+ million tons of candy has been collected over the years, and with the help of Halloween Candy Buy Back participants, Operation Gratitude was able to ship its one millionth care package last December.

As for the more mercenary kids out there—those who are trading candy in for cash at least as much as they are motivated to support the troops—they’re probably trying to figure out what candies weigh the most to maximize their payout.

MONEY Workplace

Why Millennials Should Get Used to Work-Life Imbalance

The work day used to be confined to a tidy eight-hour period. Today, digitally native millennials are expected to never truly "turn off," making it difficult for anyone to have a life outside of work.

The same technology enabling us to connect with people and get work done faster than ever before is also making for never-ending work days. Years ago, professionals had the luxury of confining their day’s work to an eight-hour chunk of time. After 5 p.m., they could focus on personal activities — it was time to go home to dinner or out to a movie, uninterrupted. Today, work’s demands are becoming more similar to parenting, in that they never truly “turn off.” If you only work eight set hours, you’ll fall behind, look like a slacker, or both.

One study found that 81% of U.S. employees check their work mail outside of work hours, including 55% who peek at their inboxes after 11 p.m. at night. While many professionals are now “on call” throughout the day, the expectations placed on millennials are especially high. As the first generation of digital natives, millennials are naturally gifted at managing this always-on lifestyle—and in some ways they prefer it, because of the work time flexibility it theoretically affords them—but at the same time they fear it is hurting their personal lives.

To examine how technology and millennials are affecting the modern-day workplace (and vice-versa), my company and Elance-oDesk.com commissioned a study released today called “The 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce.” In it, we found that nine out of ten millennials say that they can access information whenever and wherever they are, and that 73% are expected to be contactable at any time of day or night.

We also surveyed HR managers and found that, somewhat unsurprisingly, 82% said millennials are more technology adept than older generations. Because millennials use social media more than all other generations, they are the ones who are most pressured to manage a complete blending of their personal and professional lives. Millennials naturally feel like they have to respond to emails outside of the office in order to keep up with the demands of their jobs.

These expectations aren’t all bad, so long as they come with tradeoffs. Millennials tend to seek flexible work schedules so that they can deliver value to their employers whenever duty calls, while at the same time flex schedules hopefully give them time to fit in personal activities they enjoy. They seek companies that will enable them to work remotely so they can blend personal activities during the day, not just during the night or on weekends. This push for work flexibility and integration creates opportunities for impact and learning, both of which millennials want.

While millennials want flexible work hours so they can have fun even though they are always “on call,” the obvious downside is that they can never truly be away from work. As millennials grow older, and have more responsibilities like raising children, they’re learning that life can get increasingly complicated and overwhelming when the needs of their blurred personal and professional lives collide.

To cope, millennials must take matters into their own hands in the same way that entrepreneurs or freelancers do. They need to make a list of all of their work responsibilities and all the personal activities that they want or need to accomplish, and then focus on those each day. This way, it’s less about when, and where, they complete their work or personal activities and more that they actually complete them.

What’s more, professionals today need to get out of the mindset that they can have balance in an unbalanced world and seek to integrate their personal and professional interests so they are more fulfilled. At companies like Virgin and Netflix, workers get unlimited vacation days not just as a reward to them but to take into account that everyone is busy and needs time off. This open policy enables workers to take random breaks throughout the year when they need it most, yet it also exploits the fact that employees are still thinking about work on vacation.

Research from The White House proves that roughly half of companies offer full-time employees flexible work hours. Companies like Yahoo!, Best Buy and Reddit aren’t embracing flex hours because having employees who worked remotely didn’t work for them in the past. Instead of allowing for some flexibility, they decided completely against it, forcing all workers to be at the office each day. Of course, millennials, who desire to work remotely, are less inclined to work at these types of companies because they don’t support their personal life and work styles.

Technology today means that work no longer needs to be a place. The vast majority of what we do can be done from anywhere. However, many companies still don’t embrace flexible work. This outdated approach lends to millennials choosing alternate career paths — many would choose freelancing, for example. Our study found that 79% of millennials would consider “quitting their regular job” and “working for themselves” in the future, and 82% of millennials believe that technology has made it easier to start a business.

Regardless of what career path millennials pursue, the demands of work today and in the future mean it’s essential to get better at managing your day. Take time to consider personal and professionals goals on a daily basis. Figure out how to prioritize throughout your day, and forget about true work-life balance: Those days are over. But take heart that infinite work days bring with them infinite possibilities that weren’t there when we were locked behind a desk 9 to 5.

Dan Schawbel is a workplace expert, keynote speaker and the New York Times bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success and Me 2.0.

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