Work-life balance. It’s a beautiful concept. We hear about it a lot and everyone seems to be striving for it.
In the amazing picture we somehow we get our work and our life to balance each other out and everybody’s happy – us and those around us. And while work life balance seems like a great concept, it’s very hard to achieve. It seems that almost everybody I talk to both professionally and personally is looking to achieve this balance. Yet no one seems to be getting there.
Rest assured if you’re seeking work-life balance and not getting to it that you’re not alone. There is nothing wrong with you. You’re with the vast majority of people.
As I went deep into the world up time management after I co-authored the book It’s About Time, it became clear that something different had to change in this area.
So let’s explore the three reasons why I’ve given up on work-life balance. I will look at what I do instead as well. Hopefully this will give you a new perspective on the endless chase for work-life balance.
1) It Doesn’t Really Exist
The first reason I’ve given up on work-life balance it’s because it doesn’t actually exist. Nobody seems to be finding this magical balance between work and life. Regardless of how successful you get or how harmonious your life is there’s always a challenge in balancing the two.
The truth is that we humans can only be in one place at a time. If you read the studies on attention spans the research will tell you that as much as we try to multitask we could only really be accomplishing one thing at a time.
The concept that we can have these independent spheres of our life, work, and whatever other pursuits we have, and not have them in our play with each other, really doesn’t make sense.
So why chase something that doesn’t exist, especially when there’s other alternatives that allow us more happiness and satisfaction life?
We’ll get to that happiness and satisfaction just a minute.
2) Life and Work Push on Each Other
One of the reasons that true work-life balance doesn’t exist is because work and life push on each other. We necessarily adapt our life to our work. We have to leave the house at a certain time, we have to do preparation for work (often during “life” time) and we schedule by the work week. Additionally, we have to live in certain geographic areas to accommodate our jobs.
Meanwhile, while we’re at work, our life is still happening. Our parents and our children are going to doctors appointments, work, schools and other meetings. Our spouses or significant others are in their own meetings, perhaps carrying out their work day. And every once in awhile unexpected events happen during their work days that require reaction and change to our work days.
It’s undeniable that what happens at our work impacts our home life. Sometimes we need to spend some of our time after work decompressing, preparing for the next day or analyzing things going on. And we often have to adjust our personal life schedule to accommodate our work demands.
So while we’re trying to think about how to balance these two things the reality is that work and life are really pushing against each other. Sometimes that push is harmonious and one supports the other, but sometimes those pushes are violent and one harms the other. There are simply times where when you put attention into your life you’re not putting attention to your work. And vice versa.
If we step back and look at it, the truth is work and life push on each other so much that it’s impossible to balance these two competing forces. They will always be ebbing and flowing and going back and forth. Moments of balance between the two are extremely rare.
3) Harmony Feels Much Better
Sometimes when something is unrealistic or impossible the best thing you can do is give up.
And that’s what I’ve done with work life balance. I’ve given up on trying to balance it all when balance is so rare and fleeting. What I do instead is to make work-life work in harmony with one another. Some called this “work-life integration.”
When you’re at work you’re not in your life at least fully. And when you are living life you can rarely not take your work schedule and obligations into account. And that’s okay.
But the two still need to be in harmony with each other. After all you’re going to be living in certain locations, associated with certain people, and doing certain things because of your work and/or your life even when you’re not in the one sphere of the other. The two push on one each other.
I believe the more enlightened way to handle work-life balance is to make the two align with each other. Make decisions with both work and life in mind. Many of my personal friends, people I like just because they’re great, end up coming into my work life. And every once in awhile I meet somebody in my work life who becomes part of my personal life. The two go back and forth. They’re really not independent.
And I have to be in the same location for both work and life, like most people. Most people cannot have a situation where they can work and live in completely different locations. For most of us, in the real world, we have to live our life somewhat near our work. So the two are always in our planning.
So I like to think about harmony. How does every decision affect both work and life? Sure, some activities are more work and some activities are more life. And that’s okay. Not everything has to be both but we have to always recognize the harmony of both in everything we do.
To me this harmony feels much better.
What to Do Instead
So if I’m not working on work-life balance, I am working on is getting work and life integrated. Making the two work together as a cohesive whole. Figuring out how I can participate in both work and life together in a way that makes both better.
This understanding that every decision affects the totality of my being and that work and life are really not separated completely makes it easier for me to make decisions. I don’t feel like I’m giving up in one area for the other. I understand the decisions I make affect the total me.
Even if work and life were completely separate it’s clear the decisions I make at work affect my energy level, my rest, my stress and my general well-being in my life. So why pretend like the two are separate and have no play on each other?
I’ve given into the reality work and life integrate with each other and I live in light of that reality. It makes life much simpler.
You may be frustrated right now because you don’t understand how to get work and life in balance. You have probably been sold the story that you can achieve this mythical balance between your work and your life. But the truth is that balance is impossible to achieve. These two spheres will rarely, if ever, be in harmony and balance with each other.
You’re much better off to take the real view and understand at work and life integrate and interplay with each other. By doing so giving up unrealistic expectations and being in more harmony with the world a lot more becomes possible.
So let’s integrate our work and our life. There’s no reason that you can’t make great friends at work, and that your great friends from your life can’t become part of your next work project. It’s really beautiful to think that your entire life can be in harmony with itself.
By: The Our Shawn McBride who is constantly studying the Future of Business as the host of The Future Done Right(TM) Show. If you want regular content on the future of business subscribe to get new blog posts from us here.
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