Well…no. I realize that this is not the answer many are expecting to read, but the thinking that leads to believing that a work/life balance is possible is the very issue at hand. The term balance generally refers to a state of equilibrium in weight, outcomes, amount, etc. When referring to balancing work and life, we are attempting to find a place where work and life are equal. A place where we have an equal amount of time, effort, and energy applied to both work and life. This sounds very realistic and practical, but that’s far from true. The first image that comes to my mind of balancing work and life is this:
And this image also illustrates the flaw in our thinking that we can have balance between work and life. The image above represents the way we currently view life and work – as two separate components. We must realize that work is a part of life, not separate from it. Life embodies everything that we are and everything that pertains to us. Life for me involves family, faith, work, fun, and leisure (my do-nothing time). So, my life consists of all these different areas that require my time, effort, and energy. For you, life may consist of more/less, but in either case, how do we go about dividing our time evenly between them all? After all, that is the goal of work/life balance.
There are 24-hours in a day, 8 of these are reserved for sleeping, leaving 16 hours to fulfill the areas that make up your life. If you work 8 hours per day, you have 8 hours remaining; factor in commute, eating 3+ times a day, hygiene, time on social media, and you have just around 4 hours or less in your day. Now those 4 hours must be split between your down time to decompress from the day, school work/studying, children, preparing for the following day, grocery shopping, reading, and anything else that may require your attention. Simply put, balance isn’t realistic.
If a person can shift from work/life balance to work/life integration, then that becomes more realistic and attainable. Understanding that all the components of life, including work, ARE YOUR LIFE. The image now changes to look like this one below:
With this mindset, the goal is to integrate each of these areas as much as possible. The focus is to develop synergies within the areas of your life. For example, if your job has family events, bring your family and allow them to make that time at work for you fun. You can show your kids or spouse what you do (even if it’s boring), allow them to make your workplace fun for that day. If you have the flexibility to work while you travel or work remote, plan time to work from home or away from the office more often, so you can be in the presence of family. If you’re a business owner, have your kids/spouse help file paperwork or practice your negotiating skills on them or whatever you can do to incorporate them into your business. Make it fun, if possible, so the task is enjoyable. If you travel often for work, take the family with you and make it a day/overnight family trip. When you take a lunch break, take a lunch break. Too often people work on their lunch, take this time to just relax and enjoy a good meal, possibly with your spouse or go to your kid’s school and eat lunch with them (if they are young). There are numerous ways to integrate the different areas of your life. The challenge is being creative and consistent.
What ideas do you have to help integrate your life? What other synergies have you developed?