No matter if you are the (heavenly) barista that fuels the day or a high-powered executive, you are under pressure to find work/life balance. I’m here to tell you that you never will because it doesn’t exist.
When I think of balance I think of a teeter totter level with the ground, poised on the centre stand just perfectly enough to keep both ends up. Then I picture the slightest pressure on one side and CRASH it all falls apart.
This is why ‘balance’ sucks – it’s unsustainable. Nothing can remain untouched and exactly in balance for very long. There will inevitably be some amount of pressure, no matter how small, that comes along and ruins the perfect alignment you worked so hard to create. And then what? Are we supposed to scramble and try to find that balance point again, only to have it crash all over again? I say Nay.
Forget work/life balance and focus on work/life integration. Your work and your life are not two separate things. They coexist together, bounce off each other, intermingle sometimes and are two pieces of the same puzzle. They are not opposite ends of the spectrum, they are the spectrum.
We all work hard and thankfully it’s becoming more acceptable to work a little less hard at work and focus a little more on creating a healthy life. When life is healthy, work is healthy, there is no hard line between the two.
Here is how Marsha and I integrate work and life so we are happy and productive in both contexts:
When life comes calling, we don’t feel guilty about dealing with it. We both have young families and a business to run. Sometimes, our families need our time and attention (re: dentist appointment/barfed at school/lost a shoe) and it takes away from our ability to be heads down doing mad, wonderful work. While we sometimes get frustrated for a minute, we have also declared that it’s okay to take an hour and deal with things on the home front. In fact, it’s critical we do.
When work requires our undivided attention, we plan for it. We engage our powers of resourcefulness and figure out how to carve out the time we need to get things done. We think non-traditionally about how we structure our day so we can do what we need to do.
When we can’t plan for it, we get creative. Sometimes things happen quickly and we need to pivot. This is where creative child care and ruthless prioritization comes in. We band together as a team, go to an indoor play place and jump on the wifi. We let all other things go until we finish what we started and regroup after.
We schedule fun. This sounds decidedly un-fun, but it is necessary. We use our calendars like champions and block out time for fun. Ever try axe throwing? You should. It’s both fun and cathartic.
We make it a habit to keep regular and reasonable business hours. Yes, we are usually 9am to 4pm, and only the most critical appointments are outside that. We stick to it and we don’t feel guilty about it.
This advice is counter to what many in the workforce may give you. Especially entrepreneurs or fast-paced businesses who always have the pedal to the metal and think the only way to grow is to move at the speed of light at all times, ignoring burnout in the process. We disagree – we’ve been the hare in this tale and prefer to take the path of the tortoise. Not only do we integrate work and life better, we achieve our goals in the time-frame that works for us and avoid the nasty pitfalls of losing ourselves in our work.
Forget the teeter totter and embrace the integrated puzzle that is your work and life.