If you search Amazon.com you’ll find hundreds of books on work-life balance. Obviously this topic is of interest to the world. I suspect it was started by women who taught men the importance of the concept. But do we really want work-life balance?
My educational background is finance/accounting. When I think of balance, I think of the balance sheet where assets=liabilities+equity or debits=credits. In accounting, everything in balance is a good thing. But in life, I’m not sure what we need is balance.
Let’s look at a typical work day: Rise at 6:00 AM; get ready for work 6:00-7:00 AM; commute from 7:00-8:00 AM; work from 8:00-5:00; commute home 5:00-6:00; personal time 6:00-11:00; and sleep from 11:00 PM-6:00 AM. Admittedly averages don’t really represent anything real, but for purposes of making my point, let’s assume this day is typical. When you calculate work and commute time as “work” and everything else as “life”, 54% of the day is spent outside of work. If we add weekends into the mix and look at a 168 hour week, 67% of our time is allocated to “life.” So what’s the problem?
I suspect the real problem is that we don’t feel like we have enough time in our lives for what is really important. Or, we don’t really only work from 8:00-5:00. For some reason we bring work home and work on weekends. If we really are all out of balance, I’d like to offer four things to consider: Productivity at work, how we define success, attitude about work/life balance and living a life of integrity.
Productivity – Early in my career, one of my supervisors told me “If you think you are impressing me by staying at work late, you’re not. If you can’t get your job done in an 8-hour day, perhaps I should replace you with someone who can!” This advice helped me focus on productivity.
There are many factors that impact our productivity but some of the most common are broken processes, doing other people’s work, poor communication, agenda-less meetings, unclear goals, and allowing or seeking interruptions. If you pick just one of these to focus on and make changes, you’ll likely see improvement.
Defining Success – Most people define success in terms of career achievements – promotions, raises and bonuses. The vast majority of people if they set goals at all, only set career and financial goals. This is part of the reason they think of success in career and financial terms.
In reality, we are complicated beings with many dimensions and needs – family, social, physical, intellectual and spiritual – in addition to career and financial. Each of these areas of our lives works for and against each other. Is it really possible to achieve balance? Even if it were, it wouldn’t last long and like a teeter-totter that sits in balance, it isn’t much fun.
Balance is really a misnomer. Harmony is a much better term for what we seek in life. Think of an orchestra. Many individual and intertwined sounds create the composition. Not every instrument plays all the time. Some carry the melody and others create the harmony.
Setting goals in each area of your life is an important part of creating work/life harmony. Sometimes the problem is not really work/life harmony. Rather, the problem is mastering the art of saying “no.”
Once you’ve considered what is really important in all areas of your life and set written goals, the art of saying no becomes more of a science. The process is simple. Say yes to those things that will take you closer to your goals and no to those things that will take you further away.
If it is so simple, why don’t we just do it?
That brings me to the next point. What is your attitude about achieving harmony in your work/life? Do you have to stay late? Do you have to take work home? Do you have to work weekends? In other words, is your attitude that work always comes first?
You’ll never achieve harmony in your life unless you realize that you are in control and you choose to stay late, take work home and work weekends. It is your choice and not a requirement. Accepting the reality that you are 100% responsible for your choices is empowering in itself. You are in control. Once you acknowledge this, you are able to make the choices that will bring harmony to your life.
Go ahead! Picture the success you want to achieve, set goals in all areas of your life, eliminate the waste and make the choices that will take you closer to goal achievement. Soon, you’ll be singing the sweet song of success!