I’ve been a big advocate of work-life balance. Having worked some stupidly long hours in my corporate career I’ve experienced what it’s like to feel regularly burnt out, and I definitely don’t want to go back there. So I’ve always been conscious of fitting ‘life’ in instead of letting work take over. However… my thoughts have been changing recently, and I’m at an interesting point where I’ve decided to ditch that infamous balance thing, because it simply doesn’t work for me anymore. Here’s why…
Most people know that I love what I do. I genuinely get a big kick out of working with my clients and I enjoy practically every work day – honest. But as much as I love it, I don’t want to work 24-7, that’s just silly. The thing is though, work-life balance assumes that work and life are completely separate things, and that to have a balanced life you need to separate the two. I disagree.
We live in an era where we’re constantly plugged in, one way or another. Of course we can choose to turn off email, put our phones on silent, and generally retract from the standard day-to-day. But that tends to be a one-off occasion or during vacation, rather than the norm.
In the quest for balance I used to have a cut off point when work stopped and life started. But at times that just caused me to worry because there were loose ends that needed tidying after I’d entered the ‘no work zone’, which would leave me feeling guilty if I encroached on that sacred time with anything vaguely related to work.
However, the way we work now has changed, and when you accept that and change your approach the way you manage your time differently it can significantly help reduce stress.
The key point here is that you don’t need to separate these two key areas of your life, and cut one off to start the next – you can ‘blend’ them together, a phrase coined by Mitch Joel, President of Twist Image, one of the largest independent digital marketing agencies in North America.
By mixing the two it’s OK to dip in and out of work without feeling stressed or guilty. If you need to do something personal during work time, that’s fine. And if you come across some useful information for work during the weekend it’s OK to dip into that too. These aren’t intrusions, they’re just the new norm of how life is these days, or how I choose to live my life.
Long gone are the days where my job was predominately about money. Now, my most important values are met on a daily basis so I’m motivated by my work, the people I work with are great and for the first time ever I have no inclination of ‘leaving’. So you see, I don’t end every day desperate to finish work and start ‘life’ in the few hours that remain before bed time. I’m happy to blend them together, and enjoy what I’m doing, when I’m doing it – without feeling conflicted that I ‘should’ be doing something else.
That said, I know what’s important to me and I manage my time smartly. You won’t find me working until the early hours of the morning anymore, and my family are really important so I make sure that my time with them is uninterrupted as much as possible. By planning my week well and having clear boundaries I don’t have to grapple with feeling like life is out of whack, and worrying about how I’m going to feel ‘balanced’ again.
If you’re keen to start blending your work and life together a little more, check out this Forbes article from former Navy SEAL Brett Gleeson who has identified 7 ways to blend your work and life successfully:
- Plan ahead: Create a schedule that incorporates non-work related activities. This could include date nights with your significant other, activities with the kids, or simply time to yourself to pursue a hobby. If you don’t make the time, these things tend to fall by the wayside. Stick to your schedule!
- Communicate: Tell your family, friends and colleagues about your plan. The plan will have some changes, but let them know how important it is to your personal and professional success that your plan stays in place.
- Own each day: Even if it’s only ten or fifteen minutes, do something non-work related that makes you happy every day. This will freshen your perspective on work, and increase your personal satisfaction.
- Be fit: Living a healthy lifestyle and integrating exercise into your routine will help you manage stress and give you more energy. Less stress and more energy will give you more confidence and result in better performance at work and a better attitude at home.
- Be organized: Make a to-do list every day that includes action items and goals related to both your work and personal life. And, make it reasonable. Don’t put 10 things on the list if you know you only have time for five tasks. You are only setting yourself up for failure. Schedule what you can accomplish, accomplish it, and sleep soundly knowing your to-do list is done for the day.
- Learn to say no: Commit to not committing. If you say yes to every single work task and social obligation that comes your way, you will never accomplish anything successfully. Obviously, if your boss needs something done right away, it’s often hard to say no. But it’s even worse to commit to something you will fail in delivering. You don’t get points for committing if you don’t complete the task. Be transparent about what you can accomplish. Good communication is key.
- Shut it down: It may not be realistic to “leave work at work,” but at some point in the night I suggest putting the phone and computer away and giving your undivided attention to loved ones or simply take time for you. There isn’t much you can do about an issue at 10 pm that can’t be done at 8 am. On this note, stop sleeping with your smartphone!
As Mitch Joel summarised after meeting Patrick Pichette, Chief Financial Officer of Google, “work is no longer something you do during the day – especially if it’s something you’re passionate about. Work isn’t something that resides outside of life, it is an integral part of it”.
So by allowing yourself to blend the two together and being clear on your goals and values, you give yourself permission to focus on what’s important at the time, creating space for work and life to live collaboratively together!
So what’s your take on work-life blend? Do you love your career enough to want to blend the rest of your life in with it, or are you desperate to forget your job when the clock ticks around to 5pm? You answer probably says a lot about whether you’re in the right job or not….
Written by Faye Hollands – Director at Outshine Consulting
Faye is an accomplished Career Coach, Small Business Coach and Productivity Specialist who has successfully coached countless clients on how to create a career they love, get more done in less time, and achieve personal and professional success.
You can contact Faye on +61 2 8323 4335 or email email@example.com
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