Living Well

Forgetting about work-life balance

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History of work-life balance

Work–life balance is a concept including the proper prioritization between work (career and ambition) and lifestyle (healthpleasureleisurefamily).

Wikipedia claims the term work-life balance was first used in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s and in the US in the 1980s.
I started paying more attention to the term when I first became a project manager in the early 2000s. I suspect at that point, it became important to me as I realised how much time my job was eating into my personal life.
Work-life balance was a useful stick to challenge my managers with.

What’s wrong with it?

The term has inherent difficulties. This article on Forbes expresses it well but a key point is:

Berkeley Haas School Of Business notes the traditional image of a scale, an image often associated with work-life balance, “creates a sense of competition between the two elements.”

Does anyone else feel like this? That their work-life needs putting into check to ensure an equal distribution of time or effort between home and work? Over the last few years, that’s how I’ve felt and I’ve prided myself on keeping certain constraints on how much I’ve allowed my work life to intrude.
But perhaps that’s all wrong. Perhaps there shouldn’t be any competition between the different aspects of our lives.
With increasingly connected employees and more global teams, it becomes increasingly difficult to draw a line where work ends and life begins. In fact, even saying that assumes that your work-life isn’t something you would consider as ‘living’.
In The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results (Basic Skills), the authors explain their key problem with work-life balance,

It’s a destructive form of wishful thinking that stops us from being present and focused in each moment.
Gary Keller & Jay Papasan, The ONE Thing

And that:

Sometimes your work-life ramps up into overdrive and you have no choice but to focus exclusively on getting it done. Other times, your family will need you more than usual, or your health will start making its demands known, or you’ll face a spiritual crossroads.
Gary Keller & Jay Papasan, The ONE Thing

And this is something I’ve come to appreciate with a recent change in role.
It would be impossible for me to maintain the illusion of a balance at this moment in time. I’ve got a lot of new things to learn whilst spinning a few more plates than usual. I’m also having to be brutally realistic with myself about my publishing schedule.
It hurts. But, it won’t be forever.
Right now, my efforts are more skewed towards my work life. And I’m at peace with that because I know that in a few weeks time, my efforts might skew in the other direction.

What is the alternative?

The term work-life integration has become more prevalent over the last few years. I came across it on the Coaching for Leaders podcast. On that show, they used the term work-life integration and that resonated a little more with me.
You can argue that we’re talking semantics but for me, using the word integration actually helps.
I’m a Content Manager for a software company, a fiction author, and a father to two young children. My days are not so straight-forward that I can draw a line between them and switch from one role to the other.
So, for me to find some peace, I’m going to think about how all these aspects of me integrate.

  • My corporate job is supporting my family and allows me to pursue other adventures like self-publishing. That’s integration at its most basic right there.
  • The skills I’m learning through line-management and coaching are skills that are useful when guiding my children through their lives.
  • Creating and maintaining my author business is building my skills in marketing, SEO, and reader engagement. All of which is feeding back into my corporate job.

Life doesn’t stop when you are at work.
There is no balance.
There is only how you choose to make the most of the opportunities and challenges presented to you.


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