Is it an illusion?

Recently, in our Accountability Group, in our Talks and in other events, the phrase work-life balance has been coming up. I think it is coming up because as many of us are working from home, we are struggling to keep the divide between work and life. Even harder is that without open schools and open daycare, those that work from home are suddenly full-time parents and teachers while trying to work. Work-Life balance … what is that?

In the book “Who’s in your room” by Ivan Misner, Rick Sapio and Stewart Emery, they believe that balance is an illusion. Interesting given that balance was always a goal of mine when I worked a corporate job. I was always looking for this balance. A balance between my work life and my personal life. Now that I work for myself, I’m never looking for balance. Instead, I’m just looking for ways to enjoy life. So, maybe they are on to something. Maybe balance is an illusion.

What they said we should strive for is harmony. Harmony with your values and vision of who you are and who you want to be.

This was interesting to me… I mean as someone who was always after the elusive balance it never occurred to me that I had stopped looking for it. Now that I work for myself, I work a lot. But I usually don’t mind. It has taken me many years as an entrepreneur to understand that when I feel like I’ve lost time for myself, It is usually because I’ve said yes to too many things that are not part of my goals, not part of my big vision. Or I’m doing things that should be done by others or bring me no value. I then need to work to move these things back to where they belong (not with me).

The authors recommended taking the time to identify those things that make you feel alive, satisfied and fulfilled. Once identified, work towards saying yes to more of these people, places and things. Essentially, this is what I strive to do when I’m feeling overwhelmed; bring alignment to the activities I am doing. Align them to what I need to be doing to grow myself and my business and to what I love to do and move away from the things that I do not need to be doing at this time.

The book also gave some great advice on how to enjoy ourselves more:

  • Wherever you are, be there: put your phone away, don’t think about work when you are with your family. Don’t think about your family when you are work. Be where you are. Basically, be present. I think this is an important one. How often are cell phones on the table at dinner or in a meeting? We are allowing ourselves to be pulled away often into the world of social media. We need to be present and spend time with those we are with. This may be harder now that is everything is in one place. However, if kids are old enough, I suggest setting up boundaries so that when working you are working, when with the kids or family you are with the kids or family. This may mean breaking the day up in more frequent breaks.
  • Letting go and holding on: it is not possible to have it all, you have to make choices. Hold on to the important things, let go of the rest.
  • Schedule it: schedule time with your family, your spouse. They gave an example of a man who scheduled “wine o’clock” with his wife at the end of every day. They would share a glass of wine and talk about their day. They did this every evening. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful way to end the day? I encourage time blocking. Time blocking is even more important when you have competing priorities. It could also help you and your spouse split the duties of the kids during work hours.
  • Enforce boundaries: Have work hours. Set space in your house for work and don’t work anywhere else. Help your family understand that work hours are work hours; especially when you work from home. When on vacation, if you need to work, set a time limit or a schedule. Maybe don’t take calls after a certain time or not on Sundays. Set whatever boundaries are important to you. But it is important that you honour the boundaries you set as much as it is important that other honours those boundaries. In the situation we are in today, we may need to get creative with those work hours. Especially, if your work and employer will allow you to be flexible. You may need to break your day up into chunks which means that you may be working some interesting hours to give time to both your job and your children. I think setting a schedule with your family will help.

One of the other things the book talked about is sometimes we may need to adjust our harmony. Sometimes, a big project, an important deadline or a certain circumstance will require you to devote more time to something you would normally. I agree. Sometimes, we need to really dial in and focus on something which may mean saying no to things we may enjoy. It’s all about looking at your goals and priorities. I think the key is to not keep the pendulum positioned really far to one side for too long. We need to evaluate and ensure we bring back into harmony.

We talk so much about creating work-life balance. But I think if you do the things you love, you don’t need to find balance. If your goal is to live in harmony with your values and vision, I think you will find that you are happy. It is when the alignment is not there, that you cannot find peace. When you don’t feel in alignment, evaluate what is causing it and adjust.

What do you think? Does work-life balance exist? Do you like the idea of striving for harmony instead?

“There is no such thing as work-life balance – it is all life. The balance has to be within you.”