Oh, that pesky question of how to find "work-life balance." It's as if we all are spending enormous amounts of time and energy agonizing about how to balance out the many, many tasks in our day. And the result? We don't feel much balance at all.
We spend our crowded office time working hard to advance our careers, to push our professional limits, to ensure the best of quality in everything we do. And we can’t seem to get it all done. Because of course we can't: there is always going to be more to do.
And yet we still feel the pressure to do more. Once we're done with our work, most of us probably spend the limited time at home working hard to provide for our families, to spend quality time with our loved ones, to enjoy a few minutes alone or with close friends. And we can’t seem to get it all done. And then the stress becomes exacerbated.
So what’s the deal? How is it possible that so many books and workshops focus on "achieving" work-life balance … and yet so few of us ever get it?
Because, when it comes to work-life balance, it's all about how we frame it. And up until now, we’ve had it all wrong.
Below are three truths about work-life balance, and some tips for how we can actually find some bliss:
Truth #1: There’s no such thing as having it all.
The biggest reason we have such a hard time achieving work-life balance is because it is simply not achievable.
The idea that we can "have it all" if we just get better at time-management or set some boundaries is a fallacy. When we try to squeeze our never-ending list of activities (and relationships) into a given day, our time and energy run out. We wind up doing a bunch of things partway. Which means we do some things well and some things … not-so-well.
Instead of struggling to have “it all”, it’s up to us to live “our all." And that "all" is going to be different for every person out there. We must figure out what feeds each of us most in our professional and personal lives. We must let the other stuff go.
Yes, living “our all” comes with sacrifice. But by getting rid of the things (and people) that make us somewhat happy (or plain unhappy), we get to live a life filled with what we love best. Because in the end, that’s what makes life that much more blissful.
Truth #2: Work and life are not mutually exclusive.
This is a big one. When in the heck did work and life become two separate things?
One of the reasons the idea of balancing work and life is so flawed is because it insinuates that our work is not a meaningful part of life. And sure, being it the office isn't always pleasurable. But the mere notion of "work-life balance" forces us to think about our lives in a compartmentalized, unintegrated way. It keeps us from living in the present, as work becomes something we get done before we move on to the good stuff.
This makes no sense. By its very nature work is a part of life — a very big part of it for many of us. And that’s fine, actually, as long as it’s a conscious choice. As long as it’s a career that feeds us, that knocks our proverbial socks off … most of the time, that is. Nothing’s perfect, after all.
The important thing is to make a conscious decision about how much of “our all” we want spent on our career, to find one that we love, and then to do it ... without guilt, and by letting go of the things that mean less.
Truth #3: We’re obsessed with the ding.
While finding the time for both professional and personal satisfaction has always been tough, the challenge is now exponentially harder thanks to our fancy-schmancy tech.
Somehow all of that effort we put into figuring out just how much time will be given to the pieces of “our all” can go down the drain the second the unexpected "ding" hits our inboxes and phones. Email, texts and social media are no longer simply a convenient way to stay in touch. They now represent an expectation of constant accessibility.
There’s a reason that we tend to jump with a somewhat adrenaline-like start when we hear the ding. When someone contacts us that means we’re needed. We’re important. We’ve got a distraction if want one.
The ding is like a wrapped gift that hasn’t yet been opened. It’s a mystery. Anyone could be behind it. Despite our collective whining about being constantly inundated by technology, many of us actually crave it.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with this … as long as we own it. As long as we understand what’s behind our willingness to let our lives be run by the unexpected digital interruption.
Once we own it, we can plan for it. We can make an intentional decision about just how much power we’re willing to give our tech. We can adjust our lives to make it happen. We can turn off the phone during dinner or in the meeting. We can shut the email down. We can silence the ding.
We can focus better, enjoy each moment more.