Finding work-life balance seems impossible, doesn’t it? How often have you wished there were 48 hours in the day (or two of you) to get everything done? If you were to make a list of all the components of your life, you would probably find a long list of things that are important and need your time. It can be easy to throw up your hands in despair at the thought of having a balanced life. If you have tried to fit everything in, and found yourself overwhelmed, take heart. It is possible to live a fulfilling life…with a new approach.
The Fundamental Flaw of Work-Life Balance
The main reason that finding a perfect balance of work and life is impossible is this: the definition of balance makes it impossible to achieve over time. Merriam Webster defines balance as this: “a state in which different things occur in equal or proper amounts or have an equal or proper amount of importance.”
That presupposes a “perfect time” where everything is completely equal. Real life does not work that way. Many people approach work-life balance as scheduling equal blocks of time for work-related tasks and non-related activities. An example of this would be someone who schedules 8 hours of work, 8 hours of non-work, and 8 hours of sleep per day. That adds up to 24 hours, right? The work-life balance scale appears perfectly balanced. Until…life happens. The boss gives you a project due in two days. The car has a flat tire on the way home from work. And so on. When something upsets our carefully-planned day, we believe we have failed in our attempt at work-life balance.
The Organizational Challenge
Organizations are inherently designed to get everything they can from their employees. The underlying mission of an organization is to make money; after all, without money, companies cannot do what they hope to accomplish. To make money, organizations task their employees to do everything they can (and often more) to fulfill that mission. There is nothing wrong with that; the problem arises when we expect the company to take care of our need for work-life balance. That will never happen. Many organizations do an admirable job of providing wellness programs, social activities, and other incentives to increase employee engagement. However, that alone will not provide the balance we seek.
If there is no such thing as true work-life balance, how can you fill your own fundamental need to improve your well-being, at work and at home?
Change what you seek.
Ask yourself this question:
If it is not possible to find perfect work-life balance, what do I really need to live my life in the way that’s best for me?
Then fill in this blank: Instead of Work-Life Balance, I need Work-Life ______.
- Work-Life Fulfillment
- Work-Life Care
- Work-Life Achievement
When you change your perspective, it opens up a lot of room for flexibility. You regain the power to decide what is important to you, and what choices you can make.
Evaluating Your Current Work Situation
Since work takes up a large chunk of our days, it is important that you honestly evaluate your work. Ask yourself these questions:
- How much flexibility inside of work do I have? (per day, per week, per monty)
- How much flexibility outside of work do I have?
- Is that amount of flexibility acceptable for the kind of life I want to live?
The answers to these questions vary widely from person to person. Some people thrive on workplace intensity and do not need big chunks of time outside of work to be fulfilled; others need more flexibility to engage with family and other concerns. Taking an honest look at the kind of work you do and its intensity level will help you decide if you are receiving the kind of flexibility you need.
The answers to these questions also vary widely among professions. Some jobs are inherently intense, with long hours, demanding workloads, and pressure-filled days as part of the job. Others are inherently more “quiet.” Evaluate your needs and the characteristics of the job to see if you will be able to live with the amount of flexibility you need for fulfillment.
Choosing Your Path
One import thing to remember is that you cannot separate work and life. Work is a part of your life. Keeping them totally separate makes the kind of life you truly want an impossibility. By viewing them together, with fresh perspectives, you will be able to make choices about what is best…best for you, for your family, and for the life you seek to lead.