It is being used in professional circles quite a bit. Talk about work-life balance, about the ways how not to sacrifice your personal life to your career goals and have a balanced life. Nothing against well-balanced life but what I would question is the inherent premise in the work-life balance theory: work means sacrifice and is not part of life. That just sounds really weird. You spend at work at least eight hours a day if not longer so how can you believe it is somehow not part of your life? And if it is really such a big sacrifice then why you do it? And please don’t tell me because you need money. Money are not the ultimate goal, they are just means to something else.
I must confess that I’m not someone who works nine to five. I spend considerable amount of time in the office and I love it. I also don’t feel that it has negative impact on my personal life. I have hobbies, travel the world, read tons of books, meet with friends or write this blog. And I do sleep seven to eight hours a day. And still some people would call me a workaholic only because I love my job, I like talking about it and I jump out of a bed every morning looking forward to yet another day in the office.
So if the work-life balance is not the thing to pursue then what else should you focus on? Well, the most obvious answer is the work-life integration. Why should you balance the great time with your family, your hobbies and great time at your work? And if you don’t have a great time at work isn’t it partially because you have a mindset that tells you that work is bad, home is good? Wouldn’t it be great if you could integrate these two and just have a great life regardless whether you are currently located at home or a company office?
It is about priorities
Wrong. It is a bit about priorities, but to be able to achieve the priorities of your life you need a good and stable base. If your life goal is raising a pair of beautiful kids or being a CEO of a big multinational company you just cannot get it done without regard of the rest of your life. What happens if you get fired from your job? What happens if your family breaks? Without a solid base and a well-integrated life you would get suicidal. If you look at your job as a sacrifice for your family how will you feel once for whatever reason you lose your family? You lost the thing you really care about and you are stuck with a job you hate. Not a good place to be in.
It is about mindset
Why not look at each aspect of your life as a necessary and helpful to support all the other parts? Why not to enjoy every aspect of your life to the fullest? I was told couple of times that I shouldn’t waste so much of my time in the office and rather go out and enjoy the life. I find that line of reasoning really peculiar. My time in the office is part of my life and I enjoy it immensely. I enjoy also being home with a good book. I enjoy great food in a nice restaurant. I enjoy talking with friends over a glass of beer, or bottle of coke in my case. I enjoy travelling the world and seeing new cultures and interesting places. And I enjoy playing with my little niece. I don’t see any of these as a waste of time. They all contribute to a happy and fulfilling life.
The key is being present
And yes, I realize I’m not offering any tips and tricks on how to have a well-integrated life. Since I believe it is about mindset and not some tricks or tools I cannot provide you with a plan how to get there. I can just point you in the direction of couple of posts that deal with happiness and positive mindset (Positive Approach To Life, Looking At The World Through The Eyes Of 5-years Old).
The only advice I give you is to always be present in whatever you do. If you are at work then be at work. Focus on the task at hand and don’t worry about anything else. If you sit on a meeting then focus on the topics discussed and ignore your email. If you are at home with your kids then give your complete attention to them and don’t check your blackberry every five minutes. It might be tempting to do many things in parallel in attempt to achieve more, but the only thing you will achieve is a state of constant worry and the constant feeling of missing out.
If you really want a tool then you can look at this one used by some coaches (in fact I use it frequently when coaching new clients) called the life-balance wheel. Who knows why it is called this way. You can look at it as balance wheel or you can look at it as integration wheel. In any case, it can give you a nice framework to collect your thoughts on the topic, realize what the things important to you are, and what part of your life is not integrated well with the rest. If you are interested just check out my post on this topic Coaching Tools: Life Balance Wheel.
Twitter type summary: “Forget about having a great work-life balance! Better to focus on the task at hand and have a well-integrated life.”
What is your point of view? Do you have a great work-life balance or just a great life?