the Work/Life Balance
Ever hear the
term ‘work/life balance’? Ever
feel that no matter what you do, you will never be able to balance
everything to your satisfaction? How
do you balance your 11.5 hours spent on average per day getting
ready, commuting, working, and so on with your scant bookends of life
and time on either side? How do
you meaningfully interact with your kids, significant other, or pets
more than a couple hours each day? Can you somehow TIVO your daily
cycles, removing all mundane catch-up conversation and chores, to
optimally maximize your time? Can you leave work and really leave it?
You can't just enter the Dark and Gloomy Cave of Work and then return
to the Bright and Blissful Garden of Life as it suits you.
The fact is that
balance is not possible. Maybe if you believe in multiple dimensions
or other breaks in our quantum time fabric, but in this reality,
balancing simply doesn't work. Work is an integral part of life, not a
weighty counterbalance to it. Imagine
your boss casually sitting you down in the lunchroom one day to
discuss your recent spate of late and tortured office nights and then
screaming at you, "You idiot. It's all life!" The secret to
upending the balance is upending your perspective on how you deal with
its working parts.
The first thing
to do is to toss the image of a balancing scale in your trusty
shredder as the metaphor casts work in a completely inappropriate
light. If work wins, life loses? Or if life wins, work loses? Huh? Is
work such a bad thing? Perhaps
if you perceive your means of income as merely a job, then yes, bring
in the scales, and make sure your life-side weights are nice and heavy
to really frustrate you while you watch the space of time collapse
around every ticking second as your daily grind comes to a close.
Yes, the term
has certain connotations: a degree of difficulty, of challenge, and
even sacrifice. It also implies achievement, advancement, and
fundamentally something noble. How could our society and standard of
living ever improve without work, impassioned work at that? Have you
ever heard people describe what they do as "my life's job"?
No. Portraying your commitment as "my life's work" carries a
decidedly different nuance. The sooner you can approach what your
life's work might be, the sooner you can leave that absurd and
undefeatable balance behind.
banish the word balance from
your daily vernacular and replace it with priority -- life/work
priority. Balancing is how circus performers entertain. The success of
your acts -- work, pastimes, kids, and so on -- is driven by
prioritizing how you want to spend the time of your life. Yes, time is
money, but infinitely more important, time is life. Although this
distinction between balance and priority is subtle in nature, once
adopted, its implications on how you look at, structure, and execute
your life can be extraordinarily profound.
need to figure out what is really important to you.
Make a list of the things that jump to mind as being important,
by grouping or category to your life: for example, life, your working
life, compensation, etc. Put
some time and thought into these lists as the more entries you have,
the more powerful will be your outputs.
Once created, turn on your trusty spreadsheet program or craft
a matrix that lists your entries along the top row and down the left
column. Working left to
right, and then top to bottom (ignoring those redundant cells), ask
yourself: is the row entry more important than the column entry? If
it is, put a 1 in that cell, if it isn’t, leave it blank.
One or zero, a simple binary decision.
example, let’s say you started with Life as your category of first
choice and you divided your Life into five buckets -- parents,
friends, money, work, and kids --
which you listed in this fashion.
The first question you would ask yourself is “Are my parents
more important than my friends?”, followed by “Are my parents more
important than how much I am making?”, etc.
Once you have filled in all the cells, add another column to
the right end of the matrix and add up your answers.
Voila, you have a quick and not-so-dirty quantitative and
relative rendering of what is important to you in Life (by the way,
how are you allocating it vis-à-vis your results?.
same routine for your working life and compensation, and again,
however you want to define your entries – what is important to you
– is up to you, not the Joneses!
Favorite entries spanning these two domains include: commuting
less than 30 minutes to work, having a good boss, needing to wear a
suit, believing in my company’s mission, ranges of compensation
plans (high salary, low bonus – low salary, high bonus), the ability
to work from home and vacation policies.
results may startle you, they may baffle you.
They may be revealing of something deeply subliminal, they may
merely reinforce what you thought you already knew.
Whatever they are though, don’t ignore them.
Affix them next to your monitor at work, on your bathroom
mirror, or on the back of your cell phone.
Don’t worry, they won’t bite, at least not physically.
importantly, develop plans to integrate them into your current living
cycles. These plans can
take days to years to implement; the degree of change you may need to
make could require a little or a lot of planning and financial
confidence. Regardless of
whatever difficulties may appear, remember, balancing your life, and
the time of your life, is bunk! Being
true to your priorities, whatever they may be, is a foolproof way of
integrating your work into your life for at the end of the day, the
day is over. It is all
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