“What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.” – Bob Dylan
Photo credit: Michael Coghlan on Flicker
Work-life balance is all the rage as a topic of discussion these days. What is it? How do you achieve it? Why is it so important?
I’ll wait for the frothing at the mouth folks to leave.
Work-life balance isn’t important for one simple reason: chances are, either your work or your life could stand for some improvement first. Work-life imbalance typically happens because one of those two buckets is significantly out of balance. If you hate your job and hate your work all the time (not just temporarily), then work-life balance takes on greater importance because you spend a lot of your time at work wishing you weren’t at work, and resenting even a minute more on the job. The solution isn’t demanding work-life balance. It’s quitting your job and finding a better one, or finding another path in life.
Sometimes, the other unhealthy extreme occurs, where you’re not happy with your life outside of work, and work is your escape from the rest of your life. While your shareholders and investors thank you, chances are your health and well-being do not. Fix it. To use the over-used quote, there’s an app for nearly anything wrong with your life (short of actual medical conditions such as depression, for which you should see a doctor).
Either way, what’s really problematic is that one of those two meta-areas is out of balance. If you get them in balance, if you get the quality of life at work and outside of work to improve, then you don’t mind when either of the areas occasionally requires more focus.
What if you like your work and you like your life? What if the above doesn’t feel like it applies to you, but something still feels off? The other thing that can help with work-life balance: centered awareness. When you’re at work, be at work. Be present, be in the moment. As best as circumstances permit, focus on work while at work. Do the best job you can. When you’re in your life outside of work, be there. Turn off your email. Put down your work-related devices. Enjoy the time that you’re not work to the fullest. When you lack that centeredness, when you don’t enforce those boundaries carefully, then work and life intermingle and distract you from what you’re supposed to be doing at that moment. That sense of distraction, of never fully committing to anything in the moment, can diminish your appreciation of the moment.
Fundamentally, concern about work-life balance is a symptom, not a root cause. Fix the areas in your work and life that are most broken, then see how the balance feels afterwards. Ideally, constant and never-ending improvement in both work and life, from new jobs to personal growth, will help you find balance without having to seek it specifically.
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