The term “work-life balance” has exploded in usage over the last decade. Hundreds of workshops and dozens of books later, the problem of work-life balance is still faraway from being totally solved.
We are all seeking ways to balance our work with our family and personal lives in this period of excessive work and too many demands for our time and attention.
We love our family, but we also love work. How then do we solve this problem?
Traditional Understanding of Work-Life Balance
1. Work-Life Balance is a problem of poor time management
9 out of 10 people will tell you that not being able to achieve work-life balance is a problem of poor management of your time.
Maybe you’ve given this excuse, too. We complain for more time and seek additional hours to the 24 hours we have. But ironically, the human race has never had more time than we have now.
Think about it, we have so much technologies that have allowed it for us to move and live faster than we ever have. We have cars that can move at amazing speed and trains that can take us over long distances in short time. We also no longer have to walk over to everyone’s houses to deliver our message; we simply send a WhatsApp message or call them on phone.
All these developments have saved us more time than ever. Yet, somehow, we still do not have enough time to spend with our family and loved ones.
Apart from technological advancements, there has also been great efforts put into understanding time management and how to be better at it. A Google search of the word “time management” returned 3.8 billion results (that’s 3.8 billion articles and posts written on how to manage time!) and Amazon has over 60,000 books and tools on time management alone.
Still, with all of these information and technology, it only seems like we’re getting worse at establishing a good relationship with our work and family. This shows us, then, that work-life balance is not really a time management issue.
2. Work and Life are like two sides of a coin
The traditional view of work-life balance is that work and life are two conflicting aspects of our existence – two sides of a coin. It’s either you love work or love life, you can’t have both.
This is a very harmful belief. Work and life are not in conflict. Rather, they complement each other in order to make our life worthwhile.
Without work, you can’t have a fulfilling life; and without a good and healthy relationship with your family, you can’t excel at work.
3. Work-Life balance is only a problem for those at the top
This is another wrong belief about work-life balance. We think it’s only the CEOs, founders, and executives that have to worry about work-life balance because they are the super busy ones.
This is far from true. Work-life balance is something everyone should think about, whether if you are a janitor or business owner.
Yes, people at higher career levels have more work-life problems to deal with, but those problems arise because they didn’t work on the balance when they had more time. If you can’t make time for your family when you are a mid-level employee, you won’t make time when you become an executive.
A New View of Work-Life Balance
Achieving work-life balance involves embracing a better idea of balance. And what is this new view?
It is measuring work-life balance by significance, presence, & attention. Let’s look at each one.
This involves measuring how important an activity is to the advancement of your future.
Significance is not about prioritizing. Prioritizing only rearranges activities, it doesn’t make them more effective. Significance, on the other hand, involves measuring the potential advantage that an activity will have on your future.
So what does this mean to your work-life balance?
When you have certain tasks to work on, ask yourself: how significant is this to my future? Will it help me improve my relationship with work or/and life?
Many of the tasks we do (that steal family time from us) shouldn’t even be on the todo list in the first place. By asking how significant the task will be to the advancement of your work, you can decide whether to do it or simply sit with your kids and watch Spongebobs Squarepants.
What if every task is significant?
When it seems like every task is significant, your job is to procrastinate on purpose. Sounds counterintuitive, but it’s the only thing that will save you from being buried in important work.
Schedule a time the next day or later in the night to work on the project. The world won’t end if you’re a bit late.
Are you present? When you work, are you working? When you’re with your family, are you with your family?
Presence has to do with being totally engrossed in the moment doing what you choose to do.
When you decide to spend time with your kids, be totally present with them, keep your phone away, and let them enjoy you…at least for that moment.
Because our presence is always divided between several places, we are unable to really enjoy our time at work or at home. When it’s time to be with the family, be with them. When it’s time to work, work.
As you get more focused in the present, you will be able to feel the significance of every moment you soend at home or at work.
Daddy, are you listening?
Oh no, dad was too busy reading his WhatsApp messages.
Paying attention is something we do very little of. There’s a lot more to work-life balance than just being at home or being at work.
It is how you spend your attention at these places that determines your work-life balance. When you are working, you should pay attention to work and work only. When you are with the family at the dinner table, your attention should be there, not on the mail that just came in.
Some ways to improve your attention
- Keep your phone away when eating with the family.
- When working, turn off unnecessary Facebook notifications.
- Set specific blocks of time to focus on specific parts of your life.
- During those set times, work only on that task.
- Enjoy every moment as it comes.
Achieving work-life balance should be a goal for every parent. But while you try to set that balance, ensure you keep your internal balance too.
Are you keeping yourself healthy? Is your spiritual life going fine? Are you at peace with yourself? Do you reward yourself?
All these factors will contribute to how well you can perform as a parent and employee.