Work-Life balance is a false hope sold through human resources and the consultant class as some magical elixir.
The problem is that the notion, as many binary choices, is that the belief in binary options creates unnecessary stress and false and/or alternatives.
When you try to make a Work-Life balance, you are assuming that things in your life balance, nothing in nature or your life is ever in balance, and that is OK.
Within certain times you will focus more and less on areas. Your focus will depend on your values, time, and environment.
Homeostasis – the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes.
Within nature, energy and effort move from one area of need to the other to determine at this time, and overall, what requires attention. When the focus of attention is taken care of, the focus moves toward equilibrium.
In a leadership development question and answer session with Lindsey Zajac of Ahern Murphy, we shared some ideas on work-life-self focus and the fact of trade-offs, support systems, and self-care.
I argue that instead of work-life balance, we think of things in a triad of Work-Family-Self.
Work-Family-Self means that within some contexts or times, there is a greater need for:
- Self – at the deficit of work and family.
- Family – at the deficit of self and work.
- Work – at the deficit of self and family.
Each Work-Family-Self being important, and each needing focus. When too much energy is in one area, you can change the focus into a different area. However, balancing all 3 is never (rarely) possible or desirable.
For example, I am writing this on a Friday before the 4th of July Holiday in the USA (work). I spent most of the day with my daughter, hiking in the woods and laughing (family). I will read a philosophy book I am enjoying for about 45 minutes tonight after the kids go to bed (self). I do not need to keep a false sense of balance, and I recognize that each is helpful, and this Friday has allowed me time for all work-life-self.
When the work week returns, I know that I will need to spend more time with family and make time for myself (so I can keep some sanity); and with the focus on those areas, my work will suffer.
Work-Family-Self focus is what happens in life, sometimes minute by minute, we sense our environment and needs and choose how to respond.
It is OK to drop your quest for work-life balance. Accept that one will be louder or more pronounced than the other.
Progress in your work and life happens when you choose to recognize your values, sense what needs to be done and respond appropriately. This is how you can think and visualize the Work-Life-Self triad.