WHAT IS WORK-LIFE BALANCE:
Work-life balance is the concept of allocating an even amount of time on things related to work (your job, office hours, time spent reading emails) and activities related to things you enjoy doing when you’re not working (leisure activities, family, friends, relationships, fitness). The motive behind it is well intentioned, aiming to provide career-hungry individuals like yourself with yet another goal to strive towards on top of the hundreds of things you’re already working on. From shutting off your email at 5 pm every day to scheduling “leisure time” on your calendar every second Saturday of the month at noon, one is told to strive for just as much “work” as “play.” No more, no less. If you achieve a true work-life balance, then all aspects of your life should just fall naturally into place.
WHY IT’S FLAWED:
Just the thought of “work-life balance,” and how far away your current existence may be from it, is unsettling. It’s unsettling because it begs the idea that your life is unbalanced, and by comparison, wrong. However, it makes complete sense to play into the myth of work-life balance and to wish it were that easy to strike a harmonious rhythm living life to the beat of a drum that was previously inaudible to you.
Here’s the rub. If you’re career-oriented and trying to work towards a profession that you are proud of, odds are maintaining a true work-life “balance” is out of the cards. If your work is important to you, you’re likely checking your emails after 5 pm and hunching over your laptop into the wee hours of the night by choice. You’re overworked because this valuation of success is high up on your list of priorities. It’s part of your life, and there’s no shame in that. It’s part of your life and you shouldn’t be comparing yourself to the unrealistic standard of finding a “balance” that limits the time that you spend working on it. Instead, you should be focusing on how to cultivate a lifestyle that allows for the ebbs and flows that being career-oriented will no doubt bring.
WHAT YOU SHOULD STRIVE FOR INSTEAD:
Think of it this way…for most of us nowadays, the idea of slaving away, clocking in 50-hour work weeks for 35 years at a job you hate all so you can retire before the age of 65 is no longer as appealing as it was before. What many people are seeking these days is a sustainable career that you enjoy, that allows you to do all of the things you love, and that you can likely see yourself doing for years, if not decades, to come. This career path exists, but its hours aren’t set in stone. You might still need to check your emails at random hours of the day and night, spend Sunday evenings making phone calls, and work longer days on occasion. That said, it’s up to you to make an active choice when it comes to where you allocate your time and to understand that your work and your life can coexist in synchronicity. Some days will leave you feeling burnt out and overworked, while others will leave you feeling high on life and fueled with purpose, both on and off the clock. This is the name of today’s game. The ebbs and flows are what will make it all worthwhile.
Instead of looking high and low for some semblance of work-life balance, focus your efforts on being more present in all aspects of your life. Odds are, when you stop obsessing over what you’re not doing enough of or what you’re missing out on, you’ll be able to give the important things your 100%. And 100 is always better than 50-50.
Header Image provided by Picjumbo