‘Work-Life Balance’ has become a catch phrase, something to be aspired to and yet another measure of how we fail to negotiate our way in the modern world. It’s touted as some kind of panacea, a life in which there is perfect balance. You always leave work at the preferred time, and you can meet your family, fitness and business schedules in every 24-hour period, with never a hair out of place. Seriously, who lives this life? I can guarantee you no one I know.
The problem with chasing something as unattainable as perfect work-life balance is that it zaps your energy, enthusiasm and self-belief, and it certainly kills your passion for your work. Finding the balance between work and your personal life can be stressful, as you start to see work as the enemy in the fight to reclaim some personal space.
To be totally transparent as I write this article I am sitting in a noisy airport working on my laptop in preparation for a 3-day Leadership Retreat that I am co-facilitating. I’m heading away from my loved ones to work over a weekend; it ‘s one of many working weekends for me. Let me be clear, this is a choice I am making. Do I miss my family? Yes of course, as anyone does when they travel regularly for work. Does it disrupt my social life? Yes it does. But do I have passion for what I do? Absolutely!
So what’s the point I am trying to make?
In a conversation with a very wise friend, we discussed the ludicrousness of the work-life balance concept and our preference for creating work-life harmony. In this case, the definition is not that you have everything perfectly balanced but that your choices are harmoniously balanced between professional and personal aspects of your life.
For example, if you know that you have a stressful project or super busy period of work coming up, take the time to communicate with your family, friends, and significant other and enrol their support. It’s always good for them to know it’s not forever, so that you can negotiate the payoffs ahead of time. Make time for important social outings, ensure that you’re around for special occasions and highlight the family holiday you have planned or the romantic weekend you have scheduled.
Perhaps you have a project you need to work flat-out on for a month, and after that you can claim back some time or resume leaving work on time. Create balance so that you can get home to prepare dinner, do homework with the children or have a pre-dinner beverage or exercise session. Having harmony in your life is about recognising your priorities and committing due time to each of them.
The key to work-life harmony is clear communication, so that everyone knows what’s happening and you can seek the support you need from those you care about. Lets face it, great communication is the foundation of all healthy functional relationships both professionally and personally.
Where do you sit on the work-life harmony scale?
Personally I’d take it one step further and say it’s all just life, and we each have the choice of how we balance the different areas of our personal and professional lives. We can choose how we spend our time, how we balance our priorities and the attitude that we take with us into each facet of our lives.
So they’re calling my flight, I’m packing up my laptop and heading onto the plane destined to spend 3 days changing the lives of leaders, so they can return to their families and teams refreshed and with renewed passion in hand. How does it get any better than that!