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The pursuit of work-life balance has been this generation’s version of the pursuit of the fountain of youth. Work-life balance has been a priority of mine in years past, especially when I missed so much family time during my career as a corporate lawyer. When I left the legal industry and joined the business world, I thought I would find a bit more balance and, to an extent, I have. But I’ve also learned that work-life balance is a myth and, more importantly, I’ve learned that might actually be a good thing. In this article, I’ll explain why.
Humans are social creatures, and we tend to compare ourselves to others. In this regard, work-life balance has definitely crept into my life. I have three kids, and anyone with multiple kids knows that the struggle is real. I won’t lie — when I see other parents who seem to be managing all of it, there are times when I wonder what we’re doing wrong. But over the years, I’ve come to realize that if there’s one truism, it’s that you are always going to encounter people who seem to have it all together, including in achieving work-life balance. But if you ask these seemingly put-together people how they do it, chances are (unless they simply aren’t self-aware) they will tell you they certainly haven’t figured it all out either.
These misconceptions regarding work-life balance are unhealthy because they encourage false expectations. While goal-setting is important, in most instances goals need to be achievable (this is not the same as saying they need to be easy). When we set unrealistic standards for ourselves, we inevitably revert back to the social side of our psyche that compares and envies. However, if we understand that work-life balance isn’t truly achievable, it might lend some comfort and allow us to operate from a more mentally-healthy foundation, without having to make unconvincing rationalizations. Moreover, this recalibration allows us to combat unhealthy manifestations in the workplace, such as giving the stinkeye to your colleagues when they have a question for you as you’re trying to run out the door. Over the long run, putting an end to constantly questioning yourself can also help with burnout.
So how should we approach work-life balance? I have three suggestions.
1. Recognize That Work-Life Balance Is A Myth
When you’re at work, be present at work. Obviously, if an emergency arises, you tend to do that, but barring such circumstances, stay in the moment. Acknowledge that like everything else in life, there are good days and bad, and that this too shall pass. As discussed above, don’t create unachievable standards.
Likewise, when you’re with family or friends, be present. Unless you have a $100 million deal closing tomorrow (in which case, I’m sorry but you probably shouldn’t have gone home in the first place), there’s no reason you need to constantly check your email. When you’re on vacation, be on vacation. Teach your team to be independent. While they can’t work 100% on their own without your input, you can partition away blocks of time during the day to go through emails and calls, and then truly focus for the remainder of the day. Again, be present.
2. Mix Things Up At The Micro Level
During your workday, if your job allows you to do this, mix things up — but in concentrated chunks of time. For instance, I attempt to squeeze in my meetings at the beginning and toward the end of my workday. In the middle, I try to focus on tasks that are more time-intensive and require concentration. The pressure of knowing I have meetings towards the end of the day creates a little pressure to stay focused on whatever task I’m working on. The concentrated chunks of time are critical to thwart distraction and encourage productivity.
3. Mix Things Up At The Macro Level
Pursue multiple passions, whether it’s in your career or just personal hobbies. For instance, I’m an angel investor in addition to my day job so conducting diligence on potential companies is a welcome break because it engages a different part of my brain. I love sports, so I ensure that my time spent following teams has a decent return on interest (for a hobby) by playing fantasy sports. I avoid watching TV because I find I often come out of it more exhausted (although I make an exception for “Game of Thrones”).
Inevitably, you’re going to get sufficiently deep into some task, but then find yourself bored or burned out. When that happens, switching to another task will allow you to rest and refresh your mind so that you can begin fresh. Keep rotating through tasks, and that’s when you’ll feel like one of those punchable weirdos who claim that work doesn’t really feel like work when you do what you love. (This is not an invitation for you to punch me if we ever meet.)
Don’t let a lack of work-life balance convince you that you’re not living life to the fullest. By following some of my recommendations, you likely will be. As always, thank you to the readers that have contacted me with feedback and if you want to engage, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
January 3, 2019 at 07:22AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs