Whole Life Balance
When we say “work/life balance”, what are we really talking about?
It gets said a lot with an expectation that we all have the same understanding. (As a side, note, how often do we have assumptions about what someone/something means without checking?!)
It intrigues me because I have always sought, and by my own measures broadly achieved, a “good work/life balance”. But I’ve never articulated what that is, nor really how I know I’ve achieved it.
What is a “good work/life balance” to me?
It’s got something to do with hours but that’s definitely not the whole story. Yes, I want to have time to do other things - being with my wife and family, doing my hobbies and sports, socialising, going on holiday, working on the house/garden and so on. But I’ve never been a clock watcher and I’ve never shirked from long hours when needed. The “hours” part is most likely a fear of getting drawn into working long hours and having that mean “bad things” will happen in the long run - that I won’t have the time to do the other things I want to and life will pass me by, and that I will get burnt-out and my health will suffer. But day-to-day that’s not my primary concern.
The flip side is that I also know that when I’m really “in the zone” and loving my work, making time for other things is less important. In fact, when it flows like that, it doesn’t really feel like work at all and I don’t feel so much internal resistance to putting the hours in.
So rather than it be about time, it seems it is much more to do with energy. That is, I’m striving to balance what gives me energy and what drains me of energy. And to put the energy I do have (the well is not bottomless!) into those things that are most important to me.
Through the lens of balancing energy, the scope broadens from work/life to whole-life, so all parts of my life are honoured.
What I mean by that is I look to balance my energy in more granular ways. For example in my work - by scheduling breaks, by balancing the types of work I do each day, and by knowing what activities re-energise me such as talking to potential clients (or stepping out for a cup of tea - well I am British!). Then outside of my work, I look to do the same - balancing the energising and draining activities, and ensuring that those things that are most important to me get a healthy cut of the energy I have available. For me that often means doing them earlier in the day when my energy levels are high.
With energy as the focus, the line between work and non-work becomes more blurred. If work today is energising, I may choose to carry on and spend more time at it. If it’s draining, I recognise that and choose to stop early. Or I may blend work and non-work throughout my day.
I haven’t answered the second question above. That is, how have I achieved it? Well, perhaps there isn’t an end-game here, nothing to achieve as such. It’s an ever present challenge that I navigate day-to-day as life changes. Recognising the need for balancing energy is the first step; and I don’t always have the courage to do something about it.
What does work/life balance mean to you?
This article is part of 100 Days of Creation, my challenge to myself to write 100 articles in 140 days, each taking no longer than 30 minutes to write and publish.