Rejecting Work-Life Balance
We’ve all heard the term work-life balance, it’s something that most of us strive for. There’s an idea that if we end up “out-of-balance,” our life will be ruined and we’ll probably end up with a broken marriage, kids that hate us, high blood pressure, and we’ll wake up one day alone with nothing to show for our life. This may sound extreme, and I may be exaggerating slightly, but if we really think about it, for many of us, we can recognize some small aspects of our own fears there.
With the popularity of smart devices, this fear has moved to the forefront of many conversations. When your work emails arrive on your wrist during family dinner it can be difficult to find that balance and our smartwatch becomes a symbol of our unbalanced life.
I was recently listening to one of my favourite podcasts, ChooseFI, where they were interviewing an organizational psychologist named Adam Grant. They were talking about work-life balance and Adam said something that really resonated with me. He said he no longer uses the term-work life balance, but now uses the term work-life management. This may sound like a minor difference, but I absolutely loved it.
balance / bal-uhns / noun : a state of equilibrium or equipoise; equal distribution of weight, amount, etc.
manage / man-ij / verb : 1. to bring about or succeed in accomplishing, sometimes despite difficult or hardship 2. to take charge or care of
The word ‘balance’ brings to mind something that is precarious, something that if moved even slightly can come tumbling down. When we talk about work-life balance people often feel like there is some ideal they should consistently be maintaining and if they can just stick within strict boundaries then everything should stay together. I don’t know about you, but this stresses me out just thinking about it.
The word ‘management’ brings with it a feeling of control and choice. When we talk about work-life management it sounds like something that I can think through and come up with a rational plan. It also sounds more fluid, like it may not always look the same in the way that something that needs to be balanced would be.
I don’t like to do work outside of working hours. In fact, I don’t even have my work emails synced to my phone. However, I know that there are a few times a year, when certain projects are at their peak, that I will do extra work outside of regular working hours. If I think about this in terms of work-life balance it stresses me out, there is a part of me that feels as though I’ve failed and there will surely be consequences to my life being out of balance. However, when I think of it in terms of work-life management, I am reminded that I am choosing this. These times are not a surprise, they come every year and I can plan for them and around them.
So the next time you start worrying about work-life balance, and you start to feel like you are the victim of your busy life. Remember that you are in control. Know what your goals are for work and know what your goals are for your life. Then remember that you are managing the way these two things interact.
Know what’s important to you and make a plan.
Stick to it.
Re-evaluate for each season of life.
Don’t give up.