I never liked the phrase “work-life balance.”
Don’t get me wrong, I value hobbies, personal interests, leisure activities, family, friends, and, in general, having a life outside of work. Often, they are our “Big Why” — the reason we work, the reason we do what we do.
My problem with the phrase is the connotation that these two parts should be equal parts balanced at all times. I disagree that there should be this never-wavering equilibrium.
In the long-term, there should be a balance between social life, home life and work life. You don’t want to look back at your career with regret. But that doesn’t mean the balance needs to be constant.
Sometimes the scale will tip toward work for a long period of time in order to achieve a goal. You’ll hunker down for a long stretch to achieve what you need to achieve. Then you’ll get it. You’ll reach a milestone, and you’ll already see the next one. But instead of immediately hunkering down again for that next milestone, maybe it’s time to take a step back. Take a Friday off to spend a summer day with the kids at the pool or catch the kid’s game by skipping an open house Sunday. Maybe you need a guys’ or gals’ weekend of golf and libations. Then, it’s time to get back to work.
In a commencement speech titled “13 Pieces of Wisdom” at the University of Houston, Matthew McConaughey described each important element of his life like a reserve that constantly needed replenished. Here’s how he described balancing each of these reserves:
So, I try to measure these five each day, check in with them, see whether or not I’m in the debit or the credit section with each one. Am I in the red or in the black with each of them? For instance, sometimes my career is rolling (in the black) but I see how my relationship with my wife could use a little more attention. I gotta pick up the slack on being a better husband, get that one out of the red. Or say my spiritual health could use some maintenance (red) but hey, my friendships and social life are in high gear (black)… I gotta re-calibrate, checks and balances, go to church, remember to say thank you more often. I gotta take the tally. Because I want to keep ALL 5 in healthy shape, and I know that if I DON’T take care of them, if I don’t keep up maintenance on them, ONE of them is going to get weak, dip too deep into the debit section, go bankrupt, get sick… die even. So first, we have to DEFINE success for ourselves, then we have to put in the work to MAINTAIN it — take our daily tally, tend our garden, keep the things that are important to us in good shape. Let’s admit it, we all got two wolves in us, a good one and a bad one, you know what I’m talking about — and they BOTH wanna eat… We just gotta feed that good wolf a little more than the other one.
There are going to be points in your life where some of the important elements fall into the red while you’re keeping another in the black. Balancing your work and your life doesn’t mean keeping everything in the black at all times. It means understanding when one element of your life has fallen into the red and needs to be replenished.
When work is in the black, but some other elements of your life have fallen into the red, here are six tips to repairing your work-life balance.
Forget About Work-Life Balance — First, remember that work-life balance doesn’t exist, and you won’t feel so badly about not achieving it. Reframing your perspective allows you to move beyond the work-life-balance myth and start designing the life you want.
Schedule Your Personal Time — Going to your kid’s game, watching one with the guys’ or cutting loose with your wife will only happen if you schedule it just like any other appointment. From working out to a movie night, time block your free time just like anything else.
Be all in at work, all in at home — You’d never take a personal call, or any other for that matter, during a meeting with your top-priority client. So when you do have a date night with your wife, give her the same respect you’d give that client and turn the phone off. Furthermore, using the flexible schedule of an Agent to tackle personal problems is a sure fire way to lose productivity and profit.
You Always Have Five — Call your darn mom. Call your best friend. Whether it’s on your lunch break or your drive home, schedule five minute conversations to catch up with a friend or a family member to maintain your personal relationships.
Missed the Gym? Do a 10-minute Workout Video From YouTube — Here’s one. Here’s another. Here’s a third one. Stop making excuses for why you can’t work out. Sure, it’s not going to give you LeBron James abs, but it’s a start. Accomplishing this task can help get this area of your life back in the red.
Block Social Media and Disable Notifications — Think about how much time you waste in a day by scrolling Twitter or checking Instagram. Facebook may even feel like working if you’re using it to advertise. In reality, these time wasters can steal hours from the other areas of your life.
It takes sacrifices to do big things. As Gary Keller says in his book “The One Thing,” “the problem with living in the middle is that it prevents you from making extraordinary time commitments to anything. In your effort to attend to all things, everything gets short changed.”
What are you short changing in the name of work-life balance?