The term “work-life balance” has been thrown around for a few decades now. We won’t spend a lot of time defining it since you already have an idea of what it means.
Here’s my definition of work-life balance:
Work-life balance is a subjective view of one’s distribution of time, energy, and focus invested between personal and professional pursuits.
Is It Work-Life Balance or Work-Life Integration?
Some influencers have said that work-life balance doesn’t exist. The new term is work-life integration.
What’s the Difference Between Work-Life Balance and Work-Life Integration?
This is one of those times when a term becomes so widely adopted that someone else comes up with a new one to describe essentially the same thing. It’s called contrarianism and it’s a strategy for differentiating oneself. You take a fundamental truth that’s boring and call it something new so that there’s a shiny new object to chase.
That’s what happened to the term “work-life balance” after a few decades of hard labor, serving its purpose.
As best I can tell it was Tony Robbins who invented the term “work-life integration.” Everyone was using the term work-life balance so he wanted to rise above the din of every other executive coach, life coach, and performance coach and give an old concept a new shine.
Work-life integration is a fancy new term that defines the same thing.
Essentially, work-life integration means that there’s an overlap between work and life that creates such a blurred line that it’s hard to define this concept as a balance.
Here’s one definition of work-life integration from Kat Boogaard:
“Work-life balance seeks to achieve an ideal state where your work and life coexist and thrive separately; work-life integration is about bringing work and life closer together.”
Further, proponents of the term “work-life integration” often state that balance can’t exist.
I disagree. At the end of some segment of time, you want them to balance out.
That doesn’t mean the same number of hours: family hours are likely more heavily weighted than work hours.
That doesn’t mean the same amount of energy: you might expend more energy on the personal side if you’re training for a marathon.
That doesn’t mean the same amount of focus: you might have to focus on a project at work or building your kid’s bicycle at midnight on Christmas Eve.
There must be a sense of balance. If you work late for a month during your busy season, you will feel out of balance if you don’t get to take some time off at the end of that busy period.
However you choose to define the concept, a balance must exist. While work and life are not separate, they also should not be intertwined to the point of indistinguishable.
You don’t want your kids sitting on your lap while typing an email to your boss.
You don’t want “take-your-kids-to-work-day” to be every day.
You don’t want to be putting out work fires while you’re on vacation.
I don’t want to get hung up in the terminology or semantics. We’re all talking about the same thing: satisfaction in knowing that you’re devoting appropriate amounts of time, energy and focus to each area of your life.
Let’s not let semantics get in the way. For the sake of this article, we will call it work-life balance.
This goal compass graphic best defines work-life balance.
How to Create Work-Life Balance
First, you must define what you want in the various areas of your life. That is, you must have multiple goals.
These areas are:
If your only goal is to make partner and double your income, you’ll increase your odds of doing that… at the expense of the other areas of your life.
For example, Steve Jobs was so focused on his work that he didn’t accept the inconvenient truth that he had a daughter. For years he denied that she was his child. He also crushed the spirits of employees and stepped on colleagues’ self-respect so that he could achieve his goals.
This is called single-minded focus. Steve Jobs used it to change the world. But it doesn’t require crushing the souls of others along the way.
A few interviews I’d recommend on this topic of finding balanced success include Success Through Failure interviews with:
When I was an athlete, I had a single-minded focus and it served me well. I achieved a goal that put me atop the college wrestling world in front of 15,000 fans at the NCAA Championships. However, that doesn’t work in the real world.
I tried. It didn’t work.
In my efforts to build a successful business in 2010, I gave my best to my business and my family and health got my leftovers. That led not only to a failed business, but a struggling marriage, not spending enough time with my kids, being in the worst physical shape in my life, and debt up to our eyeballs.
So… how do you achieve work-life balance? Set multiple goals. Here’s how.
How to Set Multiple Goals to Achieve Work-Life Balance
Consider the four areas I mentioned above:
Set one to two goals in each of these areas. For example:
Relationships: I will set a date night at least once a month with my wife and plan two overnights without the kids this year.
Self: I will plan a weekend canoe trip with my old college buddies to take place this summer.
Health: I will run a marathon in the fall.
Wealth: I will make $150,00 in base + commission salary in 2021.
How Technology Can Help Achieve Work-Life Balance
Technology gets a bad rap for destroying work-life balance. With computers in our pockets, we are constantly attached to work, returning emails at all times of the day and night.
However, in my interview with Cal Newport, author of Deep Focus and Digital Minimalism, he says,
“Technology deployed for a very specific thing you care about, in a very structured way can give you really big benefits. Technology bound into your life casually, or used without rules in consideration has a way of […] making things worse.”
-Cal Newport (Share on Twitter)
It reminds me of the concept when training a puppy. If you have problems, it’s not the dog. It’s the owner.
With technology, it’s not the technology that’s the problem. It’s the user.
Here are a few ways to leverage technology to have a better work-life balance:
- Focus: In my interview with David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, he mentions that our brains are meant to be a creative device, not a storage device. When we free our minds up from remembering commitments, remembering to-dos, and retaining information that could otherwise be stored by technology (or yes, even paper and pencil), we free our minds up to solve problems, create solutions, and improve our lives.
- Cancel Social Media: (Gasp!) Well, at least use it to serve your needs. If you find yourself wasting time on Facebook stalking your high school girlfriend, remove it from your life like I did. I use the productivity tool Facebook News Feed Eradicator. It’s a free Google Chrome Plugin that hides your News Feed on your computer. Having it installed has saved me countless hours over the years. I love it!
- Utilize Social Media: (Wait… didn’t you just say…?) Utilize social media as an aggregator, not as a time-waster. For example, create a Twitter list of news outlets or sports teams you want to follow. Go to social media for a purpose and then move on.
How Increased Productivity Can Help You Achieve Work-Life Balance
Get more done so that you can work fewer hours.
Chris Weller wrote in a BusinessInsider.com article that…
“Over the course of an eight-hour workday, the average employee works for about three hours — two hours and 53 minutes, to be more precise.”
Imagine if you could get just one more hour of work done over the course of your day. That’s a 25% increase in productivity!
How many fewer nights would you have to work late?
How much easier would it be able to turn off at night instead of having one eye on your smartphone wondering when you can return an email to a client that you didn’t get to because you were too busy looking at pictures of cats on Instagram.
I talk more about how to use technology to increase productivity in this podcast episode.
How Teamwork Helps Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance isn’t an individual sport.
You must create your team. Who is on your team? Players might include:
- Family: Can you enlist family to step-in and watch the kids so that you and your spouse can go on a date night?
- Friends: Who can help you get that big project done around the house in half the time so that you can spend more time with the family on the precious few weekends you have?
- Colleagues: Are there colleagues who you can partner with at work to help shoulder some of the load when you’re out of balance? Can you do the same for them when they need the support (this isn’t a one-way street)?
- Accountability partners: Who do you know who can help you stay in balance and call you out when you overcommit?
- Executive life coach: That’s me. I’ll crush you if you mess up 🙂
Once you’ve achieved work-life balance, how do you maintain it?
How To Maintain Work-Life Balance
Imagine if the world record marathoner Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya got into marathon shape and then stopped doing what got him there. He’d quickly fall back out of shape.
It’s the same with you.
Once you achieve work-life balance, you must continue to do what got you there.
You must maintain your goals and reset new micro-goals every month as outlined in this post about how to set goals.
Why is it Important for Organizations to Promote Healthy Work-Life Balance?
A friend of mine was a top executive at CarMax, consistently rated one of the best places to work in America. He explained to me why their employee development program was so successful. They didn’t just focus on professional development but also on personal development. They have a system in place that facilitates the growth of the person beyond their role in the company.
When employees feel like they’re growing, they tend to work harder, stay longer, and influence the culture more positively.
What if My Employer Doesn’t Support Work-Life Balance?
Jocko Willink wrote a book called, “Extreme Ownership”. Extreme Ownership means taking 100% responsibility for everything in your life.
“But my employer… they don’t care.”
Own it. It’s your fault. It’s your fault for choosing that employer. It’s your fault for not creating balance. It’s your fault for not communicating effectively with your boss that your life is out of balance.
“But I tell them all the time that I need more time off.”
If they’re not listening, then learn to communicate better. Or apply for a new job. Or acquire new skills that allow you to get a promotion and out from under your current boss.
The idea is that you must own it. You have a say in your life. Even if something is only 1% your fault, own it. Take that 1% and do something about it. Make a change. Make an improvement. Take action.
If you’re seeking to find balance in your life, I will create a customized plan for you so that you can achieve work-life balance. Click here to find a time on my calendar for your free clarity call.