Work Life Balance: The Real Issue?
The Work-Life Balance conversation is one that has been had since people started having careers and families and pens and paper. People used to and still go up in arms about having enough time to be with and raise their families and at the same time keep knocking their work out of the ballpark. Scores of people have gleefully lined their pockets with money made from sales of books which glibly assure us that yes, we CAN have it all. Dozens of articles flood the internet containing words which firmly impress on the hapless public that it is just a simple matter of planning and organization and voila, we are working like champs from 9 to 5 and being perfect social animals the rest of the time.
If only it were that simple. Anyone who actually lives in the real world will tell you that the word “balance” has very little to do with work and life in the same sentence. One will always take spill into the other. How many of us can truly compartmentalize our work? With the advent of technology- emails, Skype, etc- we are never truly off the clock. Can you decide not to respond to/send emails or make/receive any business calls after official working hours? Yeah, I thought so.
If you take out time to read any of the aforementioned scores of articles and books about Work-Life Balance, no matter how they try to radiate positive and enthusiastic waves off each page, the general subtext is a disgruntled writer telling you that even though they know you can NOT possibly balance the two, you could try.
That subtext is more truthful than the beaming assurances. The issue is not balancing your work against your personal life, because you can’t. The conversation we should be having instead is thriving in the imbalance. Now, I am of the personal opinion that Work-Life Imbalance is not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, think about it. Do we really want to have a perfect balance between the two? I recently asked a friend of mine how he balanced the two and he exclaimed, “Balance? What is that? My work IS my life!”
Now, for those who do what they love and love what they do, the lucky things, this entire piece will be received with indulgent dismissal. But as we are trying our best to keep a firm grip on reality here, I will press on for those of us for whom work is actually work. And the first thing we all need to agree on is that we cannot have it all, not ideally. And without knowing it, we may not necessarily want it all.
Two years ago, I was working at a government job that was so hectic; I barely had time to blink. I spent my days and a good number of nights toiling away like an over-used machine. I used to vow to myself that when the year was up, I would go to work for a private establishment and I would finally have a life. Reader, I found out the hard way that the grass is no greener on the other side. What am I even saying? There is no grass on the other side. I got my wish and crossed over to private practice, and can honestly say that I look back at my busy days as the Golden Days. The perfect balance I was so sure I wanted turned out to not be right for me.
Now, I realize that my example may not apply to everyone, but I am just trying to illustrate that you may be more content with work-life lopsidedness than you think. The thing to focus on is having the best of whatever it is that we have. To me, the key is to personalize your journey. It will help you none to try to envy or emulate the lifestyle choices in relation to work of those who seemingly have it all, because you do not know what they have had to sacrifice or if they actually feel like they have it all. I think that we should do what feels right to us at the time we feel works. Some other better-known tips also apply: being present in both work and life, regardless of which one you are focusing on and when, pushing yourself because you can actually handle more than you think, and taking personal breathers at pre-set times, you know, just to generally preserve your sanity.
What we must aspire to is how to be most effective with our days as opposed to how to balance them, because, as I realize I must have said about twenty times now, that is not what is important. What is truly important is flourishing in the imbalance and cranking out optimum results from both work and life.