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It’s a personal thing.  But, I’m hoping you’ll come with me on this.  I absolutely hate the term…work-life balance.  It’s a dichotomy.  It’s an either-or.  It’s a this or that.  It’s just one of the situations in life where there appear to be only two options but in truth, there are more.  According to the term, there’s work and then there’s life.  There’s work…then there is the other stuff.  There’s work and then there’s the stuff you actually enjoy.

Some people may be able to live that way.  But, it’s a challenging way to live.  Our lives have so many more components than just work.  So, it’s almost unfair to place it against everything else.  Work is important but it isn’t the engine for making life go.

It seems that way because for many people, work consumes the majority of our day.  Think about the typical 9-5 schedule:

6:30am – Wake up, putz around getting ready

7:30am – Leave the house, get on the road to hit traffic

9:00am – Arrive, begin work

5:00pm – Leave, go pick up kids or run other errands

5:15pm – Hit traffic, get annoyed

6:30pm – Get home

6:31pm – Ahhhhh LIFE!!

According to this schedule, 12 hours of the day are work related.  If you sleep for 6 hours, that leaves only 6 hours for…well, LIFE.  Correct?

Wrong!  Work-life balance implies one more thing.  It implies ownership.  It implies life is yours, the part where you get to make the choices and work is where you are at the beck and call of someone else.  It implies everything else should be lumped into one category and those are the parts YOU control.  Your child’s soccer game, your wedding anniversary, your 1st date, your mechanic appointment, your doctor’s appointment, your time at the library, that book you’ve been meaning to read and the service opportunity at the shelter are all LIFE!  But, the better part of your energy…the part which gives you a paycheck goes toward work!  It’s almost a begrudging enterprise.

What if you simply began looking at it all as life?  What if you made decisions about all of it as life?  What if you CHOSE to live all of it with the same intensity?  Sure, there are elements of priority.  Some things will be more important at certain times.  Sometimes you will need to balance delicately.  And at other times, you will need to throw yourself headlong into one area in order to achieve an important result.

If you are a leader in an organization, what would it be like if you were to show all of the people in your organization how to plan an effective week?  I mean, a week where it isn’t just effective for the organization.  I’m talking about a week where they could look at their calendar and see how to make their overall lives work in an amazing way.  Of course, that would mean some willingness to adjust the way people work currently.  It would mean a shift to a more entrepreneurial style of work.  It would mean today might be 3 hours but tomorrow might be 10.  It would mean today might be onsite but tomorrow would be from wherever they felt like.

This is already happening.  The 9-5 is dying.  The only reason it still exists in many cases is one simple word…control.  It’s time to create autonomy if you haven’t already done so.  But, more than that.  It’s time to live out the meaning of this.  Chuck the work-life term out the window and simply begin to LIVE!  Live well, live healthy, and find the best piece of happiness you can.  But, live LIFE all the time and not just for 6 hours per day.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Pat Schuler says:

    Robert, I’ve felt the same way about the term work-life balance for many years. It has always felt like a setup to me, a no-win. An old mentor talked about blending or having a blended life. In his view you dance with the requirements of your life to make each event as rich as possible instead of resentments and obligations. Since it made sense to me, I adopted it as mine. 🙂

    • Robert Kennedy III says:

      Glad to know I’m not the only one :). I love the ‘dance’ analogy. Because it really IS a dance.

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