Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
December 24, 2010 9:30 AM

The Myth Of Work Life Balance

This is the time of year when individuals (people like you and I) start thinking more about work/life balance.

Don't do it. There is no such thing as work/life balance. By even saying there is such balance, you're making an internal agreement that work is not a part of a healthy life, and I just don't buy it. Like you, I put a good chunk of my waking hours against the work I do. I can't accept that it doesn't constitute an important and real part of my life. In the end, I'm not looking for work/life balance... I'm looking for life balance.

What does life balance look like?

Balance in your life falls into three main categories:

  1. Personal. Making time to build solid relationships with your family friends and peers. Think of The Beatles: "The love you take is equal to the love you make" (hat-tip to Yosi for reminding of that lyric yesterday). Without a healthy family and friend social structure there will be nothing but loneliness. Human beings don't thrive on loneliness... no matter what someone who is lonely tries to tell/sell you. Your personal health also falls into this category (and I'm not just talking about grabbing a workout a couple of times a week). Think about what you're doing to develop and nurture your mind, body and spirit (even if it sounds hokey to you).
  2. Business. Ensuring that you're doing the work you were meant to do. That the work you do (day in and day out) is your art. So, when someone says, "it's nothing personal, it's just business," you can proudly respond, "I spend a good chunk of my life doing business and I take it very personally!" I just saw this tweet via Rahaf Harfoush on Twitter: "@brandcowboy: You'll always do better work for people you care about, and you'll lose your soul taking money from people you don't." If you're struggling with this, please read Seth Godin's book, Linchpin, over your holiday break and make some hard decisions about your future.
  3. Community. Simply put: you can't have a wealthy business and a healthy family if you're in a weak community. The only way your community will be strong is if you contribute to it actively and regularly. A strong business and a strong social life comes from a strong community. Helping others who are less fortunate or by contributing to groups and associations who are making change in your community is critical to life balance.

Life balance is a three-legged stool.

Just like a stool, if you remove one of the legs or when one is shorter than another, everything comes crashing down. Figure out ways to find true balance without sacrificing where you're at, where you're looking to go and your plans to get there. Make sure that your goals (short-term and long-term) include tactics around personal, business and community.

Make rules.

If you don't have rules about your life balance, all is (and will be) lost. Don't have guidelines. Make rules... and don't break them. Here are just some of my life balance rules (in no particular order):

  1. Family first. Period. No exceptions. Friends next. Everything else after that.
  2. Go to bed when I'm tired.
  3. Wake up without an alarm.
  4. Don't stress over sleep. My body will sleep when it needs to.
  5. Constantly be reading (more on that here: The Most Important Thing You Can Do...).
  6. Creativity and great ideas do not keep office hours. Write as much as possible - especially when the mood hits.
  7. I manage my technology. I do not let technology manage me. An example of this? I check email when I want to - not when it comes in. I turn off all email notifications (both online and mobile).
  8. Don't focus on the money. Focus on building wealth and what I'll do to change the world once I get there (or along the way).
  9. Never eat alone. It's something I was doing long before I read the great book by Keith Ferrazzi.

Sometimes you break your own rules.

There are always exceptions to these rules and sometimes these rules have to be broken. If I'm breaking the rule, I acknowledge it and will often apologize to those in advance by explaining the situation as an exception and helping those who are impacted by it to know that I am doing so (and that it's an uncommon occurrence). Another exception is when breaking a rule will help me to grow and expand. Rules can limit our personal growth and we have to be aware of that.

Work/life balance is a myth.

By Mitch Joel


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