Is the idea of work-life balance a lifestyle we should be striving for? Or is finding our joy, creating boundaries, and ‘tilting’ a better alternative?
‘Work-life balance’ – a term used to describe a lifestyle objective focused on having your work and ‘life’ balanced in equal measure. The term itself perpetuates the notion of an ‘ideal’ life that exists only once you have all your ducks in a row. Which, let’s be real, doesn’t often happen. The very nature of life is fluidity and change – so the notion of ‘work-life balance’ can come unstuck when metaphorical spanners are thrown into your life, causing one end of the ‘scales’ to shift off-balance. Then what? Does your peace of mind fall away with it?
Let’s look at the definition of the word ‘balance’:
a situation in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.
The word ‘equal’ implies that to achieve work-life balance there should be equal focus on ‘work’ and on ‘life’. But, hang on a second, then this phrase also pretty much spells out that your WORK is separate to your LIFE. And what entails ‘life’ exactly? Family, friends, social life, exercise, health, hobbies, sleep, shopping, travel, rest, etc. etc. So with this notion in mind, should we be evenly distributing our time between WORK and everything else?
If that is the ‘dream’ – then how the heck are people achieving all of these things outside of work in the hours of ‘not work’, which for so many of us, being real again, is super minimal.
As you can probably tell, I have always struggled with the notion of work-life balance. Don’t get me wrong, the intentions with this term are very good. It is a nice idea – that your work life is separate to your home life and social life and all other aspects of life, and that once you step out of the office it is time for YOU, because #balance. But, as someone who worked in a (very relaxed might I add) corporate environment for 5 years, achieving this notion is almost impossible. You are setting yourself up for failure. Deadlines pop up last minute and you have to cancel dinner with your partner. You burn yourself out working such long hours that you need that extra 10 minutes sleep in, which means you will miss the gym that day.
So maybe the people who work for themselves have it better?
FAR FROM IT!
Take it from a gal who has been her own boss for over a year now – work doesn’t even exist to me. It IS my life. And I bloody love it, but it doesn’t mean I switch off my emails when I ‘should’ or that once it hits a certain time at home, I am off to my yoga class. In fact, when speaking with other business owners, we are all the same – constantly thinking of what is next, never really switching off – but loving every second of it because we are doing what truly brings us joy.
There’s something in that. The part about just doing what makes you happy. Regardless of whether what brings you income is ‘balanced’ against the time that isn’t billable.
So should balance really be the overall objective?
An article in FORBES suggests rather than striving for work-life balance, find your joy instead:
There will be periods in your life when you are single and able to dedicate most your time to work and your career. There will also be phases, such as when you have children, when you’ll have less time for your career because you’ll put more emphasis on your family.
I started noticing the phrase ‘tilting’ popping up all over the place. The Collective Hub
published a brilliant article on this term recently, citing a 2009 study that found the happiest women refused to adhere to the notion of work-life balance, and instead ‘tilted’ their time and energy based on what was required of them that day.
Tilting prioritises making choices each day depending on what is going on in that
moment; for instance, if you have a full week of work, tilt to a weekend in, with minimal commitments. During a quieter work week, tilt to a more full social life. On days your body is feeling fatigued, tilt to rest and meditation. When you are feeling energised, tilt to exercise. Some days, you are going to spend hours on your laptop, working until deadline. And other days, when work is quieter, you will have more time to go for a walk, catch up with friends and family, and be social. It is all about alleviating the pressure and expectations we place on ourselves to be something for everyone, all the time.
Once you come to terms with balance as an objective that is unrealistic, and unnecessary pressure, tilting comes naturally. You start to find joy in the day to day moments. Figure out what ‘balance’ means to you, and if it is a realistic objective to be striving for (chances are it isn’t). Instead, find your joy. Set boundaries (especially with technology). Tilt your energy dependent on what’s on your plate that day – sometimes that will be working extra hours, and sometimes it will be more time for naps and exercise.
Now THAT is a lifestyle I will happily adhere to!