Dispelling the Work-Life Balance Myth In Three Steps

work lifeIn the book “The Balance Myth: Rethinking Work-Life Success,” business executive Teresa Taylor explains, “I never believed the hype that women have to choose between a career and a personal life to live their best life. You shouldn’t, either.”

She urges workers to abandon the frustrating and often meaningless idea of “work-life balance” – and her rationale may surprise you. She claims that there simply is no such thing as “balance.” Balance is an illusion! In it’s place, Taylor recommends that we demand – and believe – that professionals can have a successful career and rewarding personal life.

Taylor recalls that fact that she had to reach a breaking point before coming to understand that she needed to rethink everything. Early in her career she landed a position as vice president in her company and assumed that her professional life would now become easier. The opposite was true. I started missing deadlines, personal obligations and milestones in her children’s lives, and her work team was performing poorly.

She began to consider quitting her job and becoming a full-time, stay at home mom; yet she loved her work AND her family, and wondered if there was a way to be better at both. She also saw many of her women co-workers dropping out of their positions. They were abandoning the workforce altogether, or shifting to part-time. Taylor was determined to find a better way, and refused to believe that there was a mutually exclusive choice between a career and family life. She wanted both!

Her answer was to integrate, rather than “balance” two competing roles. The three following strategies have guided this approach:

1. Be one authentic person.
Taylor explains that we can’t be one person in one environment and then switch to an entirely different person when circumstances change. We need to strive to be authentic at home and at work. If our careers are just a “job,” then they will feel like a detraction from our personal lives. If, on the other hand, we work for something we are passionate about, there is an opportunity to integrate what we love with who we are. Include family and friends in work events, and invite them to your office so that they are familiar with where you spend much of your time.

2. Combine your work and personal calendars.
Taylor ditched the practice of keeping a separate home and work calendars; combining them helped her to integrate both lives.

After consolidating personal and professional commitments onto a single calendar, we might initially balk at how daunting our schedule looks. However, this helps us visualize the big picture and make conscious choices. When conflicts arise, we need to chose one obligation and then resist the temptation to re-negotiate with ourselves. Just fully commit to the choice you made. Don’t dwell on what you should have done, or could have done. You made a choice, now give it all that you have.

3. Make room on your calendar.
This principle is perhaps the most important. Sometimes we say to ourselves, “If only I could sleep less. Then I’d have enough time.” There is ample evidence that this is a bad idea! A much better time management technique is to set time limits on activities – simply learn to walk away. For instance, if your set a goal to spend one hour creating a document or work presentation, stop when the hour is up and don’t spend extra time fretting about whether it’s perfect or revising small details. Do your best within the time you set and then walk away. The same applies with personal commitments: cleaning the house. etc — learn to walk away after you’ve made a decent enough effort, rather than insisting on perfection.

We can keep believing that we are “unbalanced,” or we can choose to live by our own expectations and needs. Don’t allow others establish expectations for you: set your own! Individual lives are not equations that need to be balanced. Instead, we should strive for integration and just being present.

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Emery Reddy