To understand why work-life balance as we know it might never work, we must understand that for decades, the concept of work-life balance we’ve been sold is a totally flawed concept. Every time we speak about Work-Life Balance, we often think about it in terms of spending equal time at home and at work. That’s impossible! We can only speak of balance when we have elements that are equal in weight and value and on opposite sides. So, you can say 1kg of water equals 1 kg of stone but 1kg of water can never amount to 10kg of water. They must be opposite elements in comparison. Therefore, my question is simple – “are work and life opposites?”
Absolutely not! Work is a huge component of life: they’re neither opposites nor equal. Therefore, balancing the two is futile and impossible. The scale will always be lopsided and it will always cause frustrations and feelings of personal failure for anyone who attempts to do this.
So, Does This Mean That Work-Life Balance Is Impossible?
Not entirely. If you use the right parameters then it’s totally attainable. There are three parameters we use at our organization, TSAGE and TBOG Consult – Time, Attention, and Satisfaction.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of coaching career and business women from various countries, on a three-day work-life balance coaching session. The feedback was incredible. I had tested some of the principles I shared with over 1500 persons during the course of my career and having these 58 women partake in the 3-day session was a profound moment. Some of the insights I’ll share in this article are a compendium of those conversations we had. So, what are these parameters?
Parameter 1. Time:
Every time we speak about work-life balance, we measure it mostly in terms of time. That’s a mistake. Even though time is an important component of the Work-Life balance equation, it is not the only parameter used to measure WLB. Creating time for other facets of your life is the first step to finding balance in all spheres of life. But sometimes, time is not enough. Some of us work many hours coupled with traffic congestion, time might not be adequate. Does this mean WLB is impossible for such persons? Not at all. If all you use as a parameter for work-life balance is time, that’s 1 out of 3. You’ll always struggle to maintain that ‘balance’ you seek.
Time management is a skill that must be imbibed for you to thrive in this ‘balance’. Here are a few things to note about time management:
- Sometimes, we take on more than we can handle. In situations like these, 24 hours will never be enough to find time to rest because you’ll bring work home, forfeit vacation time, and minimize leisure hours as well. You will need to master the art of delegation. Delegation is not the same as abandonment but it is a priceless technique that not only gives you time to breathe but also empowers your team members to become leaders themselves.
- Sometimes, we waste the precious time that we have on activities that are not productive without even realizing it. For example, the 20 minutes you spend during work hours scrolling through Instagram does not cost you only 20 minutes. It costs more time because it takes a longer time to get your work groove on after that unintended distraction.
Here is an exercise to help you with time management. At the end of the exercise, you’ll find out that you’re either wasting time or taking too much than you can handle: https://www.tsageandtbog.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Workbook-Two.pdf
Parameter 2. Attention:
There’s an illusion we daily fall into when we think about Work-Life Balance. It’s that, those who spend time with their family or friends are living that ‘balanced’ life. This is in fact a mirage. As a Family Wellness Consultant, I’ve mediated parent-child relationships where both parents drop off their children at a school and they all come home together yet, their relationship is awkward. This is because there’s no deliberate attention and engagement. It’s possible to be home and not be present. It’s possible to be with friends and not be “present”. If this is you, then you still aren’t maintaining ‘balance’. The Workplace Executive who spends 4 hours at home daily but is very present with their spouse and children is doing a whole lot better than the worker who spends 15 hours at home without actually being present. Pay attention to all dimensions of your life.
There are 8 dimensions to pay attention to if you must thrive in this ‘balance’ you seek. They are:
- Physical dimension
- Spiritual dimension
- Emotional dimension
- Financial dimension
- Occupational dimension
- Environmental dimension
- Intellectual dimension
- Social dimension
This ebook is a story that breaks down each of these dimensions in practical terms https://www.tsageandtbog.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/SILENT-TEARSfirstname.lastname@example.org
Parameter 3. Satisfaction:
After making out TIME to ENGAGE your family and friends, the third parameter is satisfaction. How satisfied are you with your role at work and your role at home? How satisfied are you with life generally? How in tune are you with your purpose? How fulfilled are you? There’s always a measuring yardstick ingrained in your subconscious that nudges you whenever you’re slipping up on TIME and ATTENTION or when your sense of purpose is distorted, pay attention to it. The Six-Life Exercise is a tool that will help you find clarity, determine your levels of satisfaction, and help you make adjustments as required. Please listen to the video recording of a coaching class where this exercise was explained as it further buttresses some of the points raised: https://youtu.be/ykpQ87fojuo
These three parameters are your measurement yardstick every single time you think about the concept of work-life balance. Also, you need to be aware that slip-ups are bound to happen on account of our humanity. There will always be seasons where the scale is skewed and family time [or work] suffers but your consciousness of these three parameters will help you stay ingrained. The easy route will be to plunge yourself into a cycle of guilt and despondency, comparing yourself to other parents who seem to have their acts together but that’s when you should remember the AAHA principle. Most high-performing female leaders I work with struggle with work-life balance, these tips, and principles I shared here have been a game changer for many of them. Many of them leave our sessions with clarity and a resolve to find balance the right way. It becomes easy to commit to anything whenever you’re definite that it’s not a dead end. Changing your perspective about work-life balance will really help you attain that balance you seek.