This Work/Life Balance Secret Will Change Your Life
If you thought the answer to happiness and success was achieving work/life balance, it turns out you may be mistaken. For years, we've been told that finding a way to perfectly balance your career with your friends, family, health, and hobbies is the key to being satisfied with life. The term seems harmless, but a string of experts and business leaders are now arguing that striving for this so-called work/life balance is doing more harm than good. Performance coach Vanessa Bennett says 2016 is the year of "work/life integration, not balance." Entrepreneur Randi Zuckerman made headlines when she said leaders can only achieve in three aspects of their life at once. So, is it time to change the way we think about balance? Read on to discover why rejecting balance and embracing imperfection could change your life.
The word "balance" suggests we should aim for a perfect 50/50 target. For Drew Barrymore, a vocal advocate for banning balance, that's just not possible. "I get in trouble for saying you have to make choices and therefore you may not get to do everything you want," she tells Forbes. "I've just found that you can't have it all in the same moment." Barrymore believes that if we stop trying to attain a perfect mix of mother, friend, colleague, leader and partner, it will relieve the pressure placed on women. It gives us permission to have off-days, and realise that perfection doesn't exist.
"When we talk about work/life balance, we are automatically suggesting that work is in the non-life category. For many people, however, their passion is their work," says Bennett in an opinion piece for Collective Hub. Instead, she believes we should stop dividing work from passion and think of them as linked. "Trying to split [ourselves] into two categories and switch off can in fact cause more stress and be fundamentally unproductive," she says. Her solution: Shift your goal from work/life balance to integration, which means learning to combine aspects of your life rather than segment them. "For most people, integration can bring a higher level of happiness and productivity then balance ever could," she says.
When we think about the archetype for success, we often envisage someone who is a fabulous leader, has built a strong career, has a loving family, is healthy, and still finds time to spend with friends. According to Storenvy founder Jon Crawford, that's a myth. He believes successful people are inherently imbalanced. "In order to kick arse and do big things, I think you have to be imbalanced. I'm sure there are exceptions, but every person I've seen riding on a rocket ship was imbalanced while that rocket ship was being built," he says. "You have to decide if you want it."
He’s not the only one who believes imbalance is the key to success and happiness. Randi Zuckerberg, entrepreneur and former director of market development at Facebook, caused a stir when she said that of the five life pillars—work, sleep, family, friends, and fitness—we can only choose to excel in three areas at a time. By focusing our efforts on fewer areas, we're able to channel our energy and achieve more.
Balance means always looking at the bigger picture and thinking ahead, but science suggests that being present minded is the key to success. A major Harvard study found that people are happiest when they live in the now. When we stop trying to balance family time with working late at the office and hitting the gym regularly, we can focus on the task at hand. The takeaway: If you've got a huge presentation this week, acknowledge that your time isn't going to be evenly split between friends, family, and work. Focus on that one task and do it to the best of your ability; then move on. Being mindful and project-oriented will help you feel less stressed and more in tune with what makes you happy.
Multitasking might make you feel like you're getting more done, but juggling different facets of your life is mentally depleting. Bennett encourages clients to think about their time as "energy credits." When we wake up, we have a set amount of energy credits to use throughout the day. Spending those credits on a smaller amount of tasks means we'll achieve more and ultimately feel energised.
Embracing imbalance also gives you permission to work at your natural pace. Bennett says if you're not a morning person or have a short attention span, fighting those habits is counterproductive. "Stop spending energy credits trying to operate in a way that’s against your natural pace, and stop trying to participate in the trend of work/life balance if it doesn't work for you," she urges. "Once you embrace your natural pace, you will use less energy credits to achieve stronger results—and automatically you'll create more free time and strengthen your integration."
Once we accept that life can be imbalanced and out of our control, we take the pressure off ourselves to be perfect. Bennett says that giving in to your natural pace and learning to embrace an imperfect schedule will actually help you manage your life better. Striving for a 50/50 balance of family and career time isn't doing you any favours. By surrendering to chaos and irregularity, ironically, balance will follow.
Feeling inspired? Shop these books for more advice about work/life integration.
Have you changed the way you approach work/life balance? Share your story with us in the comments below.