There’s a long-held urban myth that suggests the true measure of success is attained when we achieve work-life balance. Yet ask 10 people what work-life balance means and you will get 10 different answers. And that makes sense because for each individual it is a personal choice on how their work and personal life coexist. I know for me, in my 20’s it was all about work. Working in restaurants and hotels I worked so much that it was easier to book a room at the hotel instead of going home to sleep just so I could get an earlier start on the day. As I got older work, while still important, had less of a pull on me as I preferred to take some of those extra work hours and devote them to my family and passion projects.
But what if you can’t see your way from being a workaholic? What do you do then? First, let’s address this idea of a workaholic. In our western culture, our social belief is that success comes to those that work the hardest. The longest hours. Sacrificing other things along the way so we can achieve societies idea of “we made it.” This is especially true for men.
Either you run the day, or the day runs you. - Jim Rohn
We measure ourselves based on some ideal that may not even be of our own making. And even if it is, we have to answer the question, Is it worth the cost? That answer might be yes. For example, over the past 18 months, I have sacrificed time with family and friends to get my men’s business off the ground. I made that choice consciously and after discussing it with my wife. This sacrifice wasn’t an all or nothing proposition. This sacrificed didn’t mean I never saw my friends. It did mean I worked to fit it into my schedule and managed the frequency. When it came to my wife. I made sure to communicate my plans to work on the business and spend time with her. Trust me there was no balance in time but I did do something else. More on that in a minute.
If you are struggling to maintain the idea of work-life balance then ask yourself this. What is causing me to be stressed or unbalanced or dissatisfied? Listen, let’s not assume that it is work that is causing you to be stressed. There could be things going on at home that needs to be addressed so instead of dealing with it we work even more. Man, I know that one all too well. The point is we all too often fail to understand where our stress is coming from and if it is work-related then maybe it’s time to reassess the amount of time and energy that we are putting into it. Sometimes climbing the corporate ladder isn't all that it’s cracked up to be.
Have you noticed anything about what is being said up to this point? Here let me help you. Our first myth in work-life balance is about achieving balance. It just doesn’t exist. In today’s environment, how many of us can say after we leave the office that we don’t check our email during our family/personal time? I know I can’t. What I can do though is pick a time when I am off the clock and communicate that to my work team and my family so everyone knows when I am available and not.
Here’s another myth, oh I will just chunk my days into two or three-time slots and that is how I will achieve work-life balance. That is such a guy and A-type personality thing, isn’t it? Let’s face it, try as we might both our work and lives are unpredictable. Most days we will not stay within our predefined parameters which means our stress levels increase and voila back to square one again. Instead of compartmentalizing and trying to manage time focus on putting the right amount of work towards your current priorities. This way you can create a reward system for both aspects of your life like taking a vacation after putting in extra time on that project.
Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value. Albert Einstein
There are even some personal development gurus that claim you can have it all. This is another myth. Even if you were to create a schedule that allows you to exercise, spend time with your team and get all of your work done, somewhere you’re still making a sacrifice. If I want to grow my business, then I will have to spend more time in the office, doing interviews, etc. The truth is it’s not easy to balance work with family so don’t fall for the trap that you can have it all or do everything that you want. Sometimes you have to give up certain things as you pursue your goals and ambitions. Just make sure you are clear on what “having it all” means to you. And if you analyze it by time spent you will be sure to find there is no time equality.
Here’s another beauty. I know, I just need to manage my time better. Wow, that is a crock. Do you know most time management tools we still use today were built for an area before we were connected 24/7/365? Yep, so here we are thinking we can manage our time better and balance will simply appear with all of the free time. I know what you're thinking right now. But Al, I will use technology to help me manage my time. Sure great, I have a few excellent apps as well. By the way, have you saved any more time and by that I mean did you transfer that newfound time towards your personal life? My guess is probably not all of it if any at all.
This next myth has made one author quite wealthy and that is joining the 5 AM Club. Many very successful people get up early and it works for them. But do you think they added more balance to their day or did they just add more hours to it? I guess it depends on what your focus is during those wee hours of the morning? And that’s the point, if you are going to deploy this tactic be sure it is towards adding more balance into your daily routine and not taking away from it. Don’t get up at 5 AM just to do more work stuff if your family, health and spiritual life needs help. Use that time wisely.
And finally, don’t fall for the if I work less I will be a happier myth. That’s not necessarily the case. If you’re like me, I love to work at something. So, while I currently have a full-time career, when I get home I usually spend another 3-4 hours in the home office working on my men’s coaching and development business. So, if you are the kind of person that loves to work then the idea of working less is not that appealing.
“You can't have everything you want, but you can have the things that really matter to you." Marissa Mayer, President and CEO of Yahoo
Here’s the secret. It’s not about the number of hours you are devoting to something that you love but instead the quality of those hours. Being aware of these and other myths allows you to make better choices. To reprioritize your life and the things that you value. Nothing wrong with a reassessment every once in a while. I know for me, this whole corporate ladder-climbing thing finally came to halt after I realized what I valued. I value being fulfilled in my work and for me, that happens when I do men’s work. It was a perfect time to make some changes at work and home. So, instead of focusing on balance, I started focusing on quality. That allowed me to find a work-life harmony that was right for me and my family.