In our work with executives, the issue of work-life balance comes up increasingly often. This is especially true in busy times such as the current spring high season in business.
Here is why we at Campanile do not like the concept of ‘work-life balance’.
Balancing is a tiresome and inconvenient act. In the short run it can give you some sense of success and can even be fun. However, over time trying to balance your work with non-work ‘life’ will just add to your stress level.
Here is why, and what a better approach is.
When you try to balance work an all other things, basically you will end up compromising both. That is what we call balancing: you don’t really go to the left, neither to the right – you just try to stay in the middle. Unless you reach perfect balance, this double compromise will constantly consume your energy.
In management, there are some hard-learned facts to support this:
Hard Fact 1: Extra work hours are almost never as productive as regular work hours.
Hard Fact 2: People who opt for flexible work time to achieve better work-life balance often end up working more, sacrificing evenings and weekends, and not really knowing when they are working and when they are on a break.
Hard Fact 3: Systematic attempts to balance work and life better often become an additional task, which will either increase stress or is soon abandoned for higher-priority tasks.
Balance artists often end up in a split-mind situation where during work they wish they were relaxing, but feel guilty when they are not working. You can catch yourself in this mentality when you chat with friends online during work, or keep checking emails on your smart phone at lunch breaks or during holidays.
An ideal situation, where work, family, friends and hobbies all have their proper place in your life will take some effort to reach, but its foundations are quite simple. Here are a few practical tips to get started:
- Decide where you are going. Hard-earned objectives such as a well-done project, a pay rise, a bonus, a promotion or a corner office are not ultimate goals. Getting them should add to your wellbeing. Think about how they can increase their quality of life, if at all. Talk to people who already have what you want, and find out how they experience them.
- Learn to appreciate the present. Work-life balance coaching often helps executives creating more value in their existing tasks rather than re-balancing their work and life. Once they become more productive in their current tasks, they regain their peace of mind and free up time for family, friends and hobbies.
- Learn to say “No, thanks”. Many people are stuck in an upward vicious circle of more responsibility, more tasks and more pressure. Instead, many executives realize that saying a polite “no” to some ‘opportunities’ will actually add to their life quality. Start with small things such as turning off your smart phone during family time. Proceed to bigger things such as rethinking your career path with a life quality focus.
The ultimate lesson is that people with a better life quality are in fact more productive than stressed-out ones. Some of the above advice may seem like a huge challenge because you are busy – most people are. But taking the challenge can help you find the right place for both work and… well, everything else.