This past week, I wrapped up the manuscript for my forthcoming book, The Marble and The Sculptor – hence the lack of updates this past week. Not to mention it was a hectic week. A large brief for an arbitration was due. Spent half a day at a pro bono “Wills for Heroes” clinic putting together wills for firefighters. Taking the family to the pool to go swimming. Making a half-hearted effort to stay on my workout schedule. But sometimes there is only so much time in the week. Finishing the book meant early mornings and late nights – and left little time for blogging.
But that’s how it goes sometimes. I generally see work-life balance as an illusion. Sometimes you work. Sometimes you are engaged in other activities. To somehow say that your “life” and your work are separate spheres completely mis-frames a person’s approach to their life. If you have a goal of finding work-life balance – you’re never going to achieve it. There’s no such thing. There is only life. Work is part of it.
Maybe you hate your job. That’s why you think of the time spent away from it as “life.” But considering that you likely spend most of your time at work, that’s an untenable position. If your job is so horrible, quit. “But I have tons of debt!” “I need benefits!” “I have to make my house payments!” Okay, if you are in a situation in which you have to keep your job then you need to refocus and reframe your approach to it. Unless you absolutely despise every single aspect of your job (unlikely) – then you need to find ways to minimize the unsavory parts of your job and maximize the parts you do enjoy.
Breakdown what parts of your job trigger stress. Is it the time of the week? A certain co-worker? A certain type of work? Try to identify them – be specific. Not “I hate Mondays,” but, “I don’t like the required staffing meeting from 9:30 a.m. -10:30 a.m. because it interferes with my workflow right as I get going for the day.” This is much more useful. Once you’ve gotten incredibly specific you can begin to look for change. Get to work earlier on Mondays. Make a suggestion that the meeting be moved back an hour. Find work that can be completed in small amounts of time before the meeting – answering emails, etc. It’s not going to suddenly make Monday the most awesome, best day of the week (it’s still Monday!), but more than likely “I hate Mondays” will turn into “Mondays are okay.” You just need to look for the opportunities in your life to make small changes that can lead to sizable returns.
But guess what? You’re going to fail. You’ll have some success for awhile but then get tripped up. Some emergency will come along and throw off your small change. You’ll find yourself reverting to old patterns of behavior. And that’s okay. Finding satisfaction at work (life) is going to require failure. It’s how we grow. What you can’t do is write off the small changes you make if they don’t work the first time or get interrupted or don’t stick. It’s a tough lesson to learn. I know still beat myself up over it from time-to-time; frustrated when things break my routine.
Yet true “balance” is coming to terms with the fact that your life is never going to be a perfect work/family/friends/hobby time split. Depending on the demands of certain aspects of your life, work might be more important – it certainly was for me this past week. There was no time for friends, and only little time for family and hobbies. But that’s okay. That’s what balance had to be for me this past week. This week is going to be a bit more light on “focused work” and more focused on meetings and phone calls – which allows me to spend more time on the areas of my life.
Finding balance in your life is not a one time affair. It’s something to experiment with, struggle with, and continuously adjust and adapt as your schedule – your life – dictates.
Anyone else been struggling with balance?