The Myth of Work Life Balance

Once upon a time, I got up, went to work, left, and didn’t think about work again until the next morning.  I can’t remember exactly how long ago it was.  The end.

OK, maybe not.  But the idea of work life balance seems to be built on this idea.  You work when you work, you don’t when you don’t.  But that is, for many people, not the way the world works.  Or your brain.

I’ve had the chance to see Jason Seiden speak on more than one occasion, and there is a simple message he shares about solving complex work problems.  Sit someplace quiet, relax, and let your mind turn the problem over.  Your brain knows what to do.  It will get the answer from the depths of your subconscious.

The truth is these quiet moments are often hard to come by.  Other than putting them in your schedule, and hoping others respect it, you are most likely to find those moments at the end of the day, long after you’ve left the office.  But you take them as they come because they are valuable, and rarely do they show up on your timecard.

There is no such thing as a clearly defined “work time” and “life time” anymore.  We live in a knowledge based economy, and for many their value is defined by their creativity, judgement and intuition.  Not things that you could, or should, shut off when you walk out the door.  Should you have some quiet time in your schedule?  Of course.  Will some of it come during “normal” working hours?  Maybe.  Are you going to come up with some of your best ideas when you are off the clock, being blindsided by your own creativity and genius?  Sometimes.  Hopefully.

“Clean out a corner of your mind, and creativity will fill it.”  Dee Hock said that.  I agree.  It’s not about balance.  It’s about being effective and innovative when you can.  And your brain doesn’t have a built in timeclock.  Sorry.

Comments

  1. I agree. My father was a professor and consultant and I grew up not seeing any work/non-work split time. He loved what he did and would think about it whenever he wanted (not stuck in some compartment). I think one of the big problems is if you really don’t like what you do – then having it not compartmentalized isn’t fun. Some jobs may allow blocking off time for non-work, I don’t think those are the types of jobs I want though.

    I can understand people wanting time for other things. And they should have it. But if you have a job you love thinking about it while you are free to do other things is not a burden.

    • I think loving what you do has become a cliche for many, an unobtainable stage. But it sure does make a difference if you can get there!

  2. Well said. Flow beats work life balance every time and I love to work when I’m buzzing for it, and chill when I want, too.

  3. I agree, labeling where you are and what you are doing as work or life or family or leisure is sort of silly and never really works out. “I’m relaxing as hard as I can.” Still it’s important to try to do one thing at a time and give it your full attention.

  4. Interesting perspective and a very typical one for me as well. I find myself often coming to the best decisions post work time after I’ve had a chance to digest events/conversations. It is somewhat magical and mysterious how stepping away tends to bring the most sensical solutions or next steps to the forefront of the mind.

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