I’ve read many articles, blogs and books on the concept of work-life balance. Heck, I’ve written them too specifically around harmony, and an assessment called the wheel of reality. I was recently sitting down with a client, and he decided to question the validity of those concepts. Here’s the rant.
“So what I hear in all these ‘balance’ blogs and assessments is unattainable. I’m supposed to:
- Wake up early
- Work out
- Eat breakfast with my family
- Hustle a 10-hour workday
- Meet a friend for happy hour
- Make it home for dinner
- Call someone in my family
- Put the kids to bed
- Read something not work-related
- Spend quality time with my spouse
- AND get at least eight hours sleep
…then do it all over again tomorrow.
I’d need 38 hours in the day!
It’s impossible to attain and stupid to think we have to do all those things.”
You know what? He’s right. That is unattainable, and I get stressed out just reading the list. Put three of those on your daily checklist and you have a full day.
What is the real truth when it comes to all the concepts of balance?
It’s about understanding which season you are in and for you, the high achieving leader:
Every season can’t be work season.
Is ‘work season’ the only season you have? When was the last time you’ve had another season? What would you call it?
For you, it’s alway work season. Did you know that seasons change? Yeah, that’s why they are called seasons. The Midwest has four of them a year. Some of them are short (remember that beautiful fall day in September before winter? Man that was a good day), but they are distinctly different.
How long have you been in work season? That long, huh?
Do you know how “always work season” CEOs and Owners change seasons? Via a catastrophic event.
It takes a heart attack, divorce, financial crisis, or death to make work season-ers to see the world differently and change seasons. That’s a crappy way to change seasons.
“Oh, so I’m supposed to get all zen now and not work that hard and focus on other stuff? Well, that’s not reality either. Do you know where my business is and how important I am to it?”
Yes. Yes, I do.
I know there are times when you need to sprint but you can’t sprint a marathon. Taking a week off to go to the beach in the summer is the equivalent to stopping by the water table, splashing a cup on your face and then continuing to sprint.
What good will it be for you to create the most successful company, yet forfeit your soul, your kids, your marriage, or your health?
So what do you do?
1.Recognize the season
When you do the wheel of reality, you’ll find that there are natural high and low points. If you did it next week, there would be movement. It’s OK to have low points. For example, friends would be a low point for me right now. It’s not that I don’t have friends, I’m not in a season where friends are a higher priority than my family and work. It’s OK.
What season are you in? (Hint: If you don’t know, ask your spouse or close work colleague). If it’s been work season for a decade, you have some analysis to do.
2. Be intentional
Let’s stick with my friend example: If I notice that in 6 months the friend area is still a low point, I can reach out and schedule some friend time or start planning that friend trip. The key is to periodically check in on where you are in the battle of life and then adjust accordingly.
What tweaks, conversations, focus, evolution, do you need to start/stop or prioritize?
You don’t need to do everything the world says in healthy all the time. It’s impossible. It is healthy to understand where you are, recognize the highs and lows, and point in the direction you want to go. There will be times when there are higher priorities than work. It doesn’t mean work isn’t important; it’s just not the most important.
Who or what needs your attention this month?