Did “Improve work life balance” make your New Year’s Resolution this year?
“Work life balance” has become such a buzzword. We hear it all the time. Employees expect their employers to provide it for them, employers promise it to their employees; it’s one of those things that everyone is striving to find more of. But I wonder if anyone really knows what it means. Do we even mean the same thing?
Balancing work and life— think about that. Balance, by definition, means the two things are equal. Picture a scale – one of those big, fancy gold ones that represents the word “justice” – with your work on one side of the scale and the entire rest of your life on the other. Does that feel reasonable to you? On the life side, you might have things like: a friend going through a tough divorce, a new baby being born, a family member fighting for his life against cancer, a new house to move into, or an old one to sell, your hobbies (the things that bring you joy or help you to take care of yourself), your side hustles, building quality relationships…on and on. All of that (and likely more!) is on one side of the scale and your job on the other. If “balance” really is the goal, then you are set up to fail. Certainly, we all need income to provide for ourselves and to fund so many of the things we enjoy in life. And hopefully, your job does bring you great things like joy, satisfaction, and purpose. But can you really imagine a day when your work is equal to everything else?
Harmony, by definition, means several things coming together to make absolutely beautiful music. Picture an orchestra. It has so many different players, each with their own different instruments and parts of music to play. And in the middle of that orchestra sits the conductor: the person whose job it is to make sure all of those people in all of those sections with all of those instruments work together to create a beautiful harmony. Picture the conductor front and center, waving her conductor baton around. The conductor sets the tempo. The conductor lets each section know when it’s time to come in and time to fade out. When it’s time to crescendo or accelerate or slow it down. Can you see it?
Picture all the different parts of your life as the different sections, musicians, and instruments in an orchestra. All together, they make the beautiful song that is your life. Your position at work, your relationships as a caregiver, sibling, partner, friend, child, your community, your hobbies and passions, your side hustle – each a section in the orchestra. And in this orchestra, picture YOURSELF standing in the middle as the conductor. You are in charge. You set the tempo. You keep the rhythm of that song. You say when it is time to put your full attention into your work or quiet everything down to spend time by yourself reading. Or focus all of your energy on a friendship or a side hustle or a new hobby. You are in charge.
This is the power of harmony: you are in charge. You have access to an inner power, choice, and agency around the priorities in your life. You decide how you invest your time.
How have you been thinking about time and priority management? More like the work life balance analogy or the harmony analogy?
What is your current mindset costing you today? What are you willing to give up to change it?