Why Work-Life Balance Doesn’t Work
Recently, I realized I occasionally pit work and life against each other in my mind, and these moments certainly don’t help my positivity during the week.
Instead of treating work and life like they are on opposite sides of a scale, I started to think about how the aspects of each can coexist harmoniously.
As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told Thrive Global, “If I’m happy at work, I’m better at home — a better husband and better father. And if I’m happy at home, I come into work more energized — a better employee and a better colleague.”
This cyclical nature shows that work and life are not two independent things; they are each affected by the other, interconnecting in numerous ways.
These connections happen at two levels: functional and emotional.
At the functional level, work provides income, which provides the basic requirements for life—food, clothing, and shelter. At the emotional level, work gives us a sense of worth and fulfillment while affecting stress levels.
Conversely, life—our families, relationships, hobbies, and health—can contribute to our physical and mental capabilities in our jobs.
While work-life balance is often thought of as weighing the two sides against each other on a scale, work-life harmony is more like an orchestra. During a symphony, different parts of the orchestra will be louder at different times, but the pieces all come together to create beautiful, harmonious music. Work-life harmony works in a similar way: different areas might need more attention at different times, but by focusing on those areas when they need it, you can create calmness in the others.
Steps to Achieving Work-Life Harmony
Because work and life are ever connected, we should be striving for work-life harmony to enjoy the best that both have to offer, and understanding some simple steps will get us there.
- Balance Is Impossible. The first step on the path to work-life harmony is to realize that work-life balance is impossible to achieve. Sometimes the needs of your job will overwhelm the needs of your home; other times, the need of your home will overwhelm the needs of your job. The needs of work and life will very rarely be distributed equally.
- The Present Is Most Important. The second step to work-life harmony is to be present and in the moment. When you’re at work, focus on the activity at hand; be productive, be efficient, and give it your all. When you’re at home or out with friends, don’t think about work; focus on the ones you care about (including yourself) and enjoy your time without worrying about what the next workday will bring.
- Physical Power Boosts Brain Power. The next step is to stay physically active. Regular aerobic exercise has been proven to increase verbal memory and learning. Physical activity also improves your mood, helps you sleep better, and reduces stress.
- Sleep Is Your Friend. The final step toward work-life harmony is to rest. Getting proper sleep is crucial to maintaining productivity and creativity. When you don’t get seven to eight hours of sleep regularly, your brain slows down its processing power and loses the ability to make new memories; your immune system is also weakened.
Other steps can also help you along the way, but as long as you feel good about what you’re doing, you’ll achieve work-life harmony.
Whether you work more to achieve a business goal or you focus your energies on yourself and family when needed, making the switch becomes effortless, no matter how busy you are, when you achieve that harmonious calm.
(A version of this blog post originally appeared on the LiquidPlanner blog.)