For years, we’ve been bombarded with the idea that as a business owner you need to find a good ‘work-life balance’. If you’re struggling to get everything done in a day, find yourself working late, or spending too much time on housework, then your ‘work-life balance’ needs re-adjusting. It’s been hyped up to the point where it feels like some mythical unicorn, and the only way you can be a successful business owner is if you can tame it. But honestly? That’s utter nonsense. And we’ll tell you why.
For a long time we believed this myth too. That if we tried hard enough, if we crammed more work into less time, that we could achieve this oasis of calm and balance where everything would be perfect and life would be easy. We would magically finish everything we needed to do at work and still have time for hot yoga, making homemade soup and getting 8 hours of sleep. Reality looks a little more like this: You’re working on that report, but you have to leave the office early because you haven’t been to the dentist in an embarrassingly long time. Or you’re trying to meal prep at home when an important email comes in, and next thing you know you’ve burned everything and you’re stuck eating pot noodles for lunch tomorrow (again). Or any one of about a thousand other scenarios that have happened to all of us, pretty much every single day.
And that’s just two examples of where the work-life balance doesn’t work. There are many more reasons we think the idea of work-life balance is fundamentally flawed and could do with a good shake-up.
The Myth Of Work-Life Balance
The idea behind work-life balance is that you should have an ‘equal division of one’s time and focus between working and family or leisure activities.’ (according to the dictionary anyway). So if you spend too much time working and not enough with your family or on yourself, then your work-life balance is out of whack. The art of the work-life balance is finding that rare middle ground where you can achieve everything you want from work and personal life, with some time to spare.
Why It’s Complete Nonsense
This is where we encounter our first problem. You see, work-life balance implies… well, balance. The equality of two opposing elements, hanging in perfect equilibrium with each other. And life just doesn’t work that way. For a start, work is a fundamental part of your life and it’s utterly impossible to separate it out from the rest. So the idea of trying to balance the ‘work’ part against the ‘life’ part is just silly. But more than that, balance between work and personal life is almost never possible.
One week you might have a sick child and need to stay home to look after them, take time out to deal with health problems or spend time working through the logistical nightmare of moving to a new house, and so work falls by the wayside. On other weeks you might have a super-tight deadline you need to meet for work and have to stay late at the office, leaving the other half to fend for themselves for dinner (out come the pot noodles again).
There is also no such thing as ‘the perfect balance point’, because balance looks different for everyone. A working mum of three’s idea of a balanced life will look significantly different to that of a single man in this 20’s, and to try and tell both of them that they need to achieve this 50-50 balance is frankly ridiculous, and is only going to make them both miserable. And that’s what’s been happening for years – we’ve been chasing this idea of the ‘work-life balance’, and we’ve been making ourselves feel like terrible failures in the process.
What We Think It Should Be Instead
Now, we’re not saying the entire concept of work-life balance is rubbish – there is some good advice in there. After all, you do need balance in your life. That’s why you can’t eat Nutella for every meal (believe me, I tried it!). But rather than looking at it as a precarious balancing act, try looking at it a different way.
Think of your existence as a big pot sitting on the stove. Now throw in everything you do, everything that is important to you and all the things that makes you, you. What does that look like? For most of us, it’s a big mess of work, hobbies, family, obligations and other stuff that all sort of mixes together. But eventually, it’ll all stop swirling and settle into an optimum pattern. That’s your work and your life blending together.
What if, instead of trying to split everything into neat little boxes and balance them all on top of each other like some sort of deranged circus clown, we tried creating a work-life blend that worked for us? This blend takes away the pressure of ‘I must spend X time at work, and if I do more than I’m failing’, and instead allows you to focus on the areas of your life that need you, when they need you. That doesn’t mean that everything is happening at the same time. It just means that you have a found a way to fit all of the important pieces together in a pattern that suits you. That pattern should be flexible and fluid, and might not be the same from one week to the next. Some weeks you’ll feel present in all areas of your life, and other weeks you’ll feel pulled strongly in one direction. But eventually it will all level out, then start again.
The concept of a work-life blend is a little different to the traditional work-life balance, and it might take you a little bit of time to get it right. It will be messy, and it will be hard, but it will be worth it in the end and you will be a lot happier for it. And if you need help managing everything in your life (including work) and getting it all running smoothly, then get yourself some help! That’s where a VA is like a gift from the gods.
In some of our next blogs we’ll be sharing some tips around how to find the right work-life blend for you, so keep an eye out for those. In the meantime, if you would like to find out more, get some advice or just chat about the idea of a work-life blend, just get in touch with us today.