“I don’t know how you do it.”
We get this comment frequently from friends, colleagues and family members in the midst of conversations about what is going on in our lives. It’s usually meant as a compliment, an acknowledgement that the ability to juggle many different roles and responsibilities is impressive and something with which many people struggle. This is often referred to as “work-life balance,” but maybe we’ve been thinking about it all wrong.
The concept of work-life balance can be misleading. I’ve often heard it referred to as the holy grail of one’s career. Something that is often talked about, but so few people seem to grasp. I think this is because of the use of (and emphasis on) the word balance. By its very definition, balance is spending equal parts of your time between work and all your non-work related demands. Given that we spend most of our time at work, dividing your time equally between a 40+ hour work week and your life outside of work is very difficult.
By its very definition, balance is spending equal parts of your time between work and all your non-work related demands.
So how should we be thinking about this issue if balance isn’t the right lens? I would argue that we should instead be looking for work-life satisfaction. The beauty of shifting the focus from balance to satisfaction is that there is flexibility in defining what qualifies for work-life satisfaction that is unique to each person. This could even help explain how someone who has many demands on their plate can still have a happy and thriving life, even while they may technically be out of balance in one or more areas.
As for me, in addition to working full time, I’m also a wife and mother, a member of the Board of Directors for the Junior League of Dallas and an active member in my church. If I was exclusively looking at my schedule through a “balance lens,” I would argue that the amount of time I spend away from home has left me out of balance. But when I view my commitments through the “satisfaction lens,” I see a richness and a sense of purpose that results in immense satisfaction. Both my Junior League and church involvement help keep me deeply connected to my community and provide a meaningful way for me to give back.
How can you get there?
Start by taking a critical look at where you spend your time.
1. Make a list: Draw up a list of all the various demands for your time right now.
2. Assess the effort: Think about what each commitment is asking of you and how you feel about giving your time to support the mission or purpose associated with that commitment.
3. Identify the pain points: Highlight any activity or commitment that feels more like a burden than a joy.
4. Shift your perspective: Think about what changes you can make to experience joy or fulfillment in that area.
5. Make a change: If change isn’t possible, consider taking a step back to create more room for things that do bring you joy.
Ultimately, finding true satisfaction takes work, but it’s worth it in the end.