Work/Life Balance is a Myth

Work Life BalanceI just read a great article in the Harvard Business Review entitled “Manage Your Work, Manage Your Life” that highlighted how many of today’s most successful executives attempt to manage the Work/Life Balance. According to the article, “Work/life balance is at best an elusive ideal and at worst a complete myth.”

Many people profess to to seek a “balance” between work and life.   What they really mean is they want to strike a balance between work and family. Well I have bad news… There is no such thing as a Work/Life balance. That’s right – there’s no “balance.” If you’re trying to achieve balance, you’re going to fail. Balance isn’t the answer. The best you can hope for is “dynamic tension” between the two. But, there is a way to be at peace about the work and family struggle.

In today’s alway on, always connected world it there is no longer a distinct “work time” and a distinct “personal time.” Just acknowledge it and get over it.  In the era before email, smartphones, tablets, instant messaging, social networks, etc. we all had relatively predictable days. Now we all have unpredictable random work streams that come at us constantly 7×24.

We all feel the need to always be on and connected in order to keep up. This is why people feel compelled to constantly check their email of their FaceBook feeds. FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out psychologically compels us to check just in case. The reality is everyone else is NOT doing it better than you, and you’re NOT the only one feeling stressed and worried about everything, and feeling like you’re almost failing at both. Here is what to do:

Don’t attempt to have separate work and personal systems. You just have your life and all the associated commitments and stuff in your life. Do separate your contexts – what you can only do at the office and what you can only do at home – such that when you are ready to do you have your next actions broken down into the appropriate context to getting things done.

Then at the beginning of each day at the office, look at your calendar to see what hard commitments you have and how much discretionary time you have.  Then, look at your Next Actions lists and decide what you realistically want to accomplish today before you go home.

I stress the realistic part of this. Assign a “Today” tag to the next actions you want to accomplish today.  Then filter your next actions on TODAY so you only see those items you decided you want to accomplish today.  Once you can check off or delete all those things that you set out to accomplish in the morning at the office, GO HOME. Feel good about accomplishing what you set out to accomplish and go home to be with your loved ones.

Once your home be fully engaged with your family.  No multitasking. Sure, maybe a little email after your partner and the kids go to bed, but that’s all.

About Michael Keithley
CIO at Creative Artists Agency

2 Responses to Work/Life Balance is a Myth

  1. Tony – you nailed it. “Just figure out the most effective use of your time for the day and try to stick to that list! Once you’ve knocked down all (or most) of the items on that list, go home.” Some of the best things in life are the simplest.

  2. Tony Pinto says:

    Michael, this is one of the best productivity tips I’ve ever heard: ‘Assign a “Today” tag to the next actions you want to accomplish today. Then filter your next actions on TODAY so you only see those items you decided you want to accomplish today.’ In my opinion, it doesn’t matter if you use Post-It notes or a sophisticated piece of software (I prefer the latter). Just figure out the most effective use of your time for the day and try to stick to that list! Once you’ve knocked down all (or most) of the items on that list, go home.

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