Work Life Balance
This is my new work friend. I’ve just started at a new place and this is my ‘buddy’…She sat on my lap, tapped on the computer keys and chewed at my papers – all so I would stroke her…what a great instinct to question my work-life balance!
Work Life Balance
- What does that phrase mean to you?
- What would work-life balance look like?
If you’re up for a bit of activity; stop reading now and go grab a bit of paper and something to write with. Draw a circle and then divide it into all the ways that you spend time….an old fashioned pie chart.
You might want to start simply by thinking of all the things you spend your time going. So how many hours a day to you spend on work; note I haven’t said ‘at’ work…include all the extra time you spend thinking or emailing about work at home. Remember also to include time for sleeping and eating. Remember also to add in the time you spend traveling to and from work.
Now what else do you have there? Time with the kids, Time outside? Time exercising? Just chilling? Dancing? Having sex? Cooking?
- Is the balance right?
- What can you do differently?
- What can you do more of?
- What can you do less of?
Then when we stop and look at the ‘work life’ balance of our kids, how does that look? How much time do they spend at school? How much work do they bring home with them in the form of homework? How much time do you kids get just playing, hanging out with friends, outside, being creative, having fun, doing nothing?
You might want to do the pie chart exercise with or for them too. It doesn’t always look good. No wonder they get tired and grouchy. We try not to bring work home ourselves as we know how stressful it is and how it can interfere with out family relationships…but our kids have homework every night….hmmmm…curious.
There was an inherent assumption in the initial question…did you spot it?
That work and life are different; separate. That work goes on in one place and life in another.
Which is pretty much how we live it. But is that because that’s how we see it?
What would happens if we question it?
First of all we need to clarify what we mean by ‘life’.
- What do you mean by ‘life’?
- What do you mean by ‘work’?
What would happen if work and life were all part of a continuous whole? It is possible.
As you will know if you read this often, I’ve spent summers in Greece in Kalikalos. I ran workshops there. Is that work? Well yes…because that’s part of what I get paid to do in life. But no because for goodness sake it was in Greece with great people who I later hung out with on the beach with our kids. It all rolled into one.
Jock who runs Kalikalos has no work life balance. His work is his life and his life is his work.
I have another friend who has worked at a boarding school for a long time and the division between ‘work’ and ‘life’ has merged as her own children go to the school, they live at the school, they socialize with people at the school and she teaches what she loves to learn about.
Another friend is passionate about conservation; he’s an expert in it. His house is beautiful, sustainable and is surrounded by coppiced woods, companion planting and natural abundance. He has also spent his life working in the field and still does..he walks his talk and lives his work..his life is his work.
- If there was no separation between work and life…how would your life look?
If it’s hard to answer that question don’t feel bad…it’s because we’re conditioned out of asking it. Conditioned with phrases such work v life. Home v school.
The good old Buddhists have long held that these divisions are in fact unities..how can home and school be separate…a bad day at school or work impacts at home, support at home impacts on work or school.
At school I had to study physics. I got 4% in a physics test and cried all the way home. I had to use a log table (if you remember those you’re older than you look!) and binary code in maths. I hated it all. It made me feel stupid. It set up the idea that work is hard, difficult and a struggle.
My son loves playing football. He’s pretty good at playing football; which he would be of course as he plays so much. So he creates a virtual circle – ‘I love football so I play it a lot and then I get good at playing football which means I enjoy it more which means I play it more which means I get better…’
- What was it you loved and were good at when you were younger?
- Were you encouraged to do it?
- What do you love and what are you good at now?
I loved art, cookery (OK friendsand family who are now sniggering in disbelief…I liked it OK..I didn’t say I was good at it) dance and English but it wasn’t an acceptable options combination. Bonkers. They were all creative..I am creative…but the curriculum wants us all the have a broad and balanced diet. Why?
(Just hauling myself back from an educational rant there…deep breathes).
So…let’s get back to now.
If your work life balance is shot right now then yes we can do pie charts and think about how to take more time away from work and add time in with friends and family. That can really make a difference and isn’t a bad place to start.
But let’s be radical and just throw out the dichotomy for a moment and ask yourself these questions:
- What would life look like if you did want you loved and what you are good at?
- How could you make money doing what you love and what you are good at?
- Which bits of your current life do you love and are you good at?
- How could you focus on on the bits you love and are good at?
How many times do you hear colleagues, friends and maybe yourself talking about what you will do when you retire?
Really? Are you going to wait that long before you can live with passion, fun and purpose? What happens if you’re too ill? Too old? Too skint by then? What if you die before or soon after you get there?
Create a life that you don’t want to retire from right now. I don’t mean resign tomorrow, but I do mean start answering all the questions in here. Start finding out. Start doing more of what you love and you are good at. Start noticing that work and life are not separate.
Because when we do what we love and we are good at there is no work/life separation to balance because it’s all connected.
If you enjoyed reading this please share it with friends. You might also be interested in talking to me about coaching , or maybe try some of my online courses (some are free), or treat yourself to a climate protecting pamper with vegan friendly, organic Tropic which supports the planting of forests and education in deprived areas.
Thanks for being here.
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