The Work-Life Balance Myth

You know how painful it is on the playground when you are see-sawing with someone and without warning they get off?  You are suddenly slammed to the ground.  It really hurts.  Even though I am long past playground age, I still remember it.  Well that’s how it can feel when you are trying to achieve work-life balance.  It seems to work for a while, and suddenly – SLAM!

(c)     warrengoldswain/thinkstock

(c) warrengoldswain/thinkstock

You are on the ground.

The Attempt at Work-Life Balance

I have spent years trying to figure out how to achieve work-life balance.  And I’m in good company.  My co-workers talk about this too, particularly the women.  We’ve attended webinars, read books, and talked about achieving the perfect balance.  But it hasn’t happened yet.  No matter what we do we fall short.  Men are not immune to this either.  A podcasting friend of mine, Jeff Stephens, has a website and podcast called Crazy.Dad.Life.  He talks about similar topics from a male point of view.

The Myth of Work-Life Balance

As I looked at my own life, I realized that I was living as though there was some magic that would bring me to the blissful state of perfect balance.  If I worked hard enough, I could stay there, as though it was some kind of place or state to which one could attain.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  There is no perfect state of balance.  Just as your brain has to constantly adjust to tiny shifts and stimuli to keep your body balanced, you also have to constantly adjust your life as the situation warrants it.

Second, how do you define work or life?  Is work only what you do at your paid job, or does it include house or yard work when you are home?  Even if you get paid to do it, is it work when you are doing something you love, or is it life?  Where does work end and life begin?

Third, what if you work at home or are retired?  Do you have to consider this or don’t you?  When I polled my retired friends, they actually said they have the same challenges as working people with balancing different aspects of their lives.

Eight Tips For Better Life Balance

  1. Everything you do is part of your life.  You choose how to allocate time for each activity.
  2. Define your values, priorities, or goals.  Use them as a reference point.  Focus on those activities that align with your values.
  3. Be ruthless about your schedule.  Pare it down.
  4. Understand that things happen and you must adjust.  A child gets sick, a huge project is due.  We can’t keep the same “balance” every day.  Be flexible enough to adjust when the situation calls for it.
  5. Have sufficient margin in your life to allow time to adjust.  This is so hard for me.  I load up my calendar and then have no wiggle room.  Talk about a stress-creator!
  6. Reassess every so often.  Discuss with those closest to you.
  7. Lighten up.  Don’t take everything so seriously.  Life is too short to spend it fretting over everything, or striving to the point of exhaustion, or trying to make it perfect.
  8. Accept imperfection.  You will never “arrive” at the perfect balancing point.  Everything is a trade-off.

Question:  Have you been slammed by the see-saw?  What actions have you taken to bring your life into balance?  Click here to leave a comment.



Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Good post Kathleen! I have found it helpful to try and reframe the concept of work/life balance, rather to consider work life “integration”. This recognises that we were created to find fulfilment in our work and that work must therefore be an integral part of our wellbeing and our lives; and should not be seen as in conflict with the rest of our lives. I admit that the theory is easier than practical application!

    • Kathleen Thompson

      I love that phrase, Gavin!