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Screw work-life balance

I struggled with the concept of work-life balance. I love work. I want to work. I always want to work. If I don't need as much sleep, I'd work more - let's say I need only 5 hours of sleep as opposed to 8, then I will be happy to spend the 3 hours for work. And I need to put 1000% of myself into what I do because I don’t do anything half ass. Everything I do, everything that represents me and my work, has to be top notch. To do top notch work all the time, you need to think about work, you need to live and breath your work.

Here is a definition of work-life balance according to Cambridge Dictionary: "the amount of time you spend doing your job compared with the amount of time you spend with your family and doing things you enjoy".

According to HRZone, work-life balance is: "the level of prioritization between personal and professional activities in an individual’s life and the level to which activities related to their job are present in the home".

So what it means for most office workers is that you work for 8 hours or so during work hours (like 9am to 5pm) and turn off your work brain after work to achieve the balance. It also sort of implies that job/work is not something people tend to enjoy doing so that they need to limit the time they spend for work to have enough joy in their life.

Ah, I do struggle with this concept. What if work is something that you enjoy? What if work is both a personal and a professional activity?

All those “rules” and “best practices” to achieve work-life balance simply don't work for me. Like turning off notifications on your phone. Like leaving your laptop at your office or in the room that you use as your home office to remove it from your sight to avoid even thinking about opening it. I tried. I couldn't stick with them. Instead of helping me destress, these rules stressed me out. They made me feel like I was a failure. I realized there is no one-size-fits-all for work-life balance - like many things in life. If they don't help me, that means they are not for me. So I created my own rules. The ones that work for me.

Before I came to this realization and created my own rules, I admitted two things to myself:

I first admitted that I LOVE work. And that is okay. Work gives me a sense of purpose and achievement, energy, joy, belonging, satisfaction, and happiness, just to name a few. Sure, some part of the job comes with things that I don't necessarily love doing. But most of the time, I truly enjoy the work I do. And "job" and "work" are not synonyms. More on that later.

Then, I admitted that loving work, thinking about work and jotting down ideas outside of the typical work hours, and being at my desk early morning and late at night when no one is awake and my creative juice is flowing do not mean that I don't prioritize family or health. These also don't mean that I'm a terrible mom.

Admitting these to myself was so liberating. I felt so much lighter.

And I created my own rules.

  • I will spend as much time as I want for work as long as I do the following:

  • I will pay my full attention to my kid and will not look at my phone when I'm spending time with her. What I do want to avoid is my daughter having to call me multiple times to hold my attention because my eyes are glued to my phone checking emails and messages. These happened a few times (more than I can count with my two hands) and I was not really happy with myself every time.

  • I will have a date night with my husband every Friday or Saturday to have our own time, focusing on each other. And no checking work emails or messages.

  • I don't have a "rule" for how much time to spend with the rest of my extended families or friends. I will be flexible to be present in my loved ones' lives whenever and wherever necessary.

  • I will listen to my body and follow its instructions. I will try to work out 3 to 5 times a week unless my body tells me not to (sickness, injury, etc.). When it needs more sleep, I honour it.

My rules work for me because work is part of both my personal and professional life. Work gives me joy, purpose, and happiness. It is more than a "job". So here is the distinction between "job" and "work". According to dictionary, job is "a paid position of regular employment". Work is "activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a result".

The things I do as a marketing executive (i.e. my full-time job) and the things I do to achieve my BHAG (like writing this piece) are both "work". I sometimes work more than the 8 hours of work that I'm expected to do and paid to do based on the nature of the projects going on and the workload. And then I do work to get closer to achieving my BHAG. I love all the "work" I do. It is a big part of who I am as a person.

When I came across the concept of work-life harmony and work-life integration, I once again felt liberated. So I'm not the only one to think that work-life balance does not work for me. I'm not broken.

"Achieving work-life harmony means reassessing how you integrate your work life into your personal life. They shouldn’t be in competition — they should coexist." (Source: Maryville University)

Now, that's more like it.


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