There is a lot of talk all over the place about something called “work-life balance”. There’s a lot of reading material on the subject, but honestly, it’s a little confusing. The traditional model of work/life that always kind of bugged me is this:
- Find out what you’re good at
- Choose a career where you can use those skills
- Work hard, climb the ladder, make money
- Use that money to do things you actually enjoy
- Try to carve out time outside of work for the “important things”
UGH oh my gosh you guys this just KILLS me. It’s not that there is anything inherently wrong with any once piece of that. I do think you should use your skills, and I think being dedicated and working hard is important in a lot of ways (although I really don’t think hard work is the key to success, tbh, but we’ll save that for another day). It’s the huge separation between work and life that really bugs me. Should work and life really be that exclusive? Should it really be a struggle to balance work with your life?
Honestly, no. There’s no reason why your work shouldn’t be an integral and enjoyable part of your life, and visa versa. If you turn your passions, loves, and natural abilities into a career that involves doing what you love everyday, there usually isn’t as much to balance. Typically, when people follow their passions instead of following the money or the traditional career path, it feels pretty natural to look forward to working, to combine work and hobbies, and to include friends and family in your work. When work and life can start to become interconnected and mutually beneficial to each other, that’s when things really get good.
So how exactly is that feasible, though? I’m not going to lie – it definitely is a little bit of a balancing act at first, and it takes some trial and error to get it right. For me, I’ve found out that spending more time with my friends and husband away from my computer actually gives me more inspiration for articles, and I can usually produce a video or do an awesome interview when I travel to cover some of the expenses. I try to write when I’m feeling most creative and take care of marketing stuff first thing in the morning when I normally wouldn’t be doing anything else. I consider my work just another fun, exciting, and important part of my day to day life. Once I stopped looking at my work and life as separate, they started to just mush into one awesome thing that is just “life”, but life with getting to do work I love everyday. Sure, I still have to carve out specific time to manage some of the more difficult tasks like accounting and meetings, but overall the more I look at the balance as something easy and enjoyable the more it feels that way.
Obviously I know that I’m in a special situation since I work from home and make my own schedule, but that was an important thing I looked for when I chose my career – I knew it was highly important for me to have a lot of freedom and room to be creative. However, it is totally possible to get rid of the work/life balance idea in favor of integrating them both into a day to day life you really enjoy, in any career. Even if you work in a corporate office, if you’re doing somthing that you really love (or close to it) there is always a way to figure out how bits and pieces of your work life and regular life can start to complement each other and feel cohesive.
Sometimes, things just flat out can’t be balanced and you’ll need to swing further to one side. One of the most important things you can do to feel truly balanced is to cut yourself some slack when the scales are totally unbalanced. Over the past 10 days or so, I’ve barely posted a social message, I haven’t written any blog posts, and completely ignored my editorial calendar and email inbox. All I’ve been doing recently is “life” – spending time with my husband, going wine tasting with friends, seeing movies, enjoying rainy days. Even though I love what I do, sometimes I just need a mental break. On the flip side, there have been plenty of weeks where I have gone full speed ahead on a work project and didn’t see another human for like 5 days straight. That’s the balance though; it’s just about being okay with not being balanced a lot of the time, and letting work and life turn into things that go together like PB&J, not like two separate things.
How do you define work/life balance? I want to hear from you!