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Last Updated on October 12, 2017

The Mystery of Work Life Balance

The Mystery of Work Life Balance

Kate is a hard-working manager working at a startup company.  She toils at work but gets that nagging feeling that she’s missing out on living her life. And then perversely, when she’s not working, she tries to switch off ‘work-mode’ to enjoy her passions, friends, family… but eventually she finds that she just doesn’t have the energy.

Many people are like Kate, misunderstanding the true meaning of work life balance. They try to keep ‘work’ and ‘life’ separate, but this brings undesirable results.

Where the Curse of Work Life Balance Begins

Those who are trying to maintain a work life balance only by dividing their time – by driving a sharp wedge between work-mode and life-mode – are inadvertently dividing themselves.

When people juxtapose ‘work’ and ‘life’, they unconsciously think in terms of ‘work’ versus ‘life’ – and are constantly forced to choose one at the expense of the other.  In this framework, a gain on one side is always a loss on the other side.

And so people start to see ‘work’ as the times when they are not living their lives. ‘Work’ is seen as a necessary evil that they must suffer through until it’s time to switch off. But if you encode everything related to work as negativity and suffering, while your ‘life’ strains under the weight of unrealistic expectations of enjoyment, there really is no balance there at all.

Re-balancing work and life is possible by seeking out a new and enjoyable job to a certain extent. But no job is perfect. There are always going to be tedious aspects to any job. And before long you’ll wind up on the same ‘life’ versus ‘work’ see-saw because you haven’t changed the old framework.

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The Only Way to Break the Curse

The true goal is to redistribute the positive (+) and negative (-) evenly across life.

Most people try to make it all positive off work to compensate the negativity at work like this:

    If it’s all negative at work and all positive when the work mode is switched off, the work performance will suffer – creating even more negativity. People will lean heavily on their off-mode life for happiness, but they can’t truly achieve happiness because they are not facing the problems at work.

    Conversely, there are those who do strive to put positivity into their work life. Their work life balance looks like this:

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      Unfortunately, if these people are still stuck in the old on/off framework, all the negativity will shift to their off-mode self, and their relationships and health will suffer.

      Very few lucky people experience positivity on both sides of the equation, their work life balance looks like this:

        If you are one of those who experience positivity in both sides, lucky you! You are one of the less than 5% of the population.

        For the rest of the 95% of the population, here is a cure to having a realistic work life balance.

        The solution is to recover the sense of a unified self. When you do, you’ll dismantle the competing work/life binary, and you’ll stop unconsciously labelling work as ‘suffering’ and life as ‘enjoyment’. Positive energy will begin to flow smoothly and effortlessly through your life.

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        To recover the sense of a unified self, ask yourself: Why do I really do what I do, in life and in work?

        Your answer to this question make up your blueprint of a unified self, charged with meaning that relates directly to who you are and what you care about.

        Use your blueprint now to examine your life at work, your leisure time and your relationships and see if they align with each other. The new framework is no longer ‘balance’, but ‘alignment’.

        This will reveal to you a number of things:

        • There are aspects of your work that are not suffering: Look again and you’ll find many positive aspects that reflect what you care about. For example, you may value creativity, and realize that you get the opportunity to show it at work every day.
        • Things you care about at ‘work’ are the same as what you care about in your ‘life’: For example, you may value friendship in your life, and you also practice this value with your colleagues. Your values exist in all your interactions, and serve your unified self.
        • What you do at work and what you do in your life support and enhance each other: For example, the same generosity you show your friends can forge good client relationships when practiced at work. Your resourcefulness at work can be used to solve obstacles in your personal life.

        Crucially, you never need to use the on/off work model again because you’re constantly acting in accordance with what you truly value. As a result, you’ll find that your positive energy will not be subject to draining or overflowing, off/on, but will instead flow consistently through all your states of being in a perpetual positive feedback loop.

        This is how a realistic work life balance is like:

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          A Life Without the Distressing Curse

          Your renewed conceptualisation from ‘balance’ to ‘alignment’ is an inner transformation that can empower you whatever your current circumstances are.

          For example, it may reveal that you truly are suffering in your current job. But now you can unroll your blueprint to identify the cause of the negativity (i.e. what isn’t aligning with what you value?) and either remind yourself why you’re really doing what you’re doing, or make a tweak… or indeed change your job.

          Even if the latter, you can still be sustained by positivity until you find that new job. You may hate your everyday tasks, but one of things you value is to be a good provider for your family – so you’re spurred on, knowing that you’re doing that every day.

          Or if you’re a workaholic, your blueprint may reveal that what you previously undervalued as ‘off-mode’ (relaxing, having fun, pursuing a passion, spending time with family and friends) actually contain a wealth of values that support – and even enhance – a well-rounded working life.

          A value-rich and optimally tuned work life alignment helps maintain a flow of positive energy and happiness in all aspects of being. So go ahead and make the blueprint of you.

          More by this author

          Leon Ho

          Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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          How to Fight Information Overload

          How to Fight Information Overload

          Information overload is a creature that has been growing on the Internet’s back since its beginnings. The bigger the Internet gets, the more information there is. The more quality information we see, the more we want to consume it. The more we want to consume it, the more overloaded we feel.

          This has to stop somewhere. And it can.

          As the year comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to make the overloading stop.

          What you need to do is focus on these 4 steps:

          1. Set your goals.
          2. Decide whether you really need the information.
          3. Consume only the minimal effective dose.
          4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming too much information.

          But before I explain exactly what I mean, let’s discuss information overload in general.

          The Nature of the Problem

          The sole fact that there’s more and more information published online every single day is not the actual problem. Only the quality information becomes the problem. This sounds kind of strange…but bear with me.

          When we see some half-baked blog post we don’t even consider reading it, we just skip to the next thing. But when we see something truly interesting — maybe even epic — we want to consume it. We even feel like we have to consume it. And that’s the real problem.

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          No matter what topic we’re interested in, there are always hundreds of quality blogs publishing entries every single day (or every other day). Not to mention all the forums, message boards, social news sites, and so on. The amount of epic content on the Internet these days is so big that it’s virtually impossible for us to digest it all. But we try anyway.

          That’s when we feel overloaded. If you’re not careful, one day you’ll find yourself reading the 15th blog post in a row on some nice WordPress tweaking techniques because you feel that for some reason, “you need to know this.”

          Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control. Luckily, you’re not on your own. There are some tips you can follow to protect yourself from information overload and, ultimately, fight it. But first…

          Why information overload is bad

          It stops you from taking action. That’s the biggest problem here. When you try to consume more and more information every day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts, the stream of incoming information seems to be infinite.

          Therefore, you convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for new information if you want to be able to accomplish anything in your life, work and/or passion. The final result is that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time for it.

          The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.

          You don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, do your work, or enjoy your passion.

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          So how to recognize the portion of information that you really need? Start with your goals.

          1. Set your goals

          If you don’t have your goals put in place you’ll be just running around grabbing every possible advice and thinking that it’s “just what you’ve been looking for.”

          Setting goals is a much more profound task than just a way to get rid of information overload. Now by “goals” I don’t mean things like “get rich, have kids, and live a good life”. I mean something much more within your immediate grasp. Something that can be achieved in the near future — like within a month (or a year) at most.

          Basically, something that you want to attract to your life, and you already have some plan on how you’re going to make it happen. So no hopes and dreams, just actionable, precise goals.

          Then once you have your goals, they become a set of strategies and tactics you need to act upon.

          2. What to do when facing new information

          Once you have your goals, plans, strategies and tasks you can use them to decide what information is really crucial.

          First of all, if the information you’re about to read has nothing to do with your current goals and plans then skip it. You don’t need it.

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          If it does then it’s time for another question. Will you be able to put this information into action immediately? Does it have the potential to maybe alter your nearest actions/tasks? Or is it so incredible that you absolutely need to take action on it right away? If the information is not actionable in a day or two (!) then skip it. (You’ll forget about it anyway.)

          And that’s basically it. Digest only what can be used immediately. If you have a task that you need to do, consume only the information necessary for getting this one task done, nothing more.

          You need to be focused in order to have clear judgment, and be able to decide whether some piece of information is mandatory or redundant. Self-control comes handy too … it’s quite easy to convince yourself that you really need something just because of poor self-control. Try to fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible – if the information is not matching your goals and plans, and you can’t take action on it in the near future then SKIP IT.

          3. Minimal Effective Dose

          There’s a thing called the MED – Minimal Effective Dose. I was first introduced to this idea by Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4-Hour Body,Tim illustrates the minimal effective dose by talking about medical drugs. Everybody knows that every pill has a MED, and after that specific dose no other positive effects occur, only some negative side effects if you overdose big.

          Consuming information is somewhat similar. You need just a precise amount of it to help you to achieve your goals and put your plans into life. Everything more than that amount won’t improve your results any further. And if you try to consume too much of it, it will eventually stop you from taking any action altogether.

          4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming more information

          Probably one of the most common causes of consuming ridiculous amounts of information is the need to procrastinate. By reading yet another article we often feel that we are indeed working, and that we’re doing something good – we’re learning, which in result will make us a more complete and educated person.

          This is just self-deception. The truth is we’re simply procrastinating. We don’t feel like doing what really needs to be done – the important stuff – so instead we find something else, and convince ourselves that “that thing” is equally important. Which is just not true.

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          Don’t consume information just for the sake of it. It gets you nowhere.

          In Closing

          As you can see, information overload can be a real problem and it can have a sever impact on your productivity and overall performance. I know I have had my share of problems with it (and probably still have from time to time). But creating this simple set of rules helps me to fight it, and to keep my lizard brain from taking over. I hope it helps you too, especially as we head into a new year with a new chance at setting ourselves up for success.

          Feel free to shoot me a comment below and share your own story of fighting information overload. What are you doing to keep it from sabotaging your life?

          (Photo credit: Businessman with a Lot of Discarded Paper via Shutterstock)

          Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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