Utopia: Work-Life Balance

It sounds nice, doesn’t it? We all say we want it, and why wouldn’t you? This whole “work-life balance” thing really does seem to be on everyone’s minds. Everyone envisions this perfect 50/50 split between work and personal time, in which you not only complete all that day’s work tasks (the perfect employee) but you have enough time left over to be Pinterest Mom.

For us working moms who sometimes struggle to wash both our face and hair on the same day, that utopian place is an impossible fairytale. And yet we keep trying to reach that ideal place.

And it’s not just the Gen-Xers like me, either, although I’m going to reinforce my Gen-X-ness by adding a Dilbert cartoon to this article:

This work-life issue seems to be a bone of contention for all of us working folks. (I’ll save the retirement ponderings for when – or if! – I get there.) The stress of being always “on” and connected is an enormous issue for millennials, especially those with young families. For millennials, for whom digital technology has evolved to be an absolute constant, the stress is a little different than for us Gen-Xers (or older) who can actually remember when the house phone was connected only to the wall, but it’s just as real.

Nowadays, there’s a lot of pressure on employers and their employees to either provide or find a work-life balance. Employers are told that they need to be flexible in their policies, and yet they also expect their employees to be available 24/7. Millennial prospective employees are told that the work-life balance is everything, and yet the evolution of technology has ensured that they are connected to a 24/7 culture – and it’s increasingly difficult to take a break.

This goes for workers of all ages, and don’t get me started on self-employed entrepreneurs. As a working mom with little kids and two businesses, this work-life blend/balance thing can literally make you nuts. Millennials (and entrepreneurs) need to be even more diligent and intentional about breaking that constant availability.

Stop trying to do it all.

This really just sums it up. If you feel like you can’t get everything done that you need to do, maybe it’s time to sit back and look at your boundaries and your priorities.

Set boundaries around when you do and do not work. As an entrepreneur, this made a huge difference in my own life, and it helps relieve pressure to always be performing.

Respect your own boundaries. If you’ve set your boundaries, you have to enforce them in a positive way. Push back or decline requests that ask you to bend the boundaries you have set for yourself. Saying “no” in a respectful way is an incredibly empowering thing.

Be gentle with yourself. Any set rules or boundaries can and should be broken occasionally, and that’s just fine. And what makes up your perfect work-life balance might be different than your roommate’s or your coworker’s – and that’s fine. And why are you worrying about them anyway? YOU are the one you should be concerned about.

So what else can we do?

So now there’s an article saying to forget the “work-life balance” and instead work towards a “work-life blend”. Although the wording of both is problematic for me (eye-rolling is a bone-deep, knee-jerk activity that I engage in often), I was surprised to find that I agree with most of the author’s views.  Even more surprising is that I came across this article on an EverNote blog on medium.com, of all things.

Here’s a quick summary of the points of the article that I think are bang on. With all respect to the original author, I’ve paraphrased a couple things and essentially cherry-picked the parts I liked best. To read the article in full, you can find it here.

From an article by Jessi Craige and finding work-life blend (not work-life balance):

1. Acknowledge the blend.

As with almost anything, the first step is acknowledgment. We need to come to terms with the fact that work-life blend is how our life actually is, instead of striving to create perfection. We can’t let the amorphous pressure to ‘have it all’ pour in through the seams, making us feel like failures.

2. Be clear on your priorities.

Work-life blend doesn’t mean that everything is happening at the same time, all the time. It’s about finding a way to fit together the important pieces. Figure out the key components that you want to get to in your days, whether it’s fitness, self-care, meals with the family, and schedule them on your calendar at a regular cadence. Treat them with the seriousness you bring to meetings and deadlines at work.

3. Set boundaries.

Once you’ve determined the pieces that matter most to you, you need to carve out time to make them happen. Of course, the other piece to this is knowing that sometimes your boundaries will change and bleed over, and you have to be okay with that.

4. Understand it’s a process.

As with any kind of new habit or change, this is not something that’s one and done. You can’t just check work-life blend off your to-do list.

Other articles of interest:

Forbes.com: Work-Life Balance Becoming Unattainable for Millennials

Globe & Mail: Why are Canadians less happy at balancing work and life in the digital age?

Take a read through Jessi’s full article. (You can ignore, as I did, the plug about using EverNote to track your progress.) What do you think of the whole work-life blend idea? Do you feel successful in your own life balance?