Though it’s been discussed for years, research shows that a growing number of people continue to struggle with work-life balance. The data also indicates that navigating this issue poorly can lead to negative effects like high stress, poor sleep and even higher mortality.
An article entitled “Forget Work-Life Balance: It’s All About the Blend,” published recently on Medium, argues convincingly that the main reason why work-life balance continues to be such a challenge is that we’re not using the right language.
As the article puts it:
In some ways, the very idea of work and life as two things to be balanced sets us up for failure . . . We need something different. Something more fluid. Something that captures the way we actually work, live, and do all the things we do in between when our eyes first flutter open and when our heads hit the pillow again at night. We need to be focusing more on work-life blend.
So how do we achieve work-life blend and move past work-life balance thinking? The article suggests five lines of action:
This is the key idea of the article: That by using language that implies we can balance “both sides” of our lives perfectly, we end up worse off, because we actually can’t. In other words, accepting that the blend between our work life and our home life (and the other aspects of our lives) will not be perfect has to be the first step.
Once we understand the concept of work-life blend – and that we simply can’t fit everything in equally – we can prioritize accordingly. What we decide must fit into our lives will change over time, depending on things like the time of year, current workload, our family situation and so on, but it remains up to us.
With priorities in place, we can then create boundaries around those things, setting aside ample time to make sure they happen. Of course, it’s also important to understand that just as aspects of our lives blend together, so our time boundaries are also fluid. We shouldn’t get discouraged if our schedules have to sometimes change.
Periodically evaluate your own work-life blend to make sure it’s actually working for you, your career, your family, etc. Ask: Am I still prioritizing the right things? Am I setting aside enough time for each? If you’re not, make some changes.
As you conceptualize, prioritize, plan and check your work-life blend, don’t forget that it is a process. It isn’t something that’s intended to be perfected or completed, but something to live with as you grow and achieve your life goals over time.