The concept of “work life balance” has never really sat well with me. It feels to one way or the other, and in my mind, draws a line of demarcation between two vitally important things we do… work and live our lives. I would propose a different view using a descriptive term that I think does a better job of expressing the underlying sentiment. How about “Work life integration.”
In balance we have to teeter totter between “work” and “our lives” which, on the surface reads like one is more important than the other. Is that always true? Of course not. Balance also tends to imply keeping things perfect… which will never be the case. Sure we can get it right sometimes but eventual something will get out of whack.
Now, to be clear, I am not advocating for bringing your home to work and your work home. What I am saying is there needs to be a shift in our perspectives on how we address the overlaps between work and the rest of our lives. The overlaps are hot points with loads of potential friction that if we don’t assess for damage and repair on a regular basis we run the risk of breaking.
In my mind the key to integrations is routine. To have successful routines, you have to plan, prepare, and follow through. Planning is taking control of your time by keeping a task list and a schedule. Preparing is simply setting things you need to execute your plan in order (like sleeping in your gym clothes so you can get right out of bed and hit the ground running…literally). Once you have things planned and prepared you have to follow through. That means you have to do what you planned or else the plan collapses, the routine is lost, and guess what… your life is now out of whack either leaning towards work or leaning towards “life” depending on what is more on fire.
What does this look like? First off integration is active, not passive. It isn’t being at your daughter’s softball game, it is participating with the crowd instead of plugging into a smartphone while you’re sitting in the bleachers and checking work email. It is taking a break at work to call home or text changes to your schedule, so your spouse is in the loop.
One of my favorite examples of integration is in my exercise routine. In my line of work physical training is mandatory (I have to pass an annual fitness test). So to integrate work and life, I exercise with Anna. Boom time together and, knocking out a work requirement. I know, that’s too easy… here’s a hard one (simple, but hard).
At the end of the day, when we are sitting down for dinner our family has a little game we play. One of us will usually start out by calling out another family member with numerous fun names and descriptions. Something like “Papa, father, eater of steak, wearer of Star Wars Shirts and other fine geekery… what was your favorite part about today?” The answers tend to focus on school and activities with the kids and work for Mama and Papa. This is our way of integrating work and life, everyone gets a glimpse into how things went at work or at school.
What are you thoughts? I would love to hear from you. Come on over to our closed facebook discussion group to share your insights. Or you can email me directly at Jon@masteryofskill.com. You can also sign up to receive The Friday Huddle, a short weekly email from me that gives you the tips, insights, and musings that have gotten me through the week.