This is something I’m very passionate about and I dive deep into anytime I’m doing a corporate talk or a workshop, and I’m a stickler for terminology.
I choose my words very carefully. When I hear the word work life balance, that sends an unconscious message to me that they’re separate. That you can compartmentalize and have your work life and you can have your home life and that they’re separate. But anyone that’s been alive for two seconds realizes that that’s not true. Those things absolutely bleed over to one another. If you’re miserable at work, that is going to have an effect on your relationships at home. Conversely, if you really pour into happiness and fulfillment when you’re at home, that will actually serve you greater and you’ll be more proficient and effective and efficient at what you do at work. Whatever skills you develop at work, I can guarantee you that they’ll help raise your game as a spouse or as a parent.
The other unconscious message it sends to me, just by the word “balance” implies the two things need to be equal., I don’t believe that work and home is going to always be equal, especially from a time standpoint. So if you work 40 or 50 hours a week, that means you’re supposed to spend 40 or 50 hours with your significant other or your children. There’s not enough hours in the week to make that happen. I just switched the terminology and I strive for WORK LIFE HARMONY or WORK LIFE FLOW. The best way to describe that is be where your feet are. Wherever your feet are, that’s where your mind needs to be and you need to be mentally and emotionally present when your feet are “in that room.”
So perfect example. Right now, my feet are in my office. So is my heart and my brain. I’m not thinking about anything else. Soon, I’ll move onto something else. It could be work related. I might go pick my kids up, but then I’ll make sure that I’m present there. So when I’m with my children, I’m with my children. I’m not also looking at my phone or worried about a work project. I’m 100 percent where I’m supposed to be and I find, for me, that’s how I have flow. If at the end of the week, that means I worked 40 hours and I was with my kids 10 hours, as long as it was truly connected, invested in time, I’m okay with that.
Just like the weather, there’s always seasons. There’ll be times around the holidays where I’ll be with my kids for 40 hours and I’ll only be working for 10 hours. So again, I’m not worried about quantitative balance. I’m worried about fully pouring in to wherever I am at that time.
That’s the goal. That is my biggest challenge in life and to be quite transparent, I still struggle with being present and always making sure that my mind and heart are where my feet are. It is not as easy as I just made it sound. So what I just said is what I’m striving for. So for me, that’s how I’ve established work life harmony and that’s worked really, really well for me.
My biggest issue used to be if I was working, I wasn’t really thinking about my children. I had no problem focusing on work. Where I really struggled with was when I was with my children, I couldn’t stop thinking about work and that was not a great trait to have. I also realize it’s because I love what I do. I’m very passionate about my work. I’m thinking about it constantly. But when I’m with my children, that’s the last thing that should be on my mind. So I actually implemented a rule with my kids that anytime they caught me on my phone when I was with them, I had to put a dollar in a piggy bank for them, which is kind of like a swear jar that some other folks use. The first month that we implemented this, I think I had $22 in the jar. That was completely unacceptable. I’m very proud that the next month I cut that down to $11. Still not very good, but at least I was making progress.
It usually takes a minute to a minute and a half that if I’m not mentally or emotionally present, I know it and I remind myself to get back on task.
Achieving a work like harmony is an ongoing process that you never truly master, but you can continue being mindful of your time, attention, and sense of presence in your life.