“Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”—Dolly Parton, American singer, actress, and businesswoman.
Recently I’ve seen a lot of “RIP Work/Life Balance” claims, arguing that the concept is dying, if not already dead. Some people state outright that you can no longer expect much of a personal life if you ever want to reach the C-Suite. Most, however, just claim there’s simply no longer a reasonable difference between work and personal life. Smartphones, Wi-Fi, and related technology have made it possible for work to intrude upon your private life anywhere, anytime… so, they say, you may as well give up on the idea of having any sort of work/life balance.
I’ll concede that technology has blurred the line between work and personal life, so that work can intrude on your private time—if you let it. The rest of the argument I can’t concede. To me, it’s all just word games designed to obscure a simple fact: if you don’t give yourself time to recharge, you’ll wreck both your personal and professional life. (<---Click to Tweet) Work/life balance isn’t dead! People have just started calling it different things. Whether you refer to it as just plain “life” or “life exchange” or any of the other euphemisms so-called experts have invented, you still need a work/life balance that not only allows peak productivity, but fuels it.
After all, what are you working so hard for, if not so you can have a comfortable life outside work?
Why It Matters
I make sure I maintain a good work/life balance at all times. I’ve been doing this long enough to know when I’m getting stretched too thin. You probably have, too. But sometimes, we need to brush up on even the most basic of principles… so let’s look at a few reasons why the idea of work/life balance remains valid.
1. You CAN separate work life and personal life. Just because you can be constantly connected doesn’t mean you have to be, or even should be. Over-connection damages your ability to think and focus. To maintain a good work/life balance, establish a sharp divide between work time and free time. Turn off your electronics and connect instead to your social life when you have loved ones in front of you. It’s not so hard.
2. The work/life divide exists for a reason. Some of the people trying to usher work/life balance to an early grave insist it’s an artificial divide that didn’t exist until a century ago. Well… so what? Like the eight-hour day and 40-hour workweek, we established work/life balance in early modern times as a compromise between too much work and too little. Human beings aren’t robots; we can only be “on” so long before we need to rest and do other things. Which feeds into my next argument:
3. Recharging is crucial. I can guarantee there have been things you’ve done in your life that you enjoyed for a while, right up until you ended up having to do them too much. If you push at something too long, you’ll grow to hate it, no matter what it is or how well you do it. Add mental exhaustion to physical exhaustion and the need to refuel, and you can see the need for breaks. No matter how much you like your work, you need uninterrupted time off to recapture your energy and your desire to keep doing it.
4. Your family and friends need you. When you start working for someone, your whole life doesn’t belong to them. Don’t let yourself take the road of shortchanging your friends and family in favor of a job or career—especially family. Do you really want to end up alone? No? Then don’t let work bleed over into the rest of your life. Set a sharp boundary between your work and your social life, and keep it strong. The only things that should breach it are emergencies. Most everything else will keep until you return.
Both Work and Life
Very few people live their work, and even those who try can’t always do so successfully. While it’s wonderful to do what you love, there has to be more to you than work—not just for health and sanity reasons—but for professional reasons as well. The better-rounded you are and the more energy you have, the easier it’ll be to do a good job.
© 2016 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored seven books, including Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (January 18, 2016). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and in 2015 was inducted into its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401 or visit her website.