In my coaching work I meet many people who tell me they are looking to achieve a better "balance" between their working lives and their family and social lives. For some reason, the phrase popped into my head a couple of days ago while I was enjoying a cup of coffee and I began wondering about the implications of using "balance" as a metaphor.
Of course, when used in this context, "balance" is intended to portray a healthy situation in which all the constituent components are in their right places and in the right amounts. However, there are alternative meanings of the word which imply conflict, or the bearing of multiple burdens, which are perhaps not as useful as concepts. A balance can be a weighing scale, like the zodiac sign Libra, attempting to balance two loads of equal weight. It can refer to a balance of account - the difference between positive assets and negative liabilities. When you lose balance, the outcome is generally not good. It is something that has to be constantly maintained. Whichever way it is used, the metaphor of balance does rather convey the image of trying to accommodate two opposing forces, each entirely separate from the other.
Cats may have nine lives, but as far as we know, humans have just the one. Work life, social life, and family life are actually all aspects of the one life. I would like to suggest that a better metaphor to use is to strive for "harmony" rather than "balance". After all, why should each part of one's life exist in isolation? It's all the one life.
The three notes of a major chord exist as separate notes, but when played together, simultaneously, they become something greater than the sum of the parts. It can be okay to consider "down" time as part of your job. It's as important to do "down" time well as it is to work hard. Productivity is so much more than the amount of time spent with your nose to the grindstone. A little mental time out can be beneficial; increasing work efficiency rather than decreasing it. I always allow myself time between clients to ensure that I am in the right mental state for the next appointment. Certainly, I could see more people in a shorter time - but I would be much less effective. On the other hand, I do not mind spending time working in "home" time or at weekends if it actually helps me and makes my overall life easier and more effective. Sometimes it is easier just to deal with something now, than to be thinking about doing it tomorrow at work. It's all the one life. It's all what I do. It's all my "job".
Give it a try, and see if it works for you too. Work and personal life do not need to be rigidly delineated. If you occasionally do "home" things in "work" time or vice versa is that any great loss, provided your overall effectiveness is increased in both areas? Try living harmoniously for a change.
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