BALANCING THE BOOKS
There’s lot of talk at the moment on forums like LinkedIn about Work/Life Balance.
The posts are often aimed at achieving the holy grail of balance. Or sometimes they suggest the two things are the same and we shouldn’t worry about it.
Happiness = W/L+B? Or B=L-W? Or maybe it’s L=W+B? Who knows?
What’s interesting is the suggestion that there is conflict between the two elements. That somehow ‘work’ is at odds with ‘life’, ‘good’ at odds with ‘bad’. After all, would it even be a discussion if we had too much ‘life’?
Of course it is easy (and glib) to say that it’s all the same thing. My perspective is the opposite; it’s all different and we should embrace it.
To me, the labels themselves are the issue. They’re set up in opposition when in fact they’re not the opposite to each other. ‘Work’ is not the opposite to ‘Life’. The key to unraveling this is to see past the labels and look below the surface.
This week I was setting up the structure of my Evernote filing system. If you’ve not used Evernote before I thoroughly recommend it. A chap called Brett Kelly has written an excellent book on how to use it well. I’ve put a link at the bottom.
I was placing folders into two categories – Work and Personal. And I was really struggling with some. For example, one element houses ‘Book Titles’ I am noting which at some point I’d like to read. I realised that I was going about it all wrong!
A book on developing my ‘Communication Skills’ for example isn’t exclusively either Work or Personal – it’s both. And that’s when the penny dropped.
WHAT DO YOU WANT?
We often fail to get what we want and sometimes it’s because we get things wrong. But we don’t blame our ‘Coffee/Trousers’ balance, or our ‘Shampoo/Smartphone’ balance.
But maybe we should.
I recently listened to an episode of the Radio 4 Program “Word of Mouth” about ‘Time’. The link is at the bottom.
Near the end Rosie Gray talks about ‘Time Management’. She explains that you can’t ‘manage’ time. You can only manage what you do in each hour/day/month.
We know that there are always things we’re unable to influence which fill our time. Yet they don’t fill 24 hours of our day. If we challenge them, we learn that they’re actually a lame excuse for not trying to manage the other stuff.
I’ve learned that influencing quality, is more helpful than aiming to influence quantity. Managing ‘what’ you do ‘when’, will work IF you’re clear on what you’re aiming to achieve.
The starting point is – what does ‘good’ look like? I would enjoy spending a full hour engaged with my kids in something THEY love. Compare that to being in the same room as them for an entire afternoon, but not actually connected to what they’re doing. I’m distracted by:
- The phone
- Facebook, or
- A “remarkable new gadget on the TV which comes with 4 other gadgets free of charge”!
In fact in the second scenario I’m doing a pretty poor job of ‘work’ and ‘life’!
To quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet:
“…for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Backed up by one of my heroes Dale Carnegie:
“It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.”
If time spent on one activity is too extreme we need to sort it out, if we can.
You may know someone who has to work 3 jobs of 6 hour shifts, a single parent maybe. They struggle to be in the right place at the right time just to pick up their kids. As for spending ‘quality time’, that’s a rare luxury. A scenario which would fit the argument that WLB is at odds. Actually, someone who IS in that scenario isn’t suffering from a poor WLB. They’re having a tough ‘Life’ full stop.
Maybe considering what makes up our ‘Life’ is key. It may show that setting out to achieve a WLB is superficial. After all, how do you measure WLB? How much ‘Life’ is enough?
YOU GOTTA APPRECIATE TO ACCUMULATE (Inspired by my friend and colleague Debby Barnes)
I am so lucky to have what I do have in my life. I also recognise that I don’t spend enough time appreciating it.
I could go out right now and spend 10 seconds appreciating the rose bush in the garden.
Or stroking the cat.
Or listening to one of the kids tell me a joke.
It would be 10 seconds which would enrich my soul and my feeling of wellness.
10 seconds, and it would still leave me a further 604,790 seconds at my disposal this week. And yet, how often do we purposely plan to set aside time to do these things? Rarely in my experience. They happen as a result of doing something else. Surely, we would raise the quality of the ‘life’ side on my non-existent equation, if we did plan to do these things – and indeed more regularly?
Maybe setting some time aside to appreciate what we do have, is where we need to be?
After all, you managed to find a few minutes to read this blog. Was that a great use of those minutes? Maybe, maybe not. If you read it as soon as you saw the link, I’ve managed to interrupt whatever you were doing. I’m sorry – that wasn’t my intention, but to be fair – it was your choice.
I guess I’m highlighting what I’ve learned. We are more in control than maybe we give ourselves credit for.
Do you count reading this as ‘work’ or ‘life’ ? Is it ‘business’ or ‘pleasure’? I’d suggest it’s neither, it doesn’t need to be. If you read it because you decided it may be of interest or use, then at best it’s achieved that. At worst you’ve learned that you should be more suspicious of my titles!
Or you saved it for later to read at an allocated time. In which case please share your time management skills with me! You can do so by e-mail, message, or I’m always on Twitter… oh hang on a minute, not really ‘walking the walk and talking the talk’ there am I?
Oh well, as always, work in progress.
Have a GREAT day!