Work Life Balance is a phrase that I’ve had difficulty understanding in my time. You see, in my limited brain, I’ve always associated ‘balance’ with ‘equality’. Imagine a set of scales, with a weight representing work on the left hand side and another for life on the right. The weights would need to be equal mass in order for there to be any form of balance. As Productivity Ninjas, should we define work life balance like this?
As I look at the quantity of projects I’m running with at the moment, it’s fair to say, that’s a pretty utopian image we have right there. I need to earn money to sustain my family, I must travel in order to keep my clients happy, I have to carry out these maintenance tasks around the house – and once you’ve added together the time spent on work and the time you need to sleep to recharge, how can there ever be any balance? The math just doesn’t add up?
Well. There is a way. It’s all a question of perception – something that we have total control of.
Let’s start by defining the word work. My wife and I have shared a clear definition for years. Work was anything that we either must, need or have to do. Period. It was this shared opinion that helped keep our marriage strong over the last few years. Whether paid for our daily gigs, or bringing up our wonderful daughters, we were working. Anything done out of necessity, rather than choice – no matter how enjoyable the task may be – we classified as work. This means that we treated each other with a great deal of respect, never denigrating the other’s actions or achievements during the day. However, if we formed an image in our heads of those work-life balance scales, they were seriously one-sided.
We then hit on the idea of trying to eradicate work in its entirety with one simple step. For every task we felt obliged to complete, we asked ourselves why.
Why do I have to go to work at this client’s office today?
Well, I want to be able to meet them in person so that we can carry out a review and hopefully get an extension on the contract.
Why do I want to do that?
Well duh, I want to be able to ensure I have good money coming in for my family.
Why do you want to do that?
Stop it already, I love my family and I want what’s best for them.
Ok – if you want to do that, is it honestly classified as work?
Yeah – long pause right there.
Why do I have to do the grocery shopping?
I want to feed my children and maintain healthy eating habits. I would like to have cleaning products in the house to keep it presentable and rodent-free.
Why do I have to mend the guttering?
If I don’t, there is a danger that water may leak into the structure of the house and I want to spend our savings on holidays and nice experiences with the family rather than unnecessary maintenance of the house.
Why do I have to wash the car?
I don’t, but I want people to know I take pride in my possessions and look after them.
Everything we do has a purpose, somewhere. Whether it’s spending a week away from the family on a business trip or taking out the trash – we are doing everything for a reason, and if we can somehow connect with that reason and find out where the why is, we can clearly identify why we want to do something. Invariably, it will be the hunter-gatherer nature coming to the fore, that primal instinct to protect and nurture our loved ones, which is a great want to have.
The converse effect is also true. If you have something that you have to do, yet you cannot clearly define a reason why you have to complete it – there is a real chance it shouldn’t be anywhere near you in the first place. Challenge it, everything should be for a reason.
Just imagine how you will feel when you get up in the morning and say “I want to go to work today”.
By Lee Garrett