Work-Life Balance Is Wrong

Lots of people say they need work-life balance. They are wrong. People need congruence throughout the various areas of their life. This is not about “balance” on a hanging scale, where “life” dangles from one chain and is equally proportioned to work. These two things are not even the same thing. Are you not alive at work? What is life? Anything that isn’t work?

I enjoy my work. Most business owners enjoy work. Many people associate work with chores. Work is stuff you have to do to be able to to what you want to do. But, what if they are not exclusive of each other? What if you have a healthy amount of pressure and find yourself in a flow-state at work? Doesn’t that performance and improvement feel good to you? You did well, and you are getting better. That’s living the good life, in my book.

But, if you must take off work, and put on play or relaxation, is that the good life? Do you have to transform between settings? Are you one person at work and another at home? Completely different? I sure hope not. How much overlap is there? Can it be 100%?

As an ambitious entrepreneur I find myself sucked into a culture of work, work, work. The pull is especially strong when amongst my peers. This machismo often rubs off on non-entrepreneurs and the work-all-the-time mantra becomes an expectation required for excellence. I am not suggesting such a thing. In fact, I think we need to rest, too. And, not just unplug, to take on some other high intensity endeavor, but truly let down. Admit that you are finite. Enjoy simply being alive.

And, consider the possibility that this deep inhale of life can occur while in a flow state at work, nearly as-well, and sometimes better than parked on a beach with a cold drink. The counterweights are not directly opposed to one another.

This week I did a time study. I am awake for ~1,020 minutes per day. That is ~17 hours. During my Monday-Friday work week, I typically get four to five 90 minute time blocks per day, of uninterrupted, distraction-free deep work time, during which, I push my cognitive capabilities to their limit (it doesn’t take much to get there.) Not only do I greatly enjoy these flow states, but they add up. It is about 34 hours per week of actual, value-enhancing work. That is only 28% of my waking hours. And most people would consider me a workaholic. Ask my wife. Ask my business partner.

My point isn’t to be machismo, but to point out that even machismo-me ain’t doing that much work. I estimate 34% of my waking hours are highly distracted. I have 3 daughters at home. Try having focused time with anyone of them for any meaningful slug of time. It’s hard. And, I try hard to get that time. I’m actually really intentional about getting focus time with them. I want to have impact on their lives, and build into them the resourcefulness that my parents gave me. I want to help them see the world for the amazing place it can be. Frame the problems properly. Do good work. Pursue your lives with purpose.

When my oldest daughter encountered some struggles (who doesn’t have struggles?) I started taking her to work with me. That’s right. I have a 16.5 year old tagging along with dad. I can do this because I prize my family above my work. Yes. I asked my business partner if I could publish this blog post. He said yes. I also spoke with him about how and why my daughter could benefit from being in a different environment. See more of the world, and from a different angle than she was accustomed to seeing. What has happened over the five week experiment thus far? Her grades have climbed. She obtained her driver’s license. Her mood has improved. Her nasty make-up has reduced it’s thickness. Did I start doing her makeup? Did I do drive tests while she was at the office? Did I even make her do her homework? No. I showed her, by example what someone who is the same person at home is like when he is at work. I showed her how fun my life was. How I had long stretches of quiet time to read and write. And I did this with coordination with my wife, who volunteers at a crisis pregnancy center on the days my daughter comes with me. I give my wife a break, and during that “break” my daughter continues to work on her things, and my wife persists in her things. And our lives are the same at home as they are at work.

I tell bad jokes at home, too. I read a lot. I write. I ask questions and I challenge people. I mess up. I fix my errors, or I abandon my error-prone methods and try something else. I think about how I do life, everywhere I am alive.

My work-life balance is completely ignored. I seek congruence throughout my life. I strive to serve my purpose and align my family to our purpose regularly. And that is to glorify God and love others. I use my business to serve this purpose. It’s not a church. But, my business is a gathering of people around an idea. And that idea is that if people get together, we can help others in our community improve their lives, one step at a time, compounded over time, in extremely meaningful ways. Life can be better. But, it requires effort. Apply effort toward a meaningful purpose. Care for those in your life. Do this every moment you are awake. If someone calls that “work” then fine. Love your work. If another calls it “life,” then love that, too.

And, soak up the weekend. Breath in the relaxation. Take a break. Eat differently. Seek other people. Bring in new experiences, and share and promote mutual benefit amongst those you love. Hold them. And, be held.

Oh, and for the business readers that think I went all soft on them… once refreshed. Go win.