I run a small business. I’m also a writer who is married raising four kids of various ages ranging from baby and toddler to teenager and young adult. In it’s most cartoon-like moments, I feel like I’m part of a three-ring circus with everything I’m trying to manage in work and life. Even in the less crazy times, it is still a daily work-life balance challenge.
For the last year, I’ve been trying to get a handle on all of this work-life balance stuff, which has put me on a search for the “holy grail” of sorts of work-life balance.
In that journey, I’ve done a lot of things that have helped a lot. I’ve learned how to create a realistic vision of what I really want my work-life balance to look like. I’ve learned how to define boundaries better, in particular as it pertains to my cell phone. I’ve even learned to prioritize better in both work and life and build in time for a daily regenerative activity.
I’ve also come to realize that some of the problems many of us have with trying to get work-life balance might be coming from a misconceived notion of what it is. That was certainly the case for me.
Here are the two biggest misconceptions I had about work-life balance that stood in my way until I changed my thinking about them.
1. Better work-life balance = more fun
I have to admit that I went into my search for work-life balance with a belief that it was just about trying to put more fun back into my life. Maybe I was just a hopelessly busy entrepreneur and dad who was looking for more vacations, more relaxing at the beach, more sleeping in, and more of all of that kind of stuff.
As I got more into trying to really figure out my work-life balance problem, I realized that whereas most of us that are entrepreneurs and parents certainly would like more of all of those fun and relaxing things, getting work-life balance wasn’t just about that. I started to call this the “Carnival Cruise” version of work-life balance, and I found that many people I talked with about work-life balance had a similar version of it.
As I started to really get into the nuts and bolts of putting together my work-life plan – and allocating real hours and real time to real things on both sides of the work-life equation – I realized that getting true work-life balance might not mean doing all of the fun things but instead was about having the right amount of time to put into the most important things both at work and at home.
Sometimes these things were not fun at all but were incredibly meaningful and important.
Once I got my work-life balance right, I thought about the fact that I now had the time to spend with our teenager during some crisis times. I now had the time to spend with our two-year old son as he worked through a speech challenge.
Neither of these things would fall into the category of beach relaxation or the world’s best vacations, but I had created work-life balance to allow me to do those things. And that’s what work-life balance might really be about.
2. Work-life balance does not always mean a 50:50 split between work and life activities
Maybe I was being a bit literal, but seemingly every visual depiction of work-life balance (including the one for this article) showed a scale with equal amounts of things on each side of the work-life see-saw.
This kind of made me feel like it had to be a 50:50 split in terms of how much went to each side. What I started to realize on my own journey was that very rarely is it ever 50:50. Maybe more importantly, it is perfectly fine if it isn’t.
For me at this point in my life, my work-life balance scale is skewed to about 65:35 on the “life” side of the equation. If I looked at a scale, that could appear like imbalance and make me feel like I hadn’t succeeded in getting balance. But in reality, it is perfectly balanced for my current wants and needs.
Until I came to terms with this, I kept feeling like I had to eliminate certain elements of the life side of my equation to get it to a perfect 50:50 balance.
If you are on the quest for your own holy grail of work-life balance, try thinking about these two misconceptions and applying different thinking about them to your own situation. I know that I got stuck halfway down the road until I figured them out myself.