The Myth of the Work Life Balance

Isn’t balancing work and life tough? I mean really! Even if you feel like you have the greatest balanced life possible – sometimes it just gets to be too much. You know what I mean?

Let’s break this down: there are 24 hours in a day. 7 days in a week. That’s 168 hours per week. We sleep 8 hours per day. So that’s 56 hours per week. That gives us 112 useable hours in the week.

Out of those 112 hours: (note much of this is “guessimation” for illustration purposes only)

Eating: 2 hours per day
Driving in car: 1 hour per day
Exercise: 1 hour per day
Personal Hygiene: 30 minutes per day
Children’s attention/homework: 2 hours per day
Cleaning Up Home and Work: 1 hour per day
Connecting to friends: 30 minutes per day
Work: 8 hours per day

16:00 busy hours per day or 112 hours per week. Hey, it’s balanced…NOT!

That’s because, it’s very rare to have an exacting day like the above. There’s doctor’s appointments, extra time at work, shopping, meal preparation/acquisition, traffic jams, etc. The list can and does go on and on.

Of course, we need time to “ourselves” time for our spouses, special time for each child individually, time for our parents, time for our friends and just time to relax. How?

Diverting from my usual style of offering solutions, I am going to stick my neck out and say….to me, the work life balance has become a myth.

Someone suggested to me a while back, a way of thinking about this: break down activities into: “the things I love to do”, “the things I have to do to get what I want” and “the things I have to do to maintain myself (sleep, etc)”.

What is being suggested here? It’s that maybe the key is not so much to find a better way of managing time – it’s to find a better way of perceiving the way it is already being managed. An attitude change so to speak.

Here’s an example (my day):

“Things I Love to Do”:
Most work tasks
Help child with homework
Spend time with my family
Connect with friends
Putting my child to bed

“Things I Have to Do to Get What I Want”:
Drive in the Car
Clean up home and work (This one is a struggle!)
Help child with routine tasks (I want a healthy, happy, well adjusted child)
Some work tasks

“Things I have to Doto Maintain Myself”:
Food preparation

When I started looking at it from this perspective, it occurred to me how great my daily life is. Most of things I do daily fall into the “Things I Love” category. The majority of the work I do is great, the majority of the time I spend with my child is great, and I love to eat and sleep! Do I still miss on many things I feel that I should be doing? Of course! But looking at it from this perspective gives me a daily sense of gratitude for the structure of my life as it is now, today. It also helps avoid the “I should have done more for me” feeling.

On the tough days, those days when I have to do more of the “things I have to do to get what I want” it’s easy to do them because not everyday is like that and I know that if it became so, I would make appropriate changes to do more of the “things I love to do” everyday.

Feeling overworked and under appreciated? Sometimes all it takes is a change in perspective.

To quote one of my favorite singers: “It’s not getting what you want, it’s wanting what you got”!

Copyright (c) 2007 Ainsley Laing