By Adélaïde Ness
The timing of this article could not be more perfect, or ironic for that matter. Months ago, I mapped out what I’d like to contribute to the Leading Edge magazine. Work/life balance is an important topic in just about every industry, so with summer upon us, why not focus on achieving greater balance in all that we do?
When I committed to writing this, I did not know that I would be sitting at home on maternity leave with a gorgeous baby, trying to juggle career/home life, personal/professional priorities and time in the office/time away. But here I am, with baby No. 3 sitting in his bouncy seat, faced with addressing my own work/life balance. I need to find the equilibrium that will allow me to contribute to the health and success of the company, as well as to the nurture and support of my little family.
The truth is, work/life balance is utter bullocks. It simply doesn’t exist. To me, the word “balance” implies that all things are evenly distributed; all things are equal. When we’re balanced, everything is 50/50, and neither side of the scale is overloaded.
But think about it. When was the last time this was true in your life? It’s just not the way that it works in our hectic, busy, corporate lives. I don’t think many of us can say that we truly spend 50 percent of our time focused on our business lives and 50 percent focused on our personal lives.
To me, it’s more about work/life integration. Sometimes work is going to come first. Maybe you have a big proposal meeting to prep for, or an important client needs urgent help on an unexpected matter, or your company is considering a big merger opportunity and you need to focus most of your energy on that. And maybe, because of all of these exciting professional events in your life, you have to miss your child’s soccer game or theater production, or you have to miss a social outing that you’ve been looking forward to for a long time. It stinks, and in the moment, it can feel devastating. The inverse is true, though, too. Sometimes the big “life” stuff is going to take precedence, and you’ll have to walk away from a project at work for the birth of a child, that long-awaited vacation or to take a personal day.
With work/life integration, I’ve learned to walk away from the guilt. Don’t feel guilty about missing personal obligations. Do what you can, when you can. Don’t feel guilty about taking a break from work, either. We’re all better at what we do when we’ve had some time to refresh, renew and revitalize. The other major key to work/life integration is doing what you love. When you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like a chore or a job but more like something you simply have to do. The guilt subsides when you recognize that the work you are doing is fulfilling in more ways than one.
As you head to the office this week, take a moment to reflect on the work that you you’re doing. What do you love? What do you simply tolerate? What can you do to delegate and minimize the work that you do not love and focus on the work that truly makes you tick? Work/life balance may not be possible, but work/life integration certainly is. It’s about give and take, and recognizing that some days will be all about work, and some days need to be all about life. Embrace the process, or lack thereof, and do what you love.