Instead of Work-Life Balance, Try Focusing on Boundaries.
People talk about work-life balance as if achieving it is a precious key to happiness. There are plenty of tips and tricks . But there are two big problems with this supposed golden ticket. First, the phrase itself suggests that work is not a part of your life, but a separate part.
This post was originally published on the Muse website .
However, your career is likely to take a huge number of waking hours from you, so how can it not be an integral part of your life? The second problem is that balance is elusive and rarely achievable. At its core, the balancing act is inflexible and delicate, but life requires flexibility. So, in your quest for happiness, success and self-realization, there is another B-word that you should get excited about. This word is boundaries . Develop a practice of setting boundaries and you wonder why anyone is still talking about work-life balance .
It’s okay to appreciate stability, but since life does not stand still, balancing on a pedestal is problematic. Think about all the big moments this week: big meetings, work travel, doctor visits, family events, internet outages, coworker firing, promotions, lost Uber driver en route to a networking event. Life, as you know, is challenging – for example, when your boss receives feedback from a client that he needs to move the deadline, and suddenly your planned 6-hour departure flies out the window, and instead of going to your favorite lesson boxing, you work late and pass out at 2 a.m. On an unpredictable day like this, it can be difficult to feel good about work-life balance.
However, you can take it easy on the constraints that put you in the driver’s seat with the understanding that things happen and don’t always go as planned. You can regularly change the configuration of your day and week based on professional responsibilities and personal needs, and not worry if one day everything works and entertainment is zero.
Here are three ways to get out of balance and embrace boundaries.
1. Set boundaries daily based on your priorities.
The amount of time or effort you’re willing to spend on a work day, scheduling a friend’s engagement, or blogging will vary depending on what each day looks like. If you’re throwing a surprise party with all of his friends on your boyfriend’s 30th birthday, you probably won’t volunteer for an urgent work project. If you’re going to host a conference, you’re probably not going to double your volunteer hours . When you learn to set boundaries based on your various priorities and commitments, you will feel in control and free to make decisions that work for you and the lifestyle you want to lead, rather than the life you should . Lead.
2. Practice setting boundaries with others.
Tell people what you do. Tell your coworkers and friends why you are abandoning the idea of work-life balance, and explain why your boundaries mean you can’t meet during happy hour as often as you used to. Ready for a promotion? Talk to your significant other about working a few nights while your boss decides on your promotion.
By sharing some of the details of your borderline practice with people in your life, you enable them to support your goals instead of constantly tempting you with invitations that threaten to step on the lines you have drawn.
3. Understand your boundaries by failing first.
Sometimes you have to be wrong to know your boundaries; overriding them is part of the process. If you strain too much or underestimate how long something takes, you may be able to draw sharper, clearer lines in the future. Let’s say you have a relatively busy week at work, but it’s important for you to make time for friends and take a long bike ride.
Even if you think the way you planned makes sense, you end up sacrificing sleep , which leads to a longer day at the office because you are not focused and easily distracted. This leads to the abandonment of dinner and drinks. Don’t worry about changing plans – just know that next week you will change your boundaries. Determining correctly what you need in the given circumstances to comfortably achieve your goals takes time.
So go ahead and allow yourself to postpone the balance and start drawing some lines instead. Each week will look slightly different and not all lines will be straight. You will be surprised how much control and comfort you find when you stop trying to achieve an impossible work-life balance.