Whether you call it work life balance or just maintaining your sanity, we all seem to be in search of that elusive point in life when it seems that our work, relationships, and personal well-being are in harmony. We put an enormous amount of negative pressure on ourselves when we examine our schedules and don’t see a “balanced” mixture of work and life.
Instead of always trying to figure out how to obtain balance in our lives, what if we gave ourselves permission to experience an out of balance life from time to time? In other words, when is a lack of balance okay? Here are some of my thoughts:
When it is temporary. Depending on the activity, temporary could be 15 minutes or one year. The thought here is that you have a clearly defined ending point when you will no longer be so consumed by this area of your work or life. Instead of wringing your hands about the hours that a current work assignment is taking, take comfort in the fact that it will end, and make plans now on how you will replenish those areas of life you have been neglecting.
When you have been fully engaged with other areas you will now neglect for a while. I miss my family when on lengthy business trips and feel a twinge of guilt because I won’t be there to experience life with them. However, I always try to clear my schedule and be with them all weekend. The mistake I find many people make is that they don’t take care of the right things at the right moment, and they spend so much time regretting that they didn’t make better choices when they had the chance.
When you are experiencing a breakthrough. Call it being in the zone or in the flow, there are times when ideas start coming, and we need to stay the course to make sure we don’t lose them. I typically write first thing in the morning. When I get a new idea rolling around in my head, I can’t just stop and come back later. I may have to miss a breakfast with my family, get to work a little later, or forego exercise in order to finish the thought.
When you know you’ll regret it later. As my dad’s health failed in his last year of life, the time I had to devote to his care was significant. My business suffered, and time with my own family was sometimes limited. I knew, however, that not taking the chance to honor and care for my dad in this way would haunt me forever. I also knew it was temporary.
When it’s the chance of a lifetime. Rebecca Jones, an extremely talented videographer who is also a friend of mine, once had the chance to intern with Ken Burns, the producer of so many amazing documentaries. It required a move to the Northeast and very little financial reward, but what an amazing opportunity to work with someone who is the icon in producing documentary films.
By now you probably recognize that your life is probably going to be out of balance more often than it is in balance. That was the premise behind the book Juggling Elephants, which I co-authored with Todd Musig.
In my view, giving ourselves permission to more fully focus on one area of our work or life when it meets the criteria above is a better approach to achieving success in all of them.
What criteria do you use to allow a lack of balance in your life?
LABCAST: Be sure to attend Jones Loflin's Lab Manager Academy webinar, "Be the Ringmaster of Your Work and Life!" on Dec. 2, or afterward at www.labmanager.com/ringmaster
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