Why Trying to Balance Life and Work Can Make You Less Productive


If you are like most people with a busy work schedule, trying to dedicate as much time to your non-work life as you do to your career can frankly be overwhelming.

Perhaps you might be wondering how high achieving celebrities such as Victoria Beckham, Sheryl Sandberg or Will Smith manage to accomplish so much in their career, stay healthy and still have extra energy left to take care of their family?

How are they attaining the elusive work/life balance? Well, the reason why balancing your work life with your home life is overwhelming or seemingly unattainable is the fact that this balance could actually be a misconception.

The truth is trying to compartmentalize ‘work’ and ‘life’ into your day makes you less productive and more prone to stress and burn out.

Why your attempts at work/life balance are not working

Here is how a typical attempt at balancing work and life looks like:

brainWork at least 40 hours each week and then spend the weekend on non-work activities such as hanging out with family and friends, or running household errands only to start the cycle all over again at the beginning of the week.

Here’s why this does not always work out too well especially for those who have a demanding work schedule or demanding family commitments:

The work/life balance assumes that you have two separate lives that can be compartmentalized when in reality you only have one life with several activities going on in it.

As such, what we call a balance is actually a blend of your work and non-work commitments. In effect, sometimes you will find yourself needing to dedicate more time to work and at other times, you will have more time to spend on activities that are unrelated to work.

Enjoying both work and life equally

Technology has blurred the lines between work and home life. Employees are able to work remotely but still collaborate on work projects throughout the day. At the same time, it is common for people to schedule work-related video calls while on vacation.

Instead of feeling guilty or resentful about this blurring of lines, a better approach is to find ways to actively prioritize tasks.

Deliberate prioritization allows you to make careful decisions about what is really important at any given time.

So, for example, instead of stressing yourself and lowering your productivity by scheduling too many things on your to-do list, plan to do the most important task for that day. This approach is remarkably powerful in freeing up your time and allowing you to give complete attention to the planned activities whether these are work or non-work related.

prod2When possible, flexible work arrangements can help to facilitate the integration of work and non-work activities.

Remote working and collaboration can allow you to use the time spent commuting on other non-work activities such as hitting the gym or spending time with the children before beginning your work.

If you are running your own business, you have the discretion to determine your schedule in a way that takes into consideration your personal and professional goals.

Taking care of yourself first

What does caring for yourself first have to do with blending out your work and non-work activities? Simple:

Taking care of yourself first also eliminates the resentment that often comes with trying to unsuccessfully balance all your responsibilities. So make time to hit the gym, meditate or pursue your hobby before trying to fix everything else.

Only when you are feeling good about yourself will you be able to be all-round productive.

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