Yes, you have read it correctly: I propose dropping the notion that we should aim for a work-life balance. Sounds insane? Why would I, as a career coach, write this? Well, think about this:
Work is part of life!
When we talk about a “work-life balance”, we are saying that work and life are two separate things and that a balance has to be struck between the two. We have to decide how much time we want to work and how much to live. We then postpone the “living” part to the few hours after work when we are too exhausted to do anything but fall asleep in front of the TV. This sounds insane to me!
The average person spends about 90,000 hours at work over his or her lifetime, which is far too much to discard as “non-living” time. So, instead of looking for ways to compensate for the lack of “living” at work, let’s explore how we can bring living back into work.
Naturally, we still need to maintain balance in our life, but I’m proposing a balance between career and relaxation, family, fun, hobbies and so on, instead of a balance with “life”.
What does it take to make work feel like “living”?
Some of you may already enjoy your career and see it as a valuable part of your life, not just as a means to earn money. If you do not yet feel this way, what would it take for you to experience work as living? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Find a job that you love
If you are not interested in the work you do, it will feel like a heavy burden. It will suck energy out of you. You may even experience resentment towards your career; for example, if you work for a bank while holding the belief that banks are the source of all evil.
The consequences can be mood swings, irritability, depression, disease and burnout.
Find a job that pays you for doing the things you love doing; things that inspire and energise you.
2. Engage with your career
If you don’t like your job, leave it! But if you decide to stay, you might just as well play the game and become the best you can be in your role. It feels so much better than being a bystander who constantly complains.
The fact that you don’t leave your job must mean that there’s something you get from it, even if it’s just the money or the job security. Maybe it’s also stimulation, purpose, status and social interactions? Become aware of the value of these benefits and practise gratitude for what you have.
Look for ways to express your personal values in your career. To stay with the above example, if you work in a bank while thinking that bankers are the source of all evil, you could look for a role in which you could become the ambassador of the customer and ensure that they are treated fairly. Banks need people like that!
3. Create a vision for your career
Make sure that your job fits into your overall life mission. If you manage to find a purpose in your career beyond the money, it will make all the difference.
Don’t have a life mission? Time to create one! What needs to happen in your life so that you will leave it one day with no regrets? Write it down and plan actions that will move you closer to those goals. A career or life coach like me can help with this.
4. Make it fun and personal
Many of us have to work long hours and spend more time with our work colleagues than with our friends and family. The relationship with our colleagues is therefore important. Make it fun and personal. Don’t just beaver away with your head down all day. Talk to your colleagues – and not just about work. Learn about their families, hobbies, worries and joys. Celebrate success with them; go out for coffees, lunches or drinks.
5. Take care of your wellbeing
The better we feel physically and mentally, the happier we are at work. The happier we are at work, the better we will perform. The better we perform, the happier we feel at work. It becomes a positive upwards spiral.
Make sure you have a routine that provides you with healthy food, relaxation and physical exercise.
One step at a time
Feeling inspired to take action? Let’s start with a small and simple step:
Commit now to one simple action to increase your satisfaction with your career; something you can start implementing tomorrow.
Don’t put it off! Begin working on this right away, and share your commitments with friends and family.
Find more inspiration on this subject in my article “How to fall in love with your job” and look out for my next one, where I’ll be sharing ideas on how to help your staff enjoy their work.