Here's Why Work-Life Balance is Actually a Fallacy
For most people I know with successful and driven businesses, work-life balance is nonexistent. It’s not because they don’t have the desire to spend time with their family, operate a killer business, and do things that personally fire them up. It’s because balance doesn’t exist in the way most people think about it.
Take a moment and imagine yourself doing something you love to do. Does it involve your imagination wandering to something else other than that one thing? Of course it doesn’t! In personal development books, authors talk all the time about how the day before vacation you are so much more productive knowing you’re leaving the next day. Why? Because it’s not a balanced effort. It’s a full-out sprint toward the objective.
Each of these three areas—family, personal, business—are all interconnected. They live and breath through each other. But they are not the same. They do different things for your life, for your desires, and for the ultimate outcome of achievement; were you successful with ______ , or not? This is not balance.
When I used to hear “work-life balance,” I’d feel like I was failing—basically at everything. And the truth is, I was failing (and still do) at certain things. Whether I wasn’t focusing enough time on maintaining my home, having date nights with my wife, being a good Air Force officer, or being a great business partner. The possibilities of failures are endless. That’s why work-life balance is not only a false pretense, I almost think it’s dangerous.
In any given week, you'll find me training for a PT test, remodeling some part of our house, reading, or finding some course to take to make me a more rounded individual (currently working on Certified Scrum Master). You think it’s good to be thinking about (or even making the mental space for) anything other than carpentry when you’re using power tools? Have you ever hit your finger with a hammer? It hurts! There isn’t any balance here (other than your physical body in motion and movement within the mind); this is a focused mental and physical effort.
Our family recently welcomed a new baby boy, and so feeding, changing, and keeping our dog from licking him is a full time job. When I get home, I pretty much have to drop everything and help my wife with our infant or at least burn some of the dog's energy with a walk. Whatever it is, my wife needs a break so that she has time to actually do her work for the day. Go to they gym, work on her flower garden, or market her business. Do you think this is balanced time? We have to focus to keep this new little human alive, and keep each other sane with the new sleep schedule. I am not bringing anything else to the table when I'm home. I have to be 100 percent all in with them. This is not balance! I’m not thinking about other things in life or “balancing them” in that moment. If I were, I would not be giving my baby and my wife my full attention.
I remember distinctly a few weeks ago I sat with our main acquisitions guy from around 7 p.m. to well-past midnight working through dozens of potential proposals. We had only 24 hours to work through everything, and the one and only thing that was important was working through the opportunities, quickly understanding them, dissecting them, and making decisions.
These were million-dollar decisions! It’s not a game; we don’t get a do-over. If you choose a vendor that’s a dud or award a contract that wasn't defensible to protest, you get to deal with it afterward (and I’ve been there, and it’s not fun).
On our team, as a leader (or as a person in a specific position in an organization), you still don’t want balance. You want someone with a specific job who is at work to be supremely focused, clear on the objective, dialed in, and executing the activity. This goes for leadership specifically. You can’t have balance doing a bunch of different stuff in your business at the same time. Now, there are different personality types who do different things (and some more than others) pretty well. But, this is not an excuse to be all over the place. It’s not an excuse not to get everything done.
I journal almost every morning before my day starts and often at the end of the day as well. Some days I am all about my family. Other days I’m all about THE STARTUP CLUB, projections for our business that month, or what we need to do to execute that result. Sometimes it’s literally a task-oriented to-do list. Each of these take a specific focus and a specific discipline.
When I finally let go of the idea of work-life balance, I found something interesting in my life. Everything I got into during my day, whether it was writing blog posts, working on Air Force contracts, taking care of baby, mentoring clients, date night with my wife, anything—the more I was interested and all in in that moment, the more engaged and more enjoyment I got from it.
It’s time to stop trying to balance everything and realize you can’t. Instead, be focused in the moment on what’s in front of you. Put your phone down. Look people in the eyes. Be present. Be in the moment, and be all in.
[Editor's Note: This article was originally posted on BiggerPockets.com]