Integrate Work Into Your life Without Losing Yourself - A 'How To'
The work-life balance dichotomy was invented in the mid-1800s and although a lot of time has passed since then, it’s still a hot topic today. Motivational speakers and self-help books all claim to know exactly how you can find the perfect balance between your career and your personal life. But here’s the thing - work-life balance is usually discussed by people who don’t have any balance in their lives, lawyers principal among these groups.
If work-life balance really factors into your life, the odds are that you don’t have it.
We had Marianne Marchesi on the Beyond Billables podcast a few weeks ago, and we got her two cents on the work-life balance issue. To paraphrase her, ‘I don’t use the word balance, I prefer integration. As an entrepreneur there is no separation between my work life and personal life - I don’t leave things at the office. What I do is find a way to piece it all together so that the business thrives and my quality of life doesn’t drop. I can carve time out of my day for personal things and vice versa. I have found a major key to this is to identify things that you don’t negotiate on. For me, those things are doing Crossfit and not working too much at night.’
The key to a successful integration of work into your life is going to be different for everyone, but a lot of it really boils down to flexibility. For most people, work is one of the central priorities in their lives. This isn’t a problem if there is wiggle room for you to exist outside of said job. However, the tough thing is that many legal jobs traditionally haven’t had much flexibility. They tie people to desks for extraordinarily long hours and the result has been a lot of unhappiness. Practising law takes a lot of energy, and there’s no getting around the fact that the work can simply consume large amounts of time.
The trick to making it survivable is incorporating some flexibility into the mix.
Perhaps you want to bring your dog to work or maybe going to Crossfit every day at four is really important. Perhaps you want to take a month and go skiing every winter, or maybe you like taking naps after lunch. All of these puzzle pieces may not fit perfectly into the context of your current job, but in any case it’s important to find the things that truly matter for you and then tailor your job around them. This isn’t about balance, this is about work-life integration and compromise.
Be like Marianne, start your own firm, freelance or consult on the side. If you work in a big law firm, speak with your managers or HR reps about how flexibility might be worked into your schedule and how that might make you more happy and productive. Even big corporate firms are becoming attuned to the need for change. You might be surprised how far you can get with a conversation like this, as unrealistic as it may seem now.
Another critical move toward a more flexible and integrated work-life is to leverage technology.
This can mean leaning more heavily on tools like Skype or Slack, and it can mean working from home from time-to-time. Even if you work a 9-to-5, a remote work agreement may help to free you up considerably, or you might be able to negotiate a partial WFH setup. If your employer strictly demands you physically show up at an office without good cause, you may want to reconsider the entire relationship. In a healthy working relationship, people know their employees will get things done and don’t care exactly when or how it happens. A relationship is probably not worth too much if someone doesn’t trust you to work outside of their line of vision.
So, really the key here is about being intentional about flexibility.
It’s about having conversations and navigating your way into a place where fluidity and flexibility are the norms.
How you do this is up to you, there is not one roadmap that is going to get everyone to a place where they feel good in how their daily life plays out. But the final thing we’d say on the topic is to add a note of caution. There may be something to be said for work-life balance if you really clock out at the end of the day and become present in your personal life. You’ve not really achieved anything if you ditch that model and ‘integrate’ work into some new format as an entrepreneur where you’re essentially on call 24/7. If you don’t make a point of adding some structure and checking out, you can allow your aim at flexibility to turn into a new form of work slavery that overruns your whole life.
Ways to combat this include mindfulness, having a physical location set for work (once you leave it, work is over for the day), taking digital fasts and creating structures in your schedule that bifurcate work from everything else.
Nothing is foolproof
Of course. And if you run your own business, there will be times when it's all hands on deck and you feel swamped. But other times will be blissfully quiet and free from demands. Everyone must experience and even get burned before they learn what suits them and how to get it. But above all else, setting things up in a flexible manner allows for a much more successful stab at integrating professional demands into your life.
The first step is often the hardest and most overwhelming. But you're here reading this blog all the way to the end- so really, you've already taken it.
The next thing that will move you towards achieving your version of work-life integration is simply acknowledging that you want to see change in this area of your life and making a commitment to yourself to move towards fulfilling that. Next Thursday evening we're hosting an online Time Hack Webinar in which we'll run you through every single hack that has helped us each to run multiple businesses, maintain and enjoy family time and have our own personal activities on the side. With our complimentary workbook you'll discover first hand exactly how to nail down where your time is currently going and identify where you want it to go (something that's a lot harder than it initially seems!).