We all talk about a work-life balance, but what actually is it?  The difficulty in defining this statement is that it is different for everyone.  It also changes at different states of life.  What I thought was a work-life balance when I was in my 20’s, is very different to what it looks like now.

QuestionDoes a work-life balance always have to be such a strict split of work in one pile, and then everything else in another?

I don’t know about you, but I certainly have more going on in my life that splits into many more groups that deserve attention, and come to think about it, multiple sub-groups too!

When we think about trying to achieve balance, we need to know what we are trying to balance. So…what does it actually look like?

If we try to get away from thinking about a work-life balance and more about a work-life management system, we will be getting a little bit closer to being able to fit in everything that we want, and ultimately, need to fit in.

The trouble with a work-life balance way of thinking is that you have work in one pile, and everything else in the other. 

In general terms work can be quite consistent.  There are times that are busier than others, but we know what we are trying to achieve.  We may not have exactly the same thing to do at the same time every day, but we know that there are certain duties /activities that we have to perform and we know what we are trying to achieve.  In our personal life however this changes on a much more frequent basis.  Managing our individual needs and wants, as well as other people’s, changes much more frequently.   People grow and develop over time, we aren’t robots in our emotions and thoughts, and even different seasons have different demands and expectations.  All in all, this makes planning and balancing a difficult task.

If we were to start thinking in terms of “what I as an individual can manage,” we can adapt our internal resources to be able to stay in control of what is going on around us.  We need to be aware of all aspects of our life, but we don’t necessarily need to balance what is going on at home with what is going on at work.  We just need to think in a flexible or fluid way.

You may not always think so, but ultimately, you are human, and that means you have emotions, thoughts and feelings, as well as physical needs that all impact on each other. This adds complications to any situation!

If you look at the diagram “how we function” it shows that you can’t segregate your physical body from your cognitive functioning as they both influence each other.  This is important to understand when you are talking about work-life balance as it demonstrates that you can’t separate yourself off into nice neat little boxes.  What you do, how you feel and how you think, all impact on each other. 

You are one person, yes you have a personal and a professional head, but ultimately, you function as one human being.

For a different explanation, have a listen to my podcast, episode 5 – “The effect of stress and its impact on you”