The Truth About Work/Life Balance

There are numerous pieces of advice, articles and booksdevoted to the concept of work/life balance. It?s something that most Americansstrive to achieve. It?s too bad that, in my opinion, such a balance doesn?treally exist.

Think about it: Have you ever been able to string togethermore than a week or two of perfect balance between your job, family, friendsand other obligations? Probably not, if you?re anything like me. And that?sokay.

You see, I have come to realize that work and the rest ofyour life are best negotiated when you think about rhythm, rather than balance.This shift in perspective will have a huge impact on your decisions, prioritiesand stress levels.

When you look at nature, you?ll see that everything happensin seasons. That?s true for people, too. In our lives, there are seasons duringwhich we must work hard and other seasons that allow us to rest.

For me, there?s a season to be on the road (usually inAugust, September and October), and a couple of seasons (July and December)when things will be slower. Taking that into account, my wife and I look at ouroverall year and make plans accordingly.

I encourage you to do the same. No matter how long yourseasons are or when they fall during the year, you can look ahead and determinewhen you?ll probably need to put your nose to the grindstone, and when you canrecharge, relax and connect with your loved ones.

Here are some practical pointers to help you navigate your?seasons? in order to achieve some balance between your professional andpersonal lives:

Consider last year?s rhythm. Look back over last year?scalendar and make note of when you took vacations, when you were especiallytied down at work and when you felt more engaged at home. Overall, was yourlife actually balanced ? or do you need to make a change?

Identify your company?s seasons. You might not work on afarm, but your company still has periods of extreme work comparable to plantingseason and harvest. (Those periods might be when your company is getting readyfor major industry events or at peak sales times, for example.) It?s a goodidea to plan your work/life flow around these busy times?and don?t limit thatplanning to vacations, either. When things are slower, it might be acceptableto leave earlier each day, since you?ll be making up the time during the busyseason.

Don?t forget your family seasons, either. There aretimes?like the birth of a child?when family quite rightly comes first. Ifpossible, plan to prioritize these seasons no matter when they fall in thelarger scheme of things. Realize, though, that family commitments might crop upunexpectedly, such as a parent getting sick. Be ready to adjust, and know thatthere will be a time?later?to apply yourself more heavily at work.

Make hard work ?investments? with your company. Don?t everdo just the bare minimum. If your company needs you, go above andbeyond?cheerfully! Think of it as making deposits in a bank account. Then, whenyou do need to prioritize a family season (in other words, to make awithdrawal), your company will be more likely to give you the time you needwith goodwill.

Wherever you are, be there. This advice is the mostimportant of all: Whether you?re in a season of working or prioritizingsomething else, you need to fully commit. Feeling guilty that you?re notspending time with your family when you?re working longer hours (and viceversa) will only make you miserable. When you?re at work, remind yourself thatyour job makes a difference in the lives of others, and that it is important.If you?re fully committed, you won?t watch the clock as much?and you?ll feelmore fulfilled. And when you?re at home, banish the BlackBerry and engage fullywith your loved ones.

When you look at the big picture and gain an accurateunderstanding of rhythms and seasons, you?ll be able to plan more wisely andcommit more fully to what you?re doing. You?ll never balance your work and therest of your life perfectly every day. But you can create a flow that willenhance your happiness and productivity, and cut down on your guilt and regret.


Jon Gordon, a consultant and speaker, is the author of TheSeed, The Energy Bus, Soup, The No Complaining Rule, Training Camp, and TheShark and the Goldfish, all published by Wiley. Jon?s principles have been putto the test by NFL football teams and Fortune 500 companies alike.