If you're in the American workforce today as an employee, business owner or entrepreneur, it's almost impossible not to hear about work-life balance. Just Google the phrase and you get more than 113 million search results. This is a big topic that concerns a lot of us.
But I actually prefer to think about it in a different way, because honestly, just hearing the term work-life balance stresses me out a little. Some weeks it is impossible for me to devote equal time to family and personal commitments as it is to work, and other weeks it is the exact opposite. So instead, I think about it in terms of work-life harmony. The difference is that harmony implies you're engaged in work and life at the rhythm that makes the most sense for you at any given time.
Approaching my life through the lens of work-life harmony allows me to feel more at peace with how I am spending my time between work and my personal life. But it wasn't always that way.
I started an accounting business when I was 27 years old. I had no idea how big I could grow it or what it would ultimately become. I nurtured it from a small business to a significant business with employees around the country. After 10 years of pure hustle, an opportunity came up for me to take a full-time position with a company I respected. Having a salary, health insurance, and not worrying about payroll sounded nice and seemed like the right move during a time when I had a growing family.
I took the job and sold the business. Little did I realize how emotional and difficult selling the business would be, but it definitely sent me into a funk. For a decade, being a business owner and running this specific business was a huge part of who I was and then it went away almost overnight. What became clear is during the time I owned that business, that was what had defined me. I didn't take much time for myself, my day (and night) was about work, finding time for family, and then more work. After selling this business, I came to a point where I had to re-define myself and tap back into who I was authentically. It was a wake-up call to create work-life harmony and frankly, I had to spend a lot more time on the life part.
Through that struggle, I uncovered some insights that can help you as you strive for work-life harmony:
Rekindle your innate interests
So few of us end up doing work or jobs that are based on the things we naturally gravitate toward. It happens for a lot of different reasons, but it's so key to discover what passions we have inside that we are pushing down because of lack of time. It will make you feel more whole as a person, which is good for every area of your life. So if you played guitar in high school, but it fell by the wayside as your career hit high speed, find a way to make time for it again. Maybe schedule some lessons, or just make time to practice.
I loved art growing up, but hadn't drawn or painted in years. A few years ago, I connected with an artist whose style I loved, and at the time, I was thinking seriously about wanting to incorporate some art back in my life. I asked him what he thought: Should I go to art school? Take painting lessons?
His answer was simple. "Get in your car, drive to the art supply store, buy paint and a canvas, and then pick up your brush and paint." Duh, right? We make the simplest things in life so hard and put up so many hurdles. I took his advice and soon began painting again.
Find things outside of work that fulfill you the way you want to be fulfilled
Just because someone else loves running doesn't mean it's for you. Exercise is a great thing to make time for of course -- it is scientifically proven to reduce anxiety -- but you should really take the time to find an activity that relieves stress and that you ultimately find rewarding.
What's a good way to know when you've found something fulfilling? When you don't even notice time going by while doing it. If it feels like work, it will be.
At different times, life will demand varying levels of effort in certain areas. Framing your thinking in terms of work-life harmony will help you better manage these ebbs and flows. A key component to maintaining this harmony is developing the personal hobbies and interests outside of work and home that fulfill you and recharge your soul.