There is always lots of talk about work-life balance and how to achieve it, but the real truth falls outside most of those discussions.
Jack Welch, renowned former CEO of General Electric, famously stated, "There is no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences."
At the time his critics slammed him and accused him of being detached, but there was deep insight in what he was saying.
As a leadership coach, I often hear from clients asking me about work-life balance and how to make it happen. But trying to create balance simply isn't working.
Technology means that we're all available 24/7. And, because everyone demands instant gratification and instant connectivity, there are no boundaries, no breaks, no time for the balance we crave.
But there's an alternative to the nonstop work cycle. And isn't found in balance but in integration.
Balance is achieved when things become steady, and we know that life and business are anything but steady--they are in a constant state of motion.
Everything we do, if we want to do it well, is done with an integration of parts that create synergy. So instead of work-life balance, let's start working toward work-life integration.
Work-life integration starts with analyzing the contradictions. Here are some examples to help you get started in making work-life integration work for you.
1. We have to work, but we have also have to learn to take time off.
A Harvard Business School survey of 1,000 professionals found that 94 percent worked 50 hours or more a week, and almost half worked in excess of 65 hours a week. Research shows that when we don't feel in control of our time, illness and burnout can quickly follow. But we all juggle multiple responsibilities and roles in our lives. At work, you might be a boss, a colleague, and a mentor. At home, you might be a parent, a caregiver for an older family member, a sibling, a spouse or partner, and a friend. When you work hard at all those things you don't have time to relax, but if you can slow down enough to start weaving them together, you can begin to integrate work and relaxation--achieving great things on both fronts.
2. We have to be calculating, but we also have to be able to take risks.
If you want to be good at business, at achieving your goals, you have to be calculating and shrewd at what you do. But you also have to be bold and take risks. This may make you uncomfortable, but if you want to succeed in business, as a leader, and as a human being, you need to integrate both concepts, however contradictory they may seem at first glance.
3. We have to process, but we also have to produce.
Everything now is all about being faster and quicker, which leaves very little room for processing. With everything on the fast track, it's easy to miss out on giving yourself what you need. Success is a process, a quality of mind, and a way of being. When we learn to integrate process and product, we are able to function successfully as individuals and as teams.
4. We have to do more, but we want to work less.
The more efficient and productive you are at work, the easier it is for you to go home at a reasonable time. We can do more by being more productive and working less. If you can learn to integrate your skills, limit your distractions, and exercise your self-discipline, you'll be ready to take action in no time. When you can focus on a task, you will be more productive over a shorter period of time than if you are frequently interrupted. Next, make sure that you're working on valuable tasks that keep you focused without the long hours that lead to burnout. Give mind, body, and spirit nourishment, exercise, and rest throughout the day.
Work-life balance may not work, but with some integration of what we want and what we need, we can find a combination that ends up working for us.