From the notifications on my phone to the ones ringing on my desktop and laptop computers to the wearable device on my wrist, I have become enslaved by reminders and alerts. My tech is like an automated switchboard for the world's messages customized just for me. I become frazzled and irritated by the many different tones I've selected for each annoying reminder. The tone for text messages is "Bubbles." My calendar alerts sound like "Chimes." I even have a notification of Yoda reminding me that trying and doing aren't the same thing. Is this how living is supposed to be?

I wonder if today's youth will experience the distractions like those of us do who remember a time without devices guiding (or goading?) us through the day? Alternatively, will our future leaders be numb to the distractions and not experience similar anxiety that I and so many others experience from the many blips, bleeps, and song tones?

Until the switch happens, when our tech's neediness no longer disrupts us, the Luddites and tech-savvy amongst us will need to learn how to cope with our new'ish reality.

The Wonky Fallacy of Balance and Life and Work

Gretchen Rubin and I agree to meet to discuss tips and tricks to achieve work-life balance. This is somewhat problematic. I don't believe in work-life balance. But I admire Rubin's work and her writing. So, I tell her publicist to set up the interview. I warn her, however, that I plan to challenge Rubin's belief about the utopian pursuit of equilibrium.

If you're unfamiliar with Gretchen Rubin's work, I strongly suggest heading over to Amazon after you read this article. Rubin has written books that position themselves perfectly for living in the 21st century. From her happiness project to understanding our personal habits, Rubin's work is suited for living and working in a distracting world. 

"I don't believe in work-life balance, either," Rubin asserts. I nearly shout "Good!" We both agree that the notion that we can find equal parts of fulfillment, satisfaction, or whatever adjective you drive to experience at work and at home is foolhardy. It's also a set-up for major disappointment.

See, when you seek to balance out what is going on in your life outside of work and inside it, it becomes a zero-sum game. This game requires that you give up something to find the elusive balance. In the end, one part of your life loses. Why should you give something up if you want to live a life by your design?

Integrators, Compartmentalizers, and Better Living

Stephen Covey modernized one of Saint Francis of Assisi's greatest sayings: "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." If I had tattoos, that would be on my forearm. The Assisi-Covey wisdom has guided me to first understand another person's perspective before asserting my own. The underlying logic to the ancient words of wisdom also informs Rubin's wise words.

"I don't have to convert other people to my way of viewing [the world.] I just have to accommodate the way others like to do their work." This is the conclusion Rubin shares after explaining the difference between integrators and compartmentalizers. The former can navigate the messiness of a day and make it all work cohesively. Child care issues surface on the way to your major presentation to investors? No worries. That's what a mobile phone is for, right?

Compartmentalizers, however, need to have their work and their personal life separated, the two shall never interact.

No matter your inclination, the first nugget of truth to find your way to better living is this: allow for differences to better understand life. Your approach is not better than someone else's choice. It is more comfortable, less stressful to avoid getting snared by judging someone who is not like you. At work, we can use a bit more understanding of our differences and how they create a better whole.

Another Golden Nugget of Truth

I've written before that work-life balance is bunk. Instead, focus on making choices that bring harmony to the two parts of your life. You will have seasons in life where family matters will demand most of your focus. Then the seasons change, and work then needs your attention. And sometimes both are heavy and intense all at once.

This reality positions Rubin's next words of wisdom beautifully: Create your personal commandments.

Your personal commandments, or manifesto, reflect what you hold most important in your life. The commandments help you stay true to your north star, guiding you during life's crazy and calm moments.

One of my commandments, (I call them personal values), is to do work that is meaningful. Another value is family first. And a third is always to be growing/learning. Whenever I have tough decisions to make, I turn to my values.

Rubin recommends that you review your commandments regularly. I suggest weekly to ensure you are making significant decisions that align with what is essential in your life.

Your Tendencies and Habits

Finally, to find your way to better living, invest the time to learn more about yourself. To develop healthy habits that stick and work for you, spend time knowing your tendencies.

If you've not spent time thinking about your tendencies, I encourage you to check out Gretchen Rubin's tendencies quiz on this topic. It's helpful, and it will shed light on your tendency style related to developing habits. You can also get more insights on tendencies, happiness, and living a good life on Rubin's podcast on Panoply, Happier.

Our lives are complicated and, at the same time, made easier by the technology we use every day. How you choose to integrate tech into your life plays a central role in your quality of living. When you combine the three nuggets of truth into your life's narrative, you will find greater harmony.

A life well lived is better understood when we lift up our heads. Put down your phone, and engage the world and people eyeball to eyeball. This will help deepen your understanding of others; discover your commandments, and shine new light on who you are, what you want, and where you want to go.

Published on: Sep 13, 2018