Despite the insipid title of this post, work-life balance is a bit of a myth.
Sure, we work too much, don’t have time for all the other things we want to do, are always tired, eat convenience food or comfort food rather than nutritious or nourishing food, never have time for solitude … but that’s the life we want, right?
OK, maybe it needs a bit of readjusting. Work and life and learning and relationships and health are all really the same thing, and so “balance” is perhaps the wrong word, but adjusting our lives to our aspired priorities is not a bad thing.
A friend recently asked me how I balance my personal lives and all my projects, and it made me pause and think. And that pause, and the thinking, is really the key to it all, I discovered.
So here’s the method I use.
- Pause regularly. In our lives, we are so busy and caught up in what we’re doing that we have no space for thinking. I build regular pauses into my life, so that I have some space for thought. What kind of pauses? I use morning meditation, drinking coffee in the morning with my notebook, my morning shower, a walk alone, tea or a run or other meeting with my wife or a friend, as space for thinking about my life. Pause regularly to create space.
- Zoom out. When you take a pause, zoom out from the close-up view, so you can look at the big picture. What are you doing with your life? What kind of person do you want to be? Are you making decisions in the aggregate? What are your priorities? And are you living those priorities? You don’t need to think about all of these things during each pause, but use the pauses for this kind of thinking.
- Readjust. When you notice that you’ve been spending too much time on the computer, and too little with your kids or other loved ones, make a note of it. When you notice that some important projects are being neglected, or you don’t have time for exercise, or your diet has gone to hell and settled in there, make a note. Think about what adjustments you can make.
- Now actually block off time. Making a note and mental adjustment is great, but it’s meaningless without action. What kind of action can you take to adjust how you actually spend your time? Make a commitment, on your calendar. Not one that you’ll skip when the time comes and you’re browsing your favorite sites. A commitment you’ll keep. For example, if you want to work out more, make a regular date with a friend to go for a run or do a bodyweight workout in the park or go to yoga class or go to the gym you signed up for 11 months ago and never use. Make a regular date. If you want to work on a project, make an appointment to go to a tea house or library for 3-4 hours just to work on that project. Or commit to a whole week of working on your novel. Tell somebody about it, and better yet commit to getting them the work by the end of the week (or whatever period you choose). Make the time, solidly.
That’s the method. Four steps, done regularly.
Life is a constant readjustment. It’s whether you readjust consciously that makes all the difference.