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The Mystery of Work-Life Balance
Could work-life balance be overrated? Or could work-life balance be work-life separation in disguise?
When you think about it, work-life balance is just a fancy way of asking someone what they care about the most in their lives. 

The fact that we call it work/life balance automatically implies that one of the two is negative and we need to balance it with the other. But work and life are not separate. Work is part of life, it’s not competing against it and it shouldn't be.

Hang in there―you shouldn't sacrifice your family, friends and hobbies either. Family is important, friends are important, and rest is essential. But if you have to spend at least half day at work, it should be an expression of who you are as a person. We are defined as individuals by the people or things we spend the most time and energy on.
Some people live where they work. Other just visit.
― Seanan McGuire
I strongly believe that every person can make a living doing something meaningful that they love. And often enough, it’s more of a mindset to become happy with your work. Perhaps it's self-management. Often it’s not the work that sucks, but how we see it.

Because ultimately, it’s only “work” if you don’t like it. If you love doing what you do, it doesn’t feel like work. And yes, you still need balance, because you need balance with everything you do. For the same reason you can’t just eat only Nutella everyday. (trust me, I tried it)

Strive for work-life effectiveness—not balance

The term work-life balance implies that one dedicates an equal portion of time to work and life. Catalyst, a research firm focused on women in business, uses the phrase work-life effectiveness, and suggests striving for a situation where work fits with other aspects of your life. Instead of being separate, work and personal life should be allies and that participation in multiple roles, such as parent, partner, friend, employee, can actually enhance physical and psychological well-being — especially when all of the roles are high quality and managed together.

Define success in all categories of your life

Every person needs to define success on his or her own terms. Understandably, this could be deeply personal. Ryan Smith, co-founder of Qualtrics, manages his success by doing the following: “Each week, I examine the categories of my life — father, husband, CEO, self — and identify the specific actions that help me to be successful and fulfilled in these capacities. This weekly reflection helps me to address my needs and the needs of those around me. This is important because I can’t lose sight of the business agenda, nor my family’s needs.”

Set clear, realistic goals

I you have no way of knowing when you’ve “achieved your goal”, then work can be an endless treadmill of tasks. Similarly, if you haven’t set goals around your personal interests or relationships, it’s easy to neglect them, as they might feel less necessary than work. Make a conscious decision around how you want to spend your life with the limited time you have, balancing what would make you feel successful in work and what you’d find personally enriching.

Maintain control

Researchers suggest that people may experience high stress when they feel out of control. So, take control of your career — explore your own history, biases, motivation and preferences. Each of us should take the time to find a job that ‘fits’ us. When possible, we should set our own boundaries. Many successful executives who work long hours suggest that they put parameters and limits on work. The CEO of Starwood Hotels, Frits van Paasschen, in a recent Wall Street Journal interview, noted, “It’s important not to be so immersed in your work that there isn’t anything else. Taking care of your body and your mindset, carving out time to be with your family, doing things that recharge you — these all make you more productive in the end.” We should also proactively manage the direction and meaning of our work.

Minimize distractions

Since you don’t plan to work 24/7, you’ll need to be efficient in the time you spend working. The stress from work-life imbalance comes when you aren’t spending your time the way you want. I block out my day at work explicitly, with goals for every 30-minute chunk, and then I do everything in my power to stay focused. It helps focus on what you are doing, one thing at a time. Sure, my phone can still ping me, but a quick glance will reveal if any messages qualify as an “exception” that requires my response — they usually don’t. When I really want to give myself the best chance of focusing, I turn off notifications or go on airplane mode. And for goodness sake, please don’t look at your phone while you’re out with friends — that’s not the point.

Rest to refuel

Many report that stress increases when the length and quality of sleep decreases.  When they do not get enough sleep, 21 percent of adults report feeling more stressed. At the same time, getting a good night’s sleep can help reduce the effects of stress.
Balance means that you find the equal distribution between the various areas of your life to support you. Balance is not rooted in the amount of time you directly giving to one specific area compared to another; but rather the value you are gaining from each area to create counter-balance to create a fulfilling life. By that definition, there is no difference between work-life balance and integration since all parts are blending together and working towards a greater quality of life.  

How do you think your work-life effectiveness could improve? Share with us on Twitter by mentioning us @ximnetmy.

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