Work-Life Balance vs Work-Life Choices: What is the Difference?
For several years now, women executives and other professionals have been told that being able to “have it all” is simply a matter of achieving just the right work-life balance.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, overworked, empty and burned out, it’s probably because you’ve not learned how to properly prioritise the competing demands from your work and personal life.
Others say that we should forget about trying to find a “balance” between our career ambitions and pursuing activities that enrich our souls and daily lives, and make us feel joyful and energised. We should instead look for ways to blur the lines between our work and personal life and blend the two into one.
We are told that if we will simply pursue what we love that money, success and happiness will naturally follow. Too often we are reassured that once we achieve just the right balance or blend, we won’t mind working all of the time because it isn’t work when you love what you do.
Is Work-Life Balance a Myth or Unattainable Utopia?
In 2009, GE’s CEO, Jack Welch, made headlines when he said that work-life balance is an unattainable myth. As reported at the time in The Wall Street Journal, Welch said, “There’s no such thing as work-life balance, there are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.”
Welch’s comment has sparked heated debate which continues to this day. While many say that his words are “outdated,” others voice at least some agreement with Welch’s point of view. The general consensus seems to indicate that while Welch’s point of view is unpopular there is some truth to it.
While you certainly can choose to take time off from work to be with your family or pursue other interests, being away may indeed affect your ability to climb the corporate ladder simply because your contributions are no longer as visible to the decision makers that can help you advance your career.
Positioning Yourself to Make Better Work-Life Choices
Achieving the amount of success, satisfaction and growth that we wish in both our personal and professional lives may not come down to learning how to balance the demands from the two, or even integrating the two spheres. Life happens to each of us 24 hours a day, seven days a week, nonstop. There really isn’t a way to put life “on hold” and divvy it up into a static list of priorities. What should be our priority at any given moment will constantly fluctuate because life itself is in a constant state of change.
Stop trying to divide up your time into compartments, or struggling to blend two incompatible spheres together. Try instead to seek strategies that help you to make better work-life choices. Customise and deliberately design the life and career that we want.
If you want to have a rich family life, and passionately pursue interests outside of work, making better work-life choices doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t choose a demanding career. Making better work-life choices simply means that you should recognise that your work and personal lives will always present competing demands. Deliberate planning is essential if you want to be successful in both.
Better Work-Life Choices Makes it Easier to Deal with Peak Periods and Personal Emergencies
It can be hard to explain what work-life choices means. Some assume that it’s just a different way of saying work-life balance, and that the act of planning is the same as creating priorities. Probably the best way to describe the differences between the two is to illustrate how making better work-life choices can benefit us.
Probably the best example is that of the peak period, or “rush” season. Every business has its own set of peak periods where the “normal” work week is simply out the window. Instead of the normal 40 to 50 hours a week, you may need to put in 70 or more hours each week during a peak period.
When faced with this sort of demand, those that pursue work-life balance will tell you that of course the peak period will take priority, if you want to excel in your career. However, when you are focused on making better work-life choices, rather than resigning yourself to not practicing good self-care, or neglecting your loved ones while you put in your time during these peak periods, a wiser strategy would be to seek ways to plan for this disruption and minimise its impact before it occurs.
Think About Your Options
One way to make a better work-life choice would be to line up resources, beforehand. That way you are prepared to deal with the extra demands on your time and energy. Since you know when the peak period will occur, you need to make plans to deal with the extra work that will occur at home and in the office. By enlisting the help of others, you will be able to maintain your energy levels and continue to perform at a high level during the crunch. Making preparations beforehand, enables you to minimise the impact.
Extra manpower both in the home and office during a peak period isn’t the only resource you should consider when making such plans. What should you do when it’s a peak period at work and an emergency occurs in your personal life that you must deal with? Are you really going to stay at the office if your loved one is sick?
One way to minimise the impact of such a disruption would be to find out if your company provides cellphones or laptops that will enable to you to stay connected when you are away from the office? Making better work-life choices includes taking advantage of these opportunities that will increase your connectivity and improve your efficiency.
How Prepared Are You?
Regardless of where you are in your career, life is going to continue to happen; demands and needs are going to constantly change, as are your priorities. Are you prepared to plan for the unexpected and inevitable so that you can make better work-life choices? Are you ready to make plans to design and have the life and career that you want? Our Executive Coaching and Mentoring program can help you develop the skills that you need to empower you to plan for constant demands and unending changes that each of us face in our career and our daily lives. Tired of chasing after the elusive dream that is work-life balance? Get in touch today to find out more about how we can help you to make better work-life choices!