Work-Life Balance: A Goal or A Fantasy of Nowadays?!
Ever heard of the term “burnout”?
He used it to describe the consequences of severe stress for people working in certain professions.
The nature of such professions involved helping others.
In other words, people who gave themselves away for the sake of others.
Examples of people working in such professions are doctors, nurses, and teachers.
People who burn out, are people who got exhausted, filled up and are unable to give any more or even cope.
Nowadays, however, the term “burnout” extends to anyone suffering such symptoms.
But what can lead to burning out?
A stressful working environment can leave people as burnouts.
A stressful lifestyle can impose a similar threat.
It is not only a profession-specific condition but stay at home moms are also at high risk.
In some countries like the Netherlands, burnout is classified as a type of mental illness and is seriously regarded.
As per the Harvard Business Review, 1 in every 5 employees is at the risk of burning out.
Unfortunately, burnout has serious implications on both individuals, and industries.
Stress also contributes to around 120,000 deaths per year.
Burning out is also responsible for high employee turnover, as per many HR leaders.
Despite its severity, the working world is unconsciously promoting for it.
Modern Work Load
With a world where capitalism and entrepreneurship have a tight grip on career ambitions, the term “work-life” balance has drastically changed into “work-work from home” balance.
With offices, full of bean bags, corporates offering its employees all their materialistic needs, and a matrix of performance-based evaluation, the word balance is going extinct!
Not only that, but employees, as well as entrepreneurs, have become firm believers of the long-working hours’ dogma.
Because of stories of successful entrepreneurs and managers sleeping in their offices and beside their production lines being promoted every second, a life dedicated to work became a goal to many.
It is not until your dogma takes its toll on you that you wake up.
A Messed-Up World
In a world that is so competitive and demanding, defining oneself through work achievements became the one and only sought after goal.
Our sense of self-worth has become tightly linked to our titles, salaries, and career progression.
Sadly, it is the most loudly applauded, if not the only applauded, achievement nowadays.
Because of this messed setup, people join the race without consciously realizing it.
They run at full speed until they consume all their power.
When this happens, the enthusiastic ambitious self-motivated employees turn into sarcastic, unengaged burnouts.
The achiever is now mischievous.
Consequently, the company loses its best employees over burning out.
Yet, it does not only lose a headcount, but it also loses its best talents.
As a burnout was once upon a time the best performer.
The company also loses operational costs, employment costs as well as efficiency.
As eventually, it would take more than one new employee to take over the workload of a burnout.
Why Do People Burnout?
The workload is the main reason why people burn out.
Not only that but an amount of $224 billion equated for the unused vacations in businesses.
A very compelling common mistake that employers usually do is over-consuming their talents.
Employers usually overload talents with expectations, duties and sometimes even delegation that most talents find hard to resist or turn down.
They capitalize on talents thrive for challenges and responsibilities.
Such delegations usually allow talents some sort of freedom.
Yet, with great powers comes great responsibilities.
Freedom comes with unclear boundaries and overlapping responsibilities which eventually add more and more to talent’s plate.
The deadly sin, however, is; when employers take their talents for granted, assuming they are strong machines that never get tired, or overwhelmed.
Superheroes who turn employer’s wishes into reality.
Heroes who are born without the average human need for appreciation and compensation.
Even worse, when talents pick the early signs of burning out and ask for redefinition and re-distribution of tasks, or even for a break, they are usually charged with guilt.
These scenarios if they forecast anything, they forecast a talent burnout.
If employers understand that these talents could be their next generation of executives, they would protect their most valuable asset in a better way.
The Life of a Burnout
Unfortunately, burnouts don’t only impact their organization, they also suffer personally.
Even though a potential burnout’s personal life was not at its best before burning out, yet, his personal life becomes at stake when he does.
As a burnout is no longer capable of putting effort, handling problems or responsibilities, nor giving part of himself to those he cares about.
A burnout is too exhausted to engage and interact.
He is technically living but practically not.
So instead of driving yourself to the edge of the cliff, it’s better to put on your brakes before it is too late.
Work-Life Balance Dilemma
Before delving into work-life balance definition and ways to achieve it, we need to settle a very important facet of the equation “Life”.
If you have work-life balance as a goal, then each section of this goal should be desired for you, shouldn’t it?
Else, how can you put an effort and chase after something that you didn’t want that much in the first place?
Though it seems a trivial and a taken for granted question, but is having a life a real value of yours?
Or let’s ask the question in a straighter fashion, do you really want a life outside your work?
Are you really willing to grow a life outside the walls of your company?
Or is work-life balance just a good material to whine about?
Or maybe a good escape from a bad work day?
Your answer to these questions is the first crucial step on a road less traveled.
As you can never achieve something you are not working towards.
Once you get this dilemma settled inside of you, you can easily find somewhere to start.
What is Life for You?
The word life could mean many things, a time well-spent with your family, a challenging workout routine, social life, or touring the world.
The person who lives it defines and seasons it.
But the fact remains that life is what you leave behind when you are gone.
Whether it is the good memories your children and grandchildren hold for you, the lovely feelings you left people with, the helpful hand that made all the difference or the smile you constantly put on others, it is up to you.
No one calls out your title when they are leaving you behind, they only recall how you lived, not what you did.
It is not only burning out that could be on the wait, but life not well-lived could be your fate.
Balance Versus Effectiveness?
Quoting Steve Jobs, the legendary founder of Apple, on his death bed
“I reached the pinnacle of success in the business world. In others’ eyes, my life is an epitome of success.
However, aside from work, I have little joy. In the end, wealth is only a fact of life that I am accustomed to.
At this moment, lying on the sick bed and recalling my whole life, I realize that all the recognition and wealth that I took so much pride in, have paled and become meaningless in the face of impending death.
Non-stop pursuing wealth will only turn a person into a twisted being, just like me.”
Also, quoting Warren Buffet, the legendary chairman of Berkshire Hathaway
“You’ve got to keep control of your time, and you can’t unless you say no. You can’t let people set your agenda in life.”
It is clear from the statements of two of the most successful people of the century that work-life balance is crucial to happiness.
However, when we strike the word “balance” most people usually think of an equal division of time between both work and life.
When they fail to strike that balance, people are tempted to believe that work-life balance is a myth.
It is not an achievable goal and its either work or life.
Truth is, work-life balance doesn’t mean a division of time, on the contrary, it is the effective use of time.
In other words, it’s the overall percentage of your time that you spend doing either of them.
That is why many experts like to call it work-life effectiveness, not work-life balance.
To better understand how it works, let’s assume that a normal person’s obligation involves work, social life, family responsibilities, self-development, and sleep.
If we try to divide the twenty-four hours we have each day among these five items, then we would typically end up with almost four hours for each.
Unrealistic, isn’t it?
If your body would allow it, your boss won’t!
Yet, in order to afford such balance, we need to speak “effectiveness” instead.
Instead of dividing hours, divide attention.
The goal is not to achieve all your goals within the spectrum of a day.
The point is to give each one of these your time over the course of a month or a weak.
In other words, over the course of a month give some quality time to your family, to your self-development, to your social life, and to your body.
You don’t have to do everything on the same day.
You can do two things over a weak and change to the other two for the next week.
The trick is in managing your priorities and in the flexibility of smoothly shifting between them.
What is a high priority now, would be of less priority the coming week, and so on.
Every goal should have dedicated time.
Instead of ending up joggling all at once, do one thing at a time, with a full heart and mind.
However, in order to be able to achieve work-life effectiveness, there are certain things to keep in mind.
Tips to Effectiveness
1- Drop Your Pursuit of Perfection
If you want to score an A in each and every aspect of your life, you would probably end up in torturing yourself.
As they say, “Jack of all trades, master of none.”
Most of us have been raised to pursue perfection.
We learned as children that our parents love is conditioned to how good we are at what we do, not because we deserve it.
So, we grew up with this mentality, we always want the best out of everything and we are not ready to settle for less.
If this is your strategy in achieving work-life effectiveness, then you would fail badly.
A challenging 100% is not the goal, a satisfying 70% is.
2- Know How and When to Say No
If you have your boundaries set clear to yourself as well as to others, no one would take more than the time you allocate to them.
Learning to say no is a life savior.
Because, otherwise, if you are always flexible, people would easily utilize your life to compensate for their own time limits.
And Eventually, what you are doing is being added to someone else’s basket.
In order to avoid this trap, you have to have your own agenda to be able to say no.
In other words, a bigger yes inside to the “no” outside.
3- Avoid Destructive Use of Time
That would include the overuse of technology, television, engaging in meaningless activities that only kills time but never recreates one’s energy.
Unfortunately, many of us are trapped inside destructive habits that do not only kill our time but also kills the quality of our lives.
4- Enjoy Your Life
If you have a life that you enjoy, you would always want to find the time to it.
However, if life outside your work means unhappiness, nagging, boredom, and frustration then you will unconsciously always run away from it.
Integrate fun as part of your life and fun will get you back.
Your life is too precious to waste it in one aspect of your life.
Don’t work too much until the people outside your work forget about you.
Don’t burn out yourself, because it is very hard to come back as fresh as before.
Create meaning for your life, so that you would be motivated to be effective.
And think effectiveness instead of balance.