Drop the Balancing Act: How to Integrate Work and Life

Trying to achieve balance between work life and personal life. It’s the timeless struggle we all have faced in one way or another since crossing the threshold into adulthood. But, is balance ultimately the goal?

Instead of pitting work and life against each other, reconcile them so that they can perform in tandem. In today’s modern world where constantly being in touch is a reality and an expectation, the boundaries between work and life have nearly been erased. These worlds can no longer remain separate and are now invariably integrated. Don’t worry, here’s why this is good news.

Say you are playing the roles of businesswoman and mother. On a given evening, these roles have presented seemingly conflicting obligations: you have dozens of time-sensitive emails to return, and your child has a basketball game. The age-old battle strikes again! Which do you choose; work or life? Someone seeking balance would have a decision to make, to choose one or the other. Stay working to address the overflowing inbox or attend the game. Regardless of the choice made, the categories of work and life would be kept separate and one is inevitably neglected. Work-life integration, on the other hand, would have simply meshed the two “categories” in a way that gives value to both. Cheering wholeheartedly during all four quarters of the game fulfills the mom role, while answering emails during halftime ensures that business is not ignored. In a single time frame, everyone and everything was tended to, satisfying both work and life alike.

Not convinced that integration is a feasible alternative to balance? Here are two tips to help you make the transition in mindset and practice:

M A X I M I Z E   F R I N G E   H O U R S

We all have those little pockets of time throughout the day, usually between tasks, that tend to go underused or wasted altogether. Take advantage of this “free” time to catch up, get ahead, or enrich.

  • If you work from home, return a phone call or two when your little one is still in the wake-up process at the end of naptime.
  • If you work in the office, return a phone call or two shortly after eating during your lunch break, instead of making time-killing small talk.
  • Brainstorm ideas for your next pitch or blog post as you stand in line at Starbucks.
  • Read an article on the latest innovation in your field while waiting at the doctor’s office.

Filling your fringe moments  will open up other hours of your day to spend how you choose and facilitate the integration of life and work. Want additional examples? Check out how I schedule my work week.

R E T H I N K   W E E K E N D S

Balance relegates work to the Monday-Friday window and assigns life to Saturday and Sunday. What if life makes demands during the traditional “work week,” though, and work sneaks in on a weekend? Let’s be real; this scenario happens 99% of the time! Work-life integration allows for the flexibility that is required to fulfill all our responsibilities whenever they come knocking. Weekend sessions often produce my most focused work because there is no interruption of email dings or the pressure of their time-sensitive content.

A “balanced” scenario looks like killing yourself with nonstop work during the week leaves you without energy for anything on the weekend. Not only are you burnt out on business, but you have nothing left for life either, which you promised to give your undivided attention to, by the way! The result? The majority of your time is wasted.

An integration perspective weaves together work and life throughout the week keeps you fueled to make the most of your weekends, as well. In addition to enjoying some much-needed life activities on the weekend, mix in work when the opportunity arises. Whether you like it or not, your mind will drift toward work on Sunday. Rather than passively worrying about that Monday meeting, actively devote that time to preparing for it. Both your weekend and work week selves will thank you.

The Gist

  • Drop the balancing act! Aim to integrate life and work by keeping all your hats with you so you can effortlessly switch between them at any given time. Don’t limit yourself to only certain roles at specific times in set places. Flexibility is key!
  • Balance is especially troublesome because no one can always give equal time to life and work. It’s not a sustainable model! Integrating the two grants you the freedom to ride the ebbs and flows of each different season and peacefully accept the ever-changing relationship between life and work.
  • The number one way to seamlessly integrate your life and work is to find a job that is meaningful to you. Soon enough, you will discover how you count on and draw from the other segments of your life to support your work. In turn, your work will enhance your life as a whole!

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