I always hear about this magical place called “work and life balance”. I hear it’s a beautiful place filled with spare time, fun and laughter with friends and quality time with family. It’s a place where you can have hobbies and socialize and where work still gets done and all your goals can still be reached. It’s a place where you’re home for dinner with the family and weekends are free and you can take a holiday whenever you want or even just an extra day off. You can turn off your cell phone and people will understand when you don’t respond to their emails right away. It’s a beautiful place but to me it sounds a little like Neverland.
I’ve been struggling with finding this balance. I’ve always thought of it as a predetermined destination like what I described above. A perfectly balanced place that I could just plunk my life into and it would be perfect! I’ve learnt that’s not quite the case. In fact, what I've realized is that it's more about Life Integration than about balance.
Balance implies I have to choose between "this" or "that". Life Integration is about creating my life the way I want it each and everyday.
Here are 5 things I’ve learnt about Life Integration:
- It’s not the same for everyone. We all have different needs, goals and desires. What might work for someone else might not work for you, and that’s ok! It’s important to figure out what does work for you and go with that. Define what life integration means to you.
- Don’t let others dictate for you what it "should" be. I’ve often felt guilt from friends and family for working so much. They’d say things like “you work too much. You never take time off to have fun” and I would feel guilty or like maybe something was wrong with me. Then I started to realize that most of them are not entrepreneurs and they're used to working in an 8-4 Monday-Friday world. Well, that’s not the world I live and work in and I'm totally okay with it! This is my choice.
- It’s not black and white. As entrepreneurs, we don’t have the structure of a regular work day dictating to us what time work begins and ends. Also, we’ve chosen the business we’re in because we love what we do. So often what might seem as work to others doesn’t feel like work to us. So where is the separation? For example, for myself, I love to work on my blog and marketing materials. I find this type of work is relaxing and fun to me. While technically I am working on business, it often feels like downtime.
- It’s going to change. Life isn’t static. It’s about constantly moving and adjusting to find what works over and over again. Sometimes the business is going to need more attention and sometimes your personal life will need more attention. It’s knowing when you need to swing in either direction that’s important and know that it might not always look perfect.
- Let your family and friends in on what your plans are. Keep them informed on what’s going on so they don’t feel like you’re neglecting them. Tell them when you’re really busy but make a commitment to meet up with them when you can take a break and then set a date with them. This is important to help them understand your lifestyle but also for you to make sure you schedule yourself a time-out once in awhile to recharge your batteries.
Life Integration is about making shifts and changes over time depending on where you are in life and I think that the most important thing is to learn to be self aware and recognize what does and doesn't work for you and then honour that regardless of what you think it “should” look like. Neverland maybe an imaginary land but your life is very real and you can create it to be whatever you need to be.