We often think of work-life balance as a dichotomy. Work from 9-5, life from 5-12 (and then something called sleep). Turns out the balance doesn't quite work that way, does it?
What really happens is we work a lot in our 20s and 30s. This might be because we really are plugged in 24/7. How many of us shut off email completely after work? Or don't reply to that client request?
We glamorize and pride ourselves for being always on, always available and we hate ourselves for not being able to disconnect. With technology increasingly blurring the line between what we call work and personal life, how do we really define work-life balance?
Often we end up looking for solutions online to help us achieve this balance – whether it's Netflix or meditation apps (or perhaps we should just move to France to take advantage of regulated 35 hour work weeks...just sayin').
But what if the reason why we haven't found the right solution to work-life balance is not because we're not looking hard enough, but because we've got work-life balance all wrong?
What if we defined work-life balance in years, or even decades?
Whoa, that's crazy you say! Now bear with me a second and let's walk through this thought exercise:
Work-life balance shouldn't be a daily ritual we follow. Instead, it should be an ideal lifestyle we subscribe to and work towards.
A lot of what we call work-life balance is wanting to optimize for every piece of our career while juggling a relationship and personal development. No wonder we experience so much FOMO. We try to do so much that we live through our 20s in lightspeed: distracted by everything and committing to nothing.
So instead of thinking about work-life balance in parallel, why not think about it in stages? If we practice patience in our careers, relationships, and personal development, we'll find ourselves committing fully to the learning at hand and absorbing lessons that will benefit us down the road.
To quote Alex Pang, author of "Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less"
So perhaps we should think of work-life balance as something that we achieve over the course of our entire lives, rather than something we need to do all at once. Assuming that we can and should build our careers and families at exactly the same times underestimates both how challenging each of those roles can be, and how rewarding and enriching they can be if we focus on them...playing a longer game can also mean that we can put more into each of those phases, and get more out of them.
Key takeaway? Focus on long-term growth and don't fret over not achieving "work-life balance" in your day-to-day.