Directly Opposing Work-Life Balance
The notion of work-life balance might be the most destructive influence on someone’s professional growth, particularly in salaried positions involving knowledge work. It’s championed by many well-meaning people, but it implies that our work lives and personal lives are disjointed.
It was crafted as a protective counterbalance for people oppressed by their employers. I appreciate that. Pursuing a work-life balance is better than allowing employers to mistreat or exploit, but that’s too low of a bar.
Balance is fragile. Balance positions our work-life and our personal life as opposing forces. It’s a zero-sum fight. Gains on one end require a loss on the other end. When we view them in opposition, we overlook opportunities where we might benefit more from helping them coordinate.
Improvements to our work schedule can also improve our personal life too.
Let’s explore work-life harmony, instead.
Our work lives and personal lives are not siloed. You can not prevent your work life from invading your personal life anymore than you can stop your personal life from pushing against your work life.
Despite what we might want to believe, our work self is our personal self. Our brain, our attention, and our resources are not naturally divided along those arbitrary lines. They are connected because you are connected.
Imagine a band where only one instrument is permitted to play at a time. Before the guitar can strum, the drums must cease. Vocals start only after the instruments quiet down.
Great music arises from the right instruments working together, at the right time, in the right quantities. It’s ultimately the responsibility of the musician to bring them together in a manner that reflects their unique vision. They ebb and flow based on the type of music one is trying to create.
In an ideal setting, these two parts of our lives collaborate rather than compete. Work can be an outlet for us to express our personality and creativity. It can be the catalyst for our best work, instead of a barrier to our natural desires. Pursuing harmony allows us to find opportunities for overlap and alignment. Rather than keeping score, we can turn our focus toward bringing our best selves into everything we do.
Practically speaking, our full-time team members work 40 hour weeks. In an average week, those hours should fit nicely between Monday and Friday. That’s not to say there won’t be late nights or an all-hands push to launch a product. But to account for that, we add plenty of freedom and flexibility each step along the way.
Rather than optimizing for social norms, I prefer to optimize for what leads me toward my best self. When they bring our best, everyone wins. It’s worth taking time to think about…
- What time works best to start your day?
- What is required for you to focus?
- How much sleep do you need to function best?
- When do you do your best work?
- What are your career goals?
Work performance and output are not one-size-fits-all.