We’ve all heard the advice of striving for work-life balance. This suggests, for most of us, that work is tipping the scales and we need to spend more time on other aspects of our non-work personal lives – and in some cases to ‘get a life’. The reality of modern-day work structure – right or wrong – is that we now work longer hours than ever. The modern-day work environment and global economy, combined with technology which now allows us to work 24/7, along with the cost of living makes it increasingly difficult to achieve balance: if we look at this as an actual scale, for most of us, work is going to significantly tip the scales based simply on the number of hours we spend working.
Work-life balance also suggests that portions of our lives should be separated into different sections but it isn’t always that simple. Many of us choose our profession based on something we are passionate about or we feel gives us meaning. Therefore, it isn’t always easy to separate work and life. So, rather than striving for work-life balance, we should be thinking about achieving work-life harmony. This means arranging the different aspects of our lives so that they work together in harmony – like an orchestra.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO ACHIEVE WORK-LIFE HARMONY?
1. Make conscious choices
Conductors create great harmonies by getting different instruments in the orchestra to work together effectively and by emphasizing different instruments at different times. For us, this means ensuring we make conscious choices about the activities we engage in, including work, and what is important to us. This also means attempting to have a plan in regards to the time we spend. Whenever possible make conscious decisions about how much we are going to work and how we are going to spend the rest of our time.
2. Work with passion
When possible work in a field that we can be passionate about, or find aspects of our current position that we love. Research suggests that we are happier and more invested in our work when we can find meaning in that work. Work-life balance will seem easier to attain if you look at it from this perspective.
3. Prioritize working with people we like
Since we are spending a significant portion of time with our co-workers, our relationship with them can affect how we feel throughout the day. We are likely to be happier if we enjoy the people we are working with. This could mean choosing to spend more time with the people we like and get along with at work or building better relationships with the people we work with. Alternatively, if we are working with people we don’t get along with we should attempt to manage those relationships or conflicts better, or even consider switching work environments, if possible.
4. Stay active and get rest
Exercise and sleep have a positive impact on our brain function and our productivity at work. While our busy lives don’t always make it easy for us to get the optimal amount of activity or rest (in addition to everything else), something is better than nothing. Consider starting small and finding ways to incorporate movement into the workday (such as walking or biking to work, using a stand-up desk or exercise ball instead of a standard chair, or incorporating a walking meeting into your schedule).
Sleep is especially important when it comes to our focus, productivity, and creativity at work. Establishing a sleep routine – where we go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning – can help us achieve a more restful sleep. If a routine isn’t possible, there are a number of ways to increase our sleep hygiene that may be easier to incorporate into your schedule.
5. Don’t let obstacles or limitations overwhelm
Obstacles and setbacks are a part of everyone’s lives but how we deal with them has a significant effect on our attitude as well as whether or not we are able to overcome them. Remaining optimistic and positive in the face of limitations and obstacles helps us become more resilient.
While remaining positive or optimistic in all situations can be difficult, sometimes it’s about finding one small, good thing in the tough moments that are out of our control. For example, many of us commute to work. There are times that we are in a rush and we get stuck in traffic. Rather than allowing this to anger us and start our day off negatively, we can refocus our energy on music, or an audiobook or podcast to bring harmony back into that moment.
SHIFTING OUR FOCUS FROM BALANCE TO HARMONY
We’ve been conditioned to think that true happiness lies in achieving a balance between our work and our personal lives. But with technology and the shift of work from something that pays our bills to a passion project, balance no longer means what it did 10 years ago. Instead, work-life harmony allows us to think about our lives differently. It becomes less about tipping an imaginary scale and more about the imaginary orchestra you can create.