A New Model for Pursuing That Elusive Work-Life Balance
As a group, we entrepreneurs seem unable to find work-life balance, and research bears that out.
According to a survey of small business owners, 42 percent of respondents stated that they were working more hours per week than they did five years prior to the survey. Of that number, seven-out-of-10 admitted to working both longer days and more weekends, while four-out-of-10 said they took less vacation as well.
As business owners, we work hard to build something that will grow, thrive and endure, but that takes a lot of time, energy, focus, resources and thought. It's easy to think that our work is the main reason we tend to suck at achieving work-life balance -- but it's not. The nebulous ideal of some harmonious existence where every area of life is in perfect equilibrium is a complete fiction.
In reality, the entrepreneurial existence is a constant mercurial swing of extremes. Issues arise all over the place from supply-chain interruptions; lumpy cash flow; employee challenges; grey-area ethical questions regarding business practices; the need to keep family commitments and meet relational expectations; dealing with competitive pressures; getting enough rest and exercise.
The list goes on.
Work-life is much more a dynamic tension than a balance. That tension is akin to the engineering concepts of twisting, pulling and pushing that affect the integrity of every physcial building and structure. Tension is an idea that many entrepreneurs can relate to when considering the demands generated from relationships, work, physical health as well as guiding beliefs.
Tension is not necessarily bad, it's actually proof of an engaged life. However, it's important to note that those four areas (relationships, work, health and beliefs) may never be in perfect balance with each other. The key for every entrepreneur is to realize that we have to spend time, energy and focus on each of those areas without spending too much time on any single area.
For example, if you only focus on work your health might suffer or vice versa. If you commit all your time to physical well being, your economic situation could take a hit. And while focusing on your anchoring beliefs is a critical part of living a purposeful life of success, monasteries are full of individuals who are trying to succeed internally at the expense of all external "distractions" such as relationships.
Each of those areas is important. At any given time, one area might require your attention, another might need financial resources, while another might require your creativity. The needs and situation will dictate the proportional amount of your "time, talent and treasure" that's required.
While it might appear to be little more than semantic gymnastics, the truth is we should be pursuing work-life proportionality rather than work-life balance. The idea of proportions is much more meaningful because it allows for the flexibility of relentless re-prioritization of all the demands we face rather than some esoteric, Jenga-esque balancing exercise.
The dynamic nature of entrepreneurship requires a dynamic approach to engaging the natural tensions that arise at the multiple intersections across life and work. Reframing the concept from work-life balance to work-life proportionality may be an effective first step toward recognizing and embracing those challenges.