10 Myths About Work-Life Balance and What to Do Instead
The trick is to be completely present wherever you are.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Work-life balance is all the rage these days. Unfortunately, it seems that most of what we have been told is a lie.
Here are 10 myths regarding work-life balance that are stressing you out and setting you up for failure.
1. It's actually about achieving balance.
This is the biggest misconception regarding work-life balance. The hard truth is that balance doesn't exist. It would be great if it did but our lives don't exist in silos.
No matter how hard you try, there will be times when work bleeds into your personal life and vice versa. Just because you clock out for the day doesn't mean that you're 100 percent free from work. You may still have to respond to an email or review your schedule. As an entrepreneur, you're always thinking about work in some capacity.
If balance doesn't exist, then what's the solution? For Meeta Vengapally, founder and CEO of Garnysh, it's integration. The integration is needed because "it's about not separating the compartments of your life, but rather thinking of them in terms of the whole." For example, when you're at your child's soccer game, you can have a quick business call. If you have to run errands for work, ask for a friend who wants to tag along.
Another option is to take the Jeff Bezos approach. "I think work-life harmony is a good framework," Bezos told Thrive Global. "I prefer the word "harmony' to the word "balance' because balance tends to imply a strict tradeoff."
If you're happy outside of work, then you'll be more productive and energized in the workplace. And, if you're fulfilled with your work, then you're more content at home.
Related: The First Step to Achieving Work-Life Balance? Stop Calling It That
2. Life needs to be compartmentalized.
Another myth is that we need to compartmentalize life. For some of us, that means an even 50-50 split where we spend half of our time at work and the other at home. For others, it's dividing our days into 8-8-8 hour blocks. This longstanding mentality is that we should spend eight hours at work, sleep for another eight, and set aside eight hours for leisure and social activities.
The thing is that it's not possible to evenly divide your time like this. There will be days when you put in 10 hours of work. The tradeoff is that there will be others when you only work for a couple of hours.
Instead of forcing yourself to compartmentalize your life, devote the right amount of time on your current priorities. If you're approaching a deadline, then you may need to put in long hours working. You may miss out on quality time with your family and friends at the moment. However, when you meet that deadline and celebrate with a vacation, then that's when you make up that quality time.
3. You can have it all.
Even if you have created a schedule that allows you to exercise, spend time with your inner circle and get all of your work done, you're still making a sacrifice somewhere. If I want to help my business grow, then I will have to travel frequently. Whether it is to check in on my remote team or speaking at a conference, I will be out of town and unable to spend that time with my family.
As Evernote CEO Chris O'Neill told the New York Times, "The truth is that it's not easy balancing work with family. I travel a bunch. I don't get home in time for dinner on a regular basis. Saturday is the thing that's closest to sacrosanct."
Don't fall for the trap that you can have it all or doing everything that you want. Sometimes you have to give certain things up while pursuing your goals and dreams. The sooner you realize this, the faster you'll be able to cut the unnecessary out from your life until you've reached your goal.
4. Time management is the answer.
I'm all for time management. At the same time, it's an outdated concept. Most of the time management techniques we put on a pedestal were created before we were connected 24/7.
I wish I could completely unplug to free me of distractions or unwind. The reality is that as a business owner, I can't go completely off the grid. To counter this, you have to be selective with how you spend your time. That means spending your energy on the right actions at the right time.
5. Technology will give you more free time.
Automation has definitely made life much more comfortable. However, it's not guaranteed to add more hours to your day magically. For example, you can use chatbots to handle necessary customer service inquiries. Artificial intelligence can give you smart suggestions on how to schedule a meeting. But, you still need to interact with customers personally and plan your own productive meeting.
In other words, technology is an assist. But, it's not going to do everything for literally. You still need to put in a little effort.
6. It's what employees care about most.
While employees enjoy flexibility, it's not always at the top of their list. For most of them, they want meaningful work. Additionally, they crave recognition and want to work for an empathetic culture.
Again, balance is essential for your team. But, making sure that your team knows how they fit into the larger picture, acknowledged for their hard work and understanding their needs trumps balance.
Related: What Employees Really Want (No, it's Not About Money)
7. The early bird catches the worm.
I wake up at 5:15 am. A lot of successful people do. The idea is that if you're up bright and early, you have more time to get things done. As a result, you'll have more time to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
But that doesn't work for everyone. Some people are more productive at night. Also, whether you realize it or not, you're adding more work hours to your day. That's not terrible when there's a deadline or a fire to put out. But, that's not good for the long-term cause you're going to burn yourself out.
The key is to work around your productivity peaks. So, if you're more alert and focused around 10 a.m., then it may not be beneficial to set your alarm at 4 a.m.
8. You never have to work during off-hours.
Perhaps the leading argument for work-life balance is that you never have to work during "off-hours." Entrepreneurs don't always have that luxury. Sometimes we do have to be tapped into our business while on vacation or having downtime with the family. And, some of us enjoy what we do so much that work can't be turned off just because we're not at the office.
Having a fulfilled life, then, doesn't mean always sticking to strict boundaries. If you're in the zone and want to work, go ahead. And, when there's nothing you would rather do than play board games with your family, then don't feel guilty about tuning out work during that moment.
9. The less you work, the happier you'll be.
Just because you're able to crank out all of your work in 20 hours doesn't mean that you'll be happy. I know plenty of people you don't put in excessive Elon Musk hours who are miserable. And, some folks don't mind putting in 40 plus hours a week.
In other words, it's not about how many hours you work or do something you love. It's about the quality of how you're spending your time.
Related: 20 Secrets to Living a Happier Life
10. Everything has to be scheduled.
Essential tasks and appointments always go into my calendar. But, that doesn't mean you have to schedule your entire life literally. It's unrealistic and adds more stress to you're already hectic life. And, it's been found that people are happier when leisure activities happen spontaneously.
So while you should use your calendar to keep your life organized, don't overdo it. Leave blank spaces so that you can grab coffee with a friend or sit back and process your day.