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Work-life balance can be a balancing act. I used to think of it as work-life integration. But that can be tiring to always be involved in everything at once. That’s when couples sit on their couch and work separately on their phones. Carlos Hidalgo calls it work-life boundaries instead.
Finding the right boundaries can help us be happier. Who doesn’t want to be happy? I know I do. I assume nobody gets up on Mondays and says they are looking forward to being as unhappy as possible today. I want to be as happy as I can – every day.
There’s only so much time
But as Neil Pasricha reminds us in “The Happiness Equation”, there are 168 hours in a week. CEOs don’t get more hours than frontline staff. Everyone starts and finishes with the same number of hours. Neil reminds us of three buckets – each with up to 56 hours:
- Whatever pays the bills (aka job)
- Other things (gym, playing with the kids, writing a book, blogging, etc.)
Neil counts driving to work and checking email at night in that 56-hour work bucket. I suppose that bucket can be much closer to 40 hours even – depending on your commute and those related tasks. For example, I work in my basement office. In theory, my work bucket can be right around 40 hours since my commute is like 10 seconds.
Of course, sometimes it’s hard to walk away. Carlos in his book talked about setting boundaries. He gets up at the time he wants to finish, turns his computer off and even verbally declares “I’m done.”
Simple math: When one bucket takes more than its share the others get less. For example, somebody who works 80 hours per week, that means they have 24 fewer hours in those other buckets. They either sleep less or spend less time with their family. The extra work time comes from somewhere.
How do you have a fully integrated life?
Figure out what you want to do with your life. No worries – it’s okay to change course later, too, if you want. It is good, however, to have a guiding star and principle.
Read next: We all have agendas
Find the right partners and people to work with. That could mean a forward-thinking, collaborative and flexible company. It also might mean that certain clients are better fits than others.
It likely includes companies that don’t bother you while you’re on vacation or clients that understand that you can’t get a request at 8 p.m. at night for an 8 a.m. meeting.
Working longer is not working smarter
Charles Duhigg in his productivity book says that once you hit 55 hours of working per week productive no longer increases anyway.
On a livestream recording of the Business Storytelling Podcast Carlos Hidalgo joined me to discuss not work life balance but work life boundaries.
He mentioned that boundaries matter and can help us enjoy life more.
You can also use technology to funnel out communications that damage that balance.
One trick for me has been to not allow routine work communications in nonstop. For example, don’t have work email on your cell phone, turn the work computer off when done. I know some people who actually have work devices and then separate personal devices.
Not having work email on my personal phone has been a big one actually. If you can’t go that far, consider turning notifications off.
Not having the right work-life balance can be damaging to our well-being. That’s why it’s important to do a job you are good at and enjoy and at a company with your values and the right culture.
Then find the right boundaries of when work gets done and how communication happens. That doesn’t mean we work less! But we work smarter and more deliberately.