Forget Work-Life Balance, Try Work-Life Integration

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We’ve all heard the term, “work-life balance” which encompasses the idea that we can separate our working and non-working lives and achieve a harmonious balance between them. Work stays at the office and your home life doesn't interfere with the 9 to 5. A healthy balance of time should be maintained between work and life.

All neat and tidy.

Humans have lovely ideas about how life should look, but is it really possible to achieve?

How many people do you know that have perfected their work-life balance?

Rather than spend another minute striving for something that isn’t real, why not work towards something that is more realistic and attainable?

Try work-life integration.

Why do you try to separate work and life?

From a young age, we have been raised to separate our work-life and home-life, but it’s not working well for most of us. We spend more time than ever at our jobs and we are stressed-out.

At best, we can hope for a 50/50 split of time, but in reality, you are probably landing closer to 60/40 or 70/30, with work taking the lion-share. By the time you factor in sleep, eating, exercise, taking care of your family, there isn’t much “life” left.

That’s why work-life integration is a much more attainable way to live your life.

It focuses on bringing your life and work closer together, instead of trying to separate them with an imaginary line. Work to get the job done, not to clock a certain number of hours and be careful not to allow work to take over, or let your busy home life impact your performance at work.

As long as you have a clear set of goals which you can be measured against then what's the problem?

Stop hating your job.

If you didn’t hate your job so much, you wouldn’t need to close the door behind you on Friday evening and forget about it until Monday morning.

If you're not happy in your job then something needs to change.

According to Margie Warrell you have 3 options:

  1. Change what you do - either a new role or a new career.
  2. Change how you do it - adopt a new mindset and cultivate new habits.
  3. Change nothing, and be complicit in your own misery  (not recommended).
Change what you do or how you do it

Image by American Express

If this doesn't help you then speak with your manager about your concerns, maybe there is something they can do to help.

When did it become the norm to hate our jobs? That puts tremendous pressure on our home lives to be great, as we try to make up for our unhappiness at work.

Very often this causes more stress than the job itself as we expect everything to be perfect at home after a bad day in the office. Instead, it's time to care for the kids, make dinner and try to find a few minutes for yourself before bed.

This is not a healthy way to be living... it’s time for a change.

Look for opportunities at work

Work-life integration requires that you stop focusing on one aspect of your life to make you happy and start focusing on finding happiness in all aspects of your life.

It’s not always possible, all the time, and it doesn’t have to be.

The point of this thinking is to constantly look for opportunities to make yourself happy, rather than putting all the expectation on work or home life to improve your wellbeing.

We say things such as, “I can’t wait to get out of here so I can go home and live my life,” but in reality, we spend more time at work than anywhere else.

Our jobs provide us with so much opportunity for social interaction, fun and happiness - embrace this.

Live in the moment

A Harvard study found that people spend nearly half their time (46.7%) thinking about things other than what they are doing, and concluded that mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy. 

If we count down the clock waiting for "life" to begin we are more likely to start daydreaming.

Conversely, when we live in the moment and focus on those around us, we are engaged and happy - and our work will not feel like "work".

The lines blur.

The word "balance" is wrong because not everyone needs a balanced life, integration is far more important.

Achieve integration

Integration is about fitting the pieces of your life together in a way that is productive to you, rather than trying to fit the mould of what others have deemed a balanced life.

Give yourself some space to think about how you want your life to look. Don't focus on the things which aren't working for you, focus on those that are working and build on them.

Your brain will give you all the inspiration you need to create an integrated life - if you listen.