Let’s stop trying to figure out work-life balance and focus instead on life investment

Let’s stop trying to figure out work-life balance and focus instead on life investment

Since becoming a mom, I’ve been kind of (ok, totally) obsessed with one question: “How can I possibly make IT work?”  Yep, I’m talking about the consummate question of how to meet life’s many demands.  How can I work, be a mom, support my aging parents, date my husband once in a while, invest in my new business, exercise, keep a clean(ish) house, and maybe – just maybe – enjoy life.

My humble opinion is there is no such thing as work-life balance in part because it is trying to answer the wrong question of how to divide up time.

The phrase “work-life balance” reinforces that we ought to look at life as a scarce resource that we must somehow divide it up.  And that if we find the right balance, we can hit the right allocation of our energy amongst the different demands.  It’s almost as if it is a zero-sum game.  Life doesn’t work that way.

I find it amusing how no one seems to agree on the topic of work-life balance. 

  1. Some say, work-life balance means you will never do anything very well. So just give up on it all.  How inspiring is that?
  2. Others say you can achieve work-life balance but it requires a PhD in time management. 
  3. Another group says you can achieve work-life balance but you must get up at 5 and work until 11 and then (bam!) you’ve got it baby.

I get that time is finite. 

But I no longer think of life as a scarce resource.  You can dedicate 15 minutes to something that brings you enormous energy, creativity, and connection.  And then spend two hours sitting on Facebook whittling away your time. Time investment does not equal what you get out of life.

I’ve learned (after I don’t know how many tries) that to be in this beautiful thing we call life, we can’t look at it as something to carve away, divide up, and try to cram things into.  Life doesn’t have to drain us.  But asking whether we can achieve work-life balance asks the wrong question.

Instead, I think we can flip the question of its head.  Instead of dividing up the hours in the day, I suggest we focus on how we can invest in life – nourishing what matters to us – so that it gives back. What do I mean?

Imagine life as a garden.  Before we share the bounty of the garden, we’d “invest” into it with water, soil, sunlight, and nutrients.  We would weed the garden to pull things out that don’t belong.  With our investment and care, the garden (or life) gives back energy (often more than we put in) and continues to grow and give. 

We can look at life in much the same way.  How are we investing into our life?  Where are we putting our limited time and energy?    In other words, instead of trying to figure out how to spread yourself across all of life’s demands, start instead with a simple question.   

Where do I want to invest into my life so that it can be nourished?

Right now, if I were to pick 3 things where I am making a life investment, they would be:

  1. Enough sleep and exercise
  2. Fun with my daughter (not just the daily duties of a parent!)
  3. Investing in my coaching business by writing and learning.

When I focus on those life investments, I am making them priorities which means other things get less attention.  But when I dedicate this time, I am more nourished and therefore more energized and able to deal better with life’s daily demands.  In the end, my investment brings back dividends.

How about you?

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