Do You Really Need Work-Life Balance?

Post written by

John Hittler

Transformational business coach at Evoking Genius, author of The Motivation Trap and One In A Billion: Finding Your Genius Talent

Many people today feel as if they need to cultivate and perfect work-life balance. Is there really such a thing? More importantly, even if there is, do you really need it?

Assuming that you work way too much, and that it negatively impacts your relationships, your health and your hobbies, then yes, reigning in your work schedule seems an appropriate and healthy move.

That said, here's my experience with coaching clients who work too much: They are often inefficient — they do not prioritize well.

When I say "inefficient," I simply mean that their ability to perform their role takes an inordinately long time. Why is that? Are they capable enough? Are they qualified, not qualified or overqualified? How about you? Wherever you sit on this spectrum, you can still fail to accomplish what you need to in an efficient and appropriate amount of time.

Here are some common causes of inefficiency:

Micromanagement: For leaders and managers who micromanage, the message you send to the team is that you need to know everything in order to do your own job (and feel comfortable or confident). Micromanagement adds a lot of hours to any schedule (yours and others') due to two people — the person with the actual functional responsibility and the person watching over them — being required to make progress. You end up out of balance at work because you spend time doing things that others are paid to do.

• Reliance on standing meetings: Some research has shown that employees spend, on average, 62 hours in meetings each month, and half of those hours are considered to be a waste of time. What if meetings were shorter? What if you became super discerning about exactly which meetings require your talent and input, and only then do you attend?

• Pride in working at the same pace as everyone else: To me, it seems odd that many work cultures include an unwritten and unspoken rule that "if you want to advance, you had better arrive before the boss and leave after the boss." If your boss works an absurdly high number of hours each week, then you end up in a difficult predicament: Work even longer hours or limit possible advancement.

There exists a third option, which includes working to change your culture to a meritocracy, where you're revered for the results you create rather than given a badge of honor for staying really late every day.

The Real Question To Ask To Enjoy Both Work And Home

When considering how to pursue a healthy work-life balance, could it be that we are pursuing the wrong thing? Let me explain.

Let's say you wanted to improve your diet. If you could eat only super healthy, low-fat, delicious food every night for dinner, would you feel the need to "balance" that with nights where you eat junk food? My guess is that most of us would naturally run toward healthy and delicious choices every time.

Let's also say you wanted to adopt a learning and growth platform that exposed you to all kinds of new opportunities to expand your skills, interests and hobbies, and that it was fun. Would you require couch potato weekends to watch TV and "balance out" too much learning?

In my experience, assuming that we need or want balance essentially leads us to adopt a corrective strategy for the wrong outcome. What if, instead, you simply engaged in activities that you're passionate about, skilled in, interested in and have the energy for?

If this were the case, what would you pursue more of? Would you do more activities with your family? Would you dive into your work more because work feels like play, or are you dying of boredom and required to spend long days at work?

A client in Seattle holds a simple life philosophy that he employs every day: Have fun at everything I do or enjoy the exit.

When I asked him how that looks when he goes to a boring or contentious Thanksgiving dinner, he didn't flinch: "My one brother and sister-in-law host every fourth year, and it's always horrible. My wife and I always have a plan B ready, and if argumentative relatives start talking about politics, we simply exit and go to the movies."

Life is too short to participate in activities that suck the life out of you. If your work is one of those activities, the responsibility to transform your relationship with work is yours alone. If you work long hours to avoid loneliness, conflict or unhappiness at home, the responsibility rests with you alone to change your home life.

Make Your Simple Declarations

What if you made some very simple declarations about the passion and enjoyment of your work, as well as declarations about the rest of your life? What might your life look like if you absolutely loved your daily work, and you loved the people you work with and work for? Would you need to balance that out or limit it?

How about the rest of your life? If you make simple declarations that redesign aspects you don't like, you may find that you have no need to balance your life with your work because you'll likely enjoy every moment.

You simply have to meet the challenge of loving what you do so you won't have any need for balancing your time spent doing it.

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?
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Many people today feel as if they need to cultivate and perfect work-life balance. Is there really such a thing? More importantly, even if there is, do you really need it?

Assuming that you work way too much, and that it negatively impacts your relationships, your health and your hobbies, then yes, reigning in your work schedule seems an appropriate and healthy move.

That said, here's my experience with coaching clients who work too much: They are often inefficient — they do not prioritize well.

When I say "inefficient," I simply mean that their ability to perform their role takes an inordinately long time. Why is that? Are they capable enough? Are they qualified, not qualified or overqualified? How about you? Wherever you sit on this spectrum, you can still fail to accomplish what you need to in an efficient and appropriate amount of time.

Here are some common causes of inefficiency:

Micromanagement: For leaders and managers who micromanage, the message you send to the team is that you need to know everything in order to do your own job (and feel comfortable or confident). Micromanagement adds a lot of hours to any schedule (yours and others') due to two people — the person with the actual functional responsibility and the person watching over them — being required to make progress. You end up out of balance at work because you spend time doing things that others are paid to do.

• Reliance on standing meetings: Some research has shown that employees spend, on average, 62 hours in meetings each month, and half of those hours are considered to be a waste of time. What if meetings were shorter? What if you became super discerning about exactly which meetings require your talent and input, and only then do you attend?

• Pride in working at the same pace as everyone else: To me, it seems odd that many work cultures include an unwritten and unspoken rule that "if you want to advance, you had better arrive before the boss and leave after the boss." If your boss works an absurdly high number of hours each week, then you end up in a difficult predicament: Work even longer hours or limit possible advancement.

There exists a third option, which includes working to change your culture to a meritocracy, where you're revered for the results you create rather than given a badge of honor for staying really late every day.

The Real Question To Ask To Enjoy Both Work And Home

When considering how to pursue a healthy work-life balance, could it be that we are pursuing the wrong thing? Let me explain.

Let's say you wanted to improve your diet. If you could eat only super healthy, low-fat, delicious food every night for dinner, would you feel the need to "balance" that with nights where you eat junk food? My guess is that most of us would naturally run toward healthy and delicious choices every time.

Let's also say you wanted to adopt a learning and growth platform that exposed you to all kinds of new opportunities to expand your skills, interests and hobbies, and that it was fun. Would you require couch potato weekends to watch TV and "balance out" too much learning?

In my experience, assuming that we need or want balance essentially leads us to adopt a corrective strategy for the wrong outcome. What if, instead, you simply engaged in activities that you're passionate about, skilled in, interested in and have the energy for?

If this were the case, what would you pursue more of? Would you do more activities with your family? Would you dive into your work more because work feels like play, or are you dying of boredom and required to spend long days at work?

A client in Seattle holds a simple life philosophy that he employs every day: Have fun at everything I do or enjoy the exit.

When I asked him how that looks when he goes to a boring or contentious Thanksgiving dinner, he didn't flinch: "My one brother and sister-in-law host every fourth year, and it's always horrible. My wife and I always have a plan B ready, and if argumentative relatives start talking about politics, we simply exit and go to the movies."

Life is too short to participate in activities that suck the life out of you. If your work is one of those activities, the responsibility to transform your relationship with work is yours alone. If you work long hours to avoid loneliness, conflict or unhappiness at home, the responsibility rests with you alone to change your home life.

Make Your Simple Declarations

What if you made some very simple declarations about the passion and enjoyment of your work, as well as declarations about the rest of your life? What might your life look like if you absolutely loved your daily work, and you loved the people you work with and work for? Would you need to balance that out or limit it?

How about the rest of your life? If you make simple declarations that redesign aspects you don't like, you may find that you have no need to balance your life with your work because you'll likely enjoy every moment.

You simply have to meet the challenge of loving what you do so you won't have any need for balancing your time spent doing it.

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?

Transformational business coach at Evoking Genius, father of 7, husband, difference-maker, generous, bold. Author of The Motivation Trap....