Archive for the ‘Balance’ tag
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Work-Life Balance, Boredom, & Creativity
In Work-Life Balance Is Dead, author Ron Friedman says that “providing employees with more control over their schedule—to the extent that flexibility is possible—motivates them to work harder, produce higher-quality work, and develop greater loyalty for their company.” Anecdotally, this feels right to me.
Finding ways to cope with boredom may help make you more creative according to a recent study. In this study, participants who had been asked to complete a boring writing task were more creative afterwards than a control group who had done more interesting work. In other words, being bored may prime your brain for creative work.
Ed. note: The real title of this post should be “Give up on Work/Life Balance Now Provided You Actually Care About Succeeding With Your Work and Having Fun In Your Life” but that felt too long and silly.
You hear it everyday. People want more balance in their lives. They’re tired of having to work long, hard hours without recognition or reward. They end each and every day exhausted beyond belief and dream of spending their days diving the Great Barrier Reef. They want more ‘balance’ (which usually equates to more television – sorry, can’t help the snark!) yet when you push them on what ‘balance’ means to them, they really mean “I want to work less”. They probably don’t talk about wanting to work more while sitting on a beach in Tahiti counting the waves.
In today’s world, the work/life balance of the 1950s desk jockey is a pipedream. Sorry, it doesn’t exist anymore no matter how hard you wish for it. Pulling in your driveway every night at 5pm after a day of slow work for a supper prepared for you isn’t going to happen for most people. The business world is more competitive than ever, we’re connected to the office via “direct neural interface”, and change is happening on a daily or hourly basis. The pace has quickened to a dizzying point and we’re expected to keep up or get off the train. And getting off the train means greater sacrifices than most people are willing to make.
How many emails do you receive away from the office? How many tweets, texts, news items, calls, or meetings are you dealing with outside of normal work hours? You know, during that time that you should be ‘living’ and not working. Probably lots – and it’s just going to get worse, my friend. Of course we won’t count the life stuff you do while at work, right? ;) People tend to conveniently forget that!
Regardless of what we do or who we work for, we should just stop talking about balance entirely. Ultimately contentment isn’t about balance. It’s about feeling important again. And it’s ultimately about having control and perspective over everything in your life and work.
Finding balance is top of mind for so many people. As a topic of interest, it’s increasing in popularity on the web and in books and magazines year over year. It’s no wonder that in a 2007 survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), 48% of Americans surveyed feel their lives have become more stressful in the past five years. When you add up all of the inboxes you’re struggling to manage each day just to feel productive, and then add the expectation that you feel you need to react immediately, it’s no surprise. People have a lot of plates spinning simultaneously. More than one third of the people surveyed in this study feel that work encroaching on personal time was the reason for their increased stress. So naturally, finding balance is a life-essential skill for 2009 and beyond. Heck, even the contributors at Wikipedia agree, “As the separation between work and home life has diminished, this concept has become more relevant than ever before.”
But what does balance really mean – and couldn’t it mean different things to different people? When people talk about balance, they’re frequently referring to work/life balance. A quick search on “work life balance” yields a number of results seemingly indicating that work/life balance means working a 9-5 job and then “shutting off”, compartmentalizing your work and home life. When you’re at work, you aren’t thinking about your home life – and when you’re at home, you definitely aren’t “worrying” about work. There are steps you can take to protect your personal time such as refusing to answer email off-hours, setting expectations up-front with your employer that you’re offline as soon as you walk out the door, planning recreational activities and sticking to a schedule, and so on.
Naturally I’m a big believer in embracing the present moment. But what if pure compartmentalization can lead to mediocrity? What if in the struggle for daily balance, you’re missing out on long-term accomplishment and complete contentment? If every single day contained a healthy balance over the course of a lifetime, would you meet or exceed the goals you set out for yourself? Would that make you happier or more content, or would it leave you feeling empty?