People seem rather fixated on the notion of work-life balance, yet it really is an old-school concept. Before the arrival of technology, our work lives and home lives were separated. We counted the time we spent in both, attempting to achieve balance much like you would on a set of scales. The problem is that model is difficult to manage and maintain. It makes us constantly feel stressed as we chase an elusive balance that few, if any of us, can actually attain.
Adding to the problem of this balance ideal is that our work and home lives are not tidily compartmentalized. As technology permeates every moment of our day, we have less delineation between our personal and professional lives. Technology brings home to work and work to home. It tags along to the beach, the mall, our commute, our bedrooms—even our holidays. This means our public and private identities are blurring.
Perhaps a better model is to seek work-life blending. Instead of weighing up the proportion spent in each “zone” and hoping to have them in equal measure, we should look to mix the right ingredients. Think of it as a cocktail rather than scales. Rather than attempting to balance the two sides of the scale, we should look to find a blend that we love the taste of.
Besides, the work-life balance model assumes we seek separation, and today we don’t want the ingredients of life separated, nor do we want to turn off the world. We want to be connected and plugged in most of the time. It is an important part of life today, so vital that a Cisco study of college students and young professionals found that 95 percent of them saw Internet access as an essential, ranking it equally as important as food, clothing and shelter.
By rethinking balance and seeking to blend, not only will we feel less guilty about them mixing together, but we will find ourselves more realistically able to have both working for us.
So how do you create your perfect work-life blend?
1. Work out your key ingredients.
Knowing exactly what you want to put into your mix is the first step toward achieving work-life blend. Just like a cocktail shaker, the vessel eventually reaches capacity, so prioritizing what goes in is the trick.
2. Don’t buy other people’s rules.
Work-life blending is about discovering your perfect mix, not someone else’s. Unlike work-life balance where the ideal is to evenly distribute the weight, with work-life blending, there is no “perfect” to strive for—but rather one that you like and that works for you. Ignore other people’s judgments and focus on what makes you feel healthy and happy. If working on your career and keeping in touch with your friends via Snapchat makes you feel successful and connected, then aim for that. If spending more time with family and friends is your thing, then manage your work well so you can afford to take off time to spend with them.
3. Stop focusing on time and focus on achievement instead.
Time is the traditional measure in which the balance model works. We take hours spent and weigh them. When looking for work-life balance, time is not a good thing by which to judge. Have I achieved in all areas that matter to me? is a better way to judge success or failure or what needs remixing. Are my friendships healthy and my work life humming? Have I seen the things I wanted to see? Am I happy, from partners, to bucket list destinations, to a rise in how much money I am making? These are the kinds of questions work-life blending requires you to ask yourself.
4. Do the things you do well.
If you want work-life blending to be successful, it requires doing your things well. Workplaces are embracing the blend because they realize it’s a “must do” to attract and retain great people in the future. Give people the flexibility to do what they need to do. On the flip side, this requires more self-judgment, as you need to monitor the mix and determine that it is working not just for you but also for the people counting on you.
5. Change the blend.
The great thing about seeking work-life blending is that the blend does not have to be the same and it can change depending on what you feel like at any point in time. This means shifting your mindset from the balance you achieved today or this week between work and home and seeing a bigger picture. It is ultimately about asking whether, at a macro level, the blend is working for you. And this is the beauty of work-life blending.