Over the last four decades, there has been an evolution in professional and family roles that have led to concerns about work-life balance. Is the concept of balance realistic? Are there other ways to look at it? Is it really more about meeting the changing demands of life by applying the Yoga principle of Right Effort to achieve well-being?
I started my professional life at age 25 with a family of two kids in 1984. At that time, the company I worked for sent me to a “Time Management” course within the first month I was hired. My Day-Timer ® was a cutting edge tool to track my commitments and deliverables. I was introduced to the concepts of ToDo Lists, Bring Forward items, Contacts and Appointments.
I discovered the Steven Covey book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” when it was published in 1989. It presented using values to guide the roles in your life. My roles as worker, father, husband, and volunteer were all diligently mapped out.
By the 1990’s with 3 kids, my wife and I were super busy. We were in full-fledged Mom-and-Dad Taxi taking the kids to activities. I was traveling a lot in the job and it was difficult to schedule everything in. I would take the overnight flight from California to Toronto so that I could make my son’s basketball game on Saturday morning.
The concerns about Work-Life Balance really started to take off in that time period. Employers started being more sympathetic to flex time. Maternity leave increased and paternity leave was introduced in recognition of giving more time for a young family. The promise of technology as an enabler to telework was announced. Of course, now smartphones are considered an intrusion on work-life balance.
Today, the concept of Work-Life Balance has become a method of prioritizing your activities between work and the rest-of-our-lives. The idea of Balance has been debunked as it implies equal or steady-state. Harmony is sometimes used – recognizing that there is flux and that it can fluctuate.
I’ve come to see Work-Life Balance in more the light of the Yoga concept of Right Effort and use a project management framework. I see the big activities in my life as a series of time-limited endeavors with desirable end-results. Each activity needs the right amount of effort (time and resources) from me to accomplish my goal. I can map out all the projects in my life to see if I can accomplish all of them as scoped out – or do I need to modify things accomplish them. Or do I need to drop some activities because I’ve re-prioritized the importance of them based on my values.
For example, at the end of February, our landlord informed us that we had 60 days to vacate the property. We were shocked that after 12 years he wanted us out so quickly. My Sweetheart and I took some time to examine everything we had going on and decided on a modified project plan.
We needed to re-think our approach. Our first decision was to buy a house instead of continuing to rent. This meant getting financing and finding a house – which we did in 7 days.
We decided to continue on some commitments. We still went on our Las Vegas vacation even though our house closing was while we were there. We continued with our involvement in three theatre productions.
We did need to drop some activities. For example, I dedicated myself to packing. So I took two weeks off work while blog writing and regular exercise stopped.
Prioritizing and flexibility was key. We ensured that the sewing room was least impacted. Sweetheart was at her sewing machine while the movers carted the household belongings. The next day we moved her studio and she was up and running by the following day.
In the end, using a project management approach allowed us to “balance” the changing demands of all activities so that you can meet the goals we set for ourselves.
Let’s face it. Uncontrollable events happen in our lives that cause us imbalance in our planned steady-state lives. Unplanned events can be a source of stress if we are unable to adapt and re-work our activities. By applying the Yoga principle of Right Effort, the right concentration and application of will at the right time, and using the techniques of project management, we can achieve a better sense of well-being.