The ultimate answer to balancing your work and life

By Scot Herrick | Cube Rules Commentary

Sep 15

Regular reader of Cube Rules will notice that the number of posts here have been few and far between since, oh, about August 15th. I’ve done some work over on Dice.com, but the work here has been a lot less.

It all goes back to what a lot of people like to think of as “work-life balance.” A term I despise. See how it is framed? It is all about work first, then life, and then how you balance the two. As if work is the priority and life is what is left over.

It’s all hogwash. There are few things I hate more than advice on how to balance your work and your life — as if they were two separate things.

This is life over the last month

Life over the last month is that my wife’s favorite and loving Aunt passed away after a very long fight with terminal cancer. I didn’t know her very well — I had only visited her 4-5 times over the last five years because of distance, but found her a wonderful women who had led a full and complete life. One where she loved her husband and children, faced life with humor and realism, and clearly understood her priorities.

Yet out of the mouths of my wife and her Aunt’s family comes the stories of times past; the fun, embarrassing, forgetful, and delightful times of work and play. Stories of devotion and deviousness. She was honored at her funeral for a life well lived. Deservedly so.

Then there was the house we bought. When we moved here, we rented because we didn’t know in what part of town we wanted to settle in and buy. We now knew and bought a house — the closing was on the same day and my wife’s Aunt’s funeral — and moved in. All the chaos that goes with an organized move to a new, and permanent, home.

While we were moving, we find out that my eighty-five year-old mother is in the hospital. And the tests find bad things (which, later, turned out to be benign).

As well, the car needs to go into the shop because all sorts of warning lights come on — all benign, but needed dealing with.

Did I mention the air conditioning here at the house doesn’t work — after three visits by repair people?

Plus we get the opportunity to see our first Packer game at Lambeau Field on the Thursday night opener for the NFL season. All because my niece can come to Wisconsin from Texas and Kate and I could see her and her husband. Not like we could turn that down now, could we? Then take that opportunity and extend our stay in northeastern Wisconsin to spend some time in Door County for a gorgeously long weekend.

Tonight, as I write this, Kate and I rearranged our living room from the move. We moved everything from where we first placed it according to our plan. To all new places. For the first time since we moved in (closing on August 18th…), we finally felt comfortable in our new home. Interestingly, so did our cats.

And without going into 5,000 details about my consulting gig, suffice to say that there have been a couple of pretty big surprises, continuing good work needing to get done and a lot of management needed to keep the project going all with as many ups and downs as my personal life.

This is where work-life balance breaks down

Okay — you take my list of stuff above and tell me how you “balance” work and life. See how well that works? Total failure.

The truth of the matter is that there is no “balance.” There are no two items competing for balance called “work” and “life.”

There is, simply, life.  Everything that happens to you, all of your relationships, what you do for work, play, spiritual needs, recovery and flow is what drives you to do what you do. Sometimes one thing is more important and sometimes something else is more important.

That’s not some cosmic commentary either — the seventy broken down boxes laying on my front porch from our move waiting to go to the recycling center are becoming pretty damn important now because every time I see them I get more and more irritated they are still there.

How would “work-life balance” pundits account for moving boxes?

You know what? There is no “work-life balance.” There is only life. Your life. And the ultimate answer to balancing your work and life is to ask yourself this simple, complex question:

What’s next?

Photo by liber

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.