Forget Work-Life Balance; Strive for Work-Life Integration

Do you see “work” and “life” as an either/or?

My vision isn’t work-life balance; it’s work-life integration. Sometimes I work on weekends. Sometimes I do personal stuff during the “work day.” The ideal is to transition easily between activities that bring you joy and fulfillment, regardless of where they’re located or whether you’re getting paid.

What planet do I live on, you ask?  My planet – my work-life integrated planet – and the weather’s fine.

I know, I know … I’m lucky. I’m self-employed, and I enjoy my work as much as I enjoy my non-work time.  They each satisfy different values – and they’re equally important.  My work satisfies my sense of purpose, my need to contribute, and my desire to connect with like-minded, like-hearted people.  (And yes, it satisfies my need to earn bucks — but if that were the only motivation, I’d be miserable working.)

My non-work time, of course, satisfies my need for freedom and spontaneity – my need not to be beholden to deadlines – as well as, of course, pure fun, relaxation, and connection with the people I love most.

Too many of us see work as solely a means to an end.  Something we have to tough out to get to the reward (money, weekends, vacation, retirement).  How sad – to expend half of our waking hours on activities that don’t matter.

If you’re currently toughing it out, then yes, your short-term task isn’t work-life integration; it’s work-life balance.

But your long-term task is to brainstorm what’s possible for you to interject more “life” into your “work” by going after – in your current job and/or the next one – what you enjoy doing, what fulfills you. Because work-life balance is a poor substitute.

You’ll find advice everywhere on achieving work-life balance.  Here are five ideas for work-life integration:

  1. Take an inventory of the things you like to do best at work.  Reflect on what you can do to increase your involvement in similar activities – and then have a conversation with your boss.
  2. Inquire into flexible scheduling. Maybe you can work part-time from home. Maybe you can come in late when you need to, or get off early, and make up the time another day.
  3. Take five minutes alone to imagine yourself on your death bed.  What did you not get to do that was important? Who did you not get to be?  Now – what are you going to do about?
  4. Take an inventory of your skills, your passions, and the working conditions that make you happy.  Talk with friends about what you might do in the future at the intersection of those three domains. Then create a plan.  Then be a project manager for your own plan.
  5. Finally, regard what you’re doing now as a choice you’re making, instead of a situation you’re the victim of.  Remind yourself why you’ve made that choice.  If those reasons are no longer primary, what new choices are you willing to make so that life and work are not mutually exclusive?

Hear more from Steve on his podcast, The Boss Show.

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About Guest blogger Steve Motenko

Steve Motenko, PCC, is co-creator and co-host of The Boss Show, a podcast offering workplace wisdom with heart and humor. A Harvard-educated leadership trainer and certified personal/executive coach, Steve is co-author of Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face: A Guide to Building Your Leadership Platform. Steve has facilitated management training experiences at Boeing, Microsoft, and in government agencies, nonprofits, community organizations, and educational institutions across the country. Through his work with the nonprofit Center for Ethical Leadership, Steve has introduced a values/integrity approach to building ethical cultures in organizations of all types. Steve was an award-winning journalist in his first career, an award-winning music teacher in his second, and a performing musician (award-free) throughout.
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4 Responses to Forget Work-Life Balance; Strive for Work-Life Integration

  1. Pingback: Forget Work-Life Balance; Strive for Work-Life Integration | kwalitisme

  2. Love this piece, Steve. You’re right—career-driven men and women shouldn’t strive for work/life balance but work/life alignment (or integration, as you call it). Balance implies equal efforts in all aspects of life, and this rarely, if ever, happens. Alignment on the other hand is something we can all achieve by adjusting our schedules, embracing new work and life management skills and finding the right mix that works for us as individuals. By understanding what drives you, your work style and your boundaries, and then seeking a workplace situation that works for you, your employer and your family, you are one step closer to aligning work and life. It might seem like a daunting proposition, but it’s worth taking the steps toward that end result.- Allison O’Kelly, founder/CEO Mom Corps

  3. Pingback: Personal Transformation Is An Inside Out Process | Midlife Rebel

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