The Elusive "Work Life Balance": Is It Really Possible?

work life balance author samantha eklund

Before we can answer if work-life balance is possible, we first have to make sure we’re all operating with the same understanding of balance.

Balance means that when you or I are doing one thing, we’re missing out on another. That's just how balance works.

Simply put, you have to be ok with missing out on something while you’re focusing on another. Having the time of your life playing with and bonding with your kids? Perfect, that is super important. But during that time, you’re missing out on your business, your hobbies, your spouse, your friends, and so on.

Likewise, when you’re working on your business or working at your day job, you’re missing out on your kids.

That’s what balance truly is. It’s not this glorious win-win in every category that we like to think it is.

So is work-life balance truly possible?

Of course it is, but first you have to know these things about it:

Balance Insight #1: While you’re focusing on one thing, you’re missing out on another.

I once heard Shonda Rhimes (the writer of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal; she’s been named as one of TIME magazine's 100 People Who Help Shape the World) eloquently describe this in a speech. She gave an example of how in Hollywood, especially for a major name like hers, there are always places you’re expected to be. The list of galas, parties, and award shows are endless. However, she has kids at home. So sometimes she has to choose between her career and her kids. Sometimes she’s at her children’s play instead of attending that exclusive gala she was invited to. Other times she’s missing out on bath and story time with her babies because she’s on deadline with a script and needs to stay late at the office.

If you choose more time with your kids, you have to take away from either work, spouse, or friends, and likewise with every other category.

Sure, you could lump together spouse and kid time, but are you and the hubby really going to be able to enjoy quality time together with the kids around? Same goes for hanging with your bestie; you can lump them and the kids together but if you’re trying to pay attention to both of them, then chances are good that you’re really not paying attention to either of them.

Balance Insight #2: You have to be the one who defines what that balance means to you.

Is it 6 hours of work a day, 2 hours of playing with the kids, and then 1 hour with the spouse (high-quality alone time, wink wink!)? Or is it 3 hours of work, 2 with the spouse, 3 with the kids, and 1 with friends?

Whatever combo you think will work for you, your family, your responsibilities, and whatever else you have to factor in, run with it! If you try it out for a week and it doesn’t work, simply adjust it.

In summary:

Balance is not a perfect world of unicorns and sprinkles; rather it’s a workable compromise of giving up time with one thing for the sake of another. When you’re trying to achieve balance, keep this in mind. Also be aware that balance is different for everyone. Just because your BFF spends 10 hours a day with her kids and 2 working, that doesn’t mean that’s what your balance has to look like.

Action item:

Whether you’ve ever attempted the elusive work-life balance or not, take a look at your current time usage. Does everything feel balanced, or do you feel like you spend way too much time in one area and not enough in another? What can you do to change that? (There are ALWAYS options, so don’t say there’s nothing that can be done! Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting creative).

Join the convo! ;-)

Did you find balance, or do you have questions about your particular situation? Share it with us in the comments below!