Work Life Balance is a load of rubbish. No such thing exists. There is only life and the things you choose to do with it, that may be work, or it may be something else. If you want to know what your true priorities are, measure what you spend your time doing.
In a world where smartphones and laptops have become extensions of our limbs, and office meetings invade our dreams like unexpected party crashers, the concept of Work Life Balance has taken on an air of whimsical fantasy. Like unicorns or politicians who always keep their promises, it’s something that everyone talks about but no one has seen in the wild.
According to the Fast and Furious movie franchise, family is the most important thing, but if you do the numbers — I bet it isn’t. On average the top three activities each day are sleeping, working and eating (Figure 1). Those are your real priorities.
Some may argue that they have family time during meals, but let’s drill into that. Meals probably means dinner and the majority of families have their TV on during meals. Even if you aren’t distracted and do spend quality time, if dinner takes 20 minutes, that is 0.01% of your day!
The Work Life Balance debate suggests there is a magical state that we can achieve where we spend half our time doing something we are passionate about and half our time earning a living. The only way the numbers work for this are if you are passionate about your work or you are independently wealthy and don’t need to work. Despite what Steve Jobs suggest, not everyone can be passionate about their career. Worse, those folks that aren’t crazy about what they do feel diminished because there is this expectation that we should all be living the dream. If you have read Steve Jobs biography then it would be tough to argue that he led a balanced life. His family life was a mess.
Sure, you can squeeze in a yoga class, a family dinner, and a Netflix binge — but be prepared to bend the laws of physics and chronology while you’re at it. Perhaps you could trade your sleep for an extra hour of “me time,” but then again, the last time humans dabbled with sleep deprivation, they invented reality TV. Need I say more?