Friday, February 3, 2012

Teeter Without a Totter: Work/Life Balance

Hot on the tail of my last post, Di and I talked a bit about life balance. A part of our motivation to take a family Sabbatical was to "get away from it all". We certainly succeeded. But even when you do succeed in being purposeful with your time on what amounts to an extended holiday, there is something about "work" (in the sense of how you make a living) that is still essential and rewarding like nothing else. So as we now look around for work back home and twiddle our mental thumbs in the meantime, Di suggested the need for a post about the other half of the balance that we're all usually trying to get away from.

As Nigel Marsh says in this TED Talk of his, "I found it quite easy to balance life and work…when I didn't have any work." When you swing the pendulum far away from what we all generally consider to be the necessary evil of work, it comes back to hit you right in the forehead with the realization that you don't need to—nay, can't—do away with it; you need instead to balance it with your spiritual, emotional, social, and family lives. Oooooohhh, so that's what they call it work/life balance.

Piper has recently been complaining about being bored with just playing all the time. She's actually just making a poor case as to why they should be able to watch movies, but I think we grownups are experiencing something similar that probably comes from that amazing childhood skill of creating something to do out of nothing. We adults have a similar, if less adorable, capacity to completely fill our free time with things that make us feel like we are accomplishing something by the mere fact that we are doing something. But as someone once asked me (in an elevator, probably), are you a human being or a human doing?

We found our time on sabbatical, and even still here at home while unemployed, inexplicably occupied. For me, it is not until I apply filters (scheduling tasks, not answering the phone, staying off e-mail, etc.) that all those distractions go away. And then I try to plan and measure all my work by output, not by hours put in. I believe that is the greatest problem we all have with spending too much time at work—by focusing on the work itself and not why we work. No matter how much you love any kind of work, it is rarely fulfilling spend time on it without feeling it is time well spent.

So, now that we have walked quickly enough from one side of the teeter totter to the other to make it bang the other side, we're inching our way back to try to find the sweet spot in the middle.

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