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Work-Life Balance – A Work In Progress

The concept of “Work-Life Balance” emerged in the early 20th century and implied the need for equilibrium between Work – the amount of time we spend doing our jobs – and Life – the amount of time we spend with loved ones or pursuing personal interests. Over time, the concept evolved to “Work-Life Integration,” which acknowledges that our personal and professional responsibilities are inextricably entwined, driven by always-on technology, economic necessity, and the convergence of career aspirations and employer expectations. This notion was underscored by the shift to remote and hybrid work during the pandemic, resulting in a further concept refinement to “Work-Life Navigation.” 

Through experience, I’ve learned that “Work-Life Navigation” is a fluid process that is critical to our long-term health and well-being. Here are the steps I take when I feel the pendulum swinging too hard in either direction:

  1. Pause and reflect. When we’re juggling multiple demands, it’s important to periodically pause and assess: What am I prioritizing … and what am I sacrificing in my work and life? Is this allocation of my time and energy contributing to my stress, causing dissatisfaction, or affecting my job performance, relationships, or personal health?
  2. Clarify and reprioritize. As our priorities shift across different parts of our lives, our time and attention must also shift to ensure we are investing our energy in areas that truly matter. We need to ask ourselves:  Am I devoting my time and attention to what’s most important? Am I being proactive and purposeful in focusing on important issues – or am I getting distracted by minutiae? Can I change my priorities? If I continue along the current path, what will I regret?
  3. Consider options. Think about potential solutions: Should I hire additional or different talent for my team? Can I delegate more?  Can I share more responsibilities at home or outsource tasks? Can family or friends pitch in – on a permanent or interim basis? Do I need to set and maintain firmer boundaries for myself?
  4. Implement changes. Our decisions and actions require holding ourselves accountable and may have implications for others. Achieving the work-life integration we desire may be a challenge – but the outcome will be worth the effort.
  5. Refine and repeat. If we are fortunate, our lives are long – which means that our priorities, circumstances, and responsibilities continue to change. As a result, this process is not a one-and-done, but a perpetual cycle of re-evaluation and navigation that (hopefully!) increases our self-awareness and gives us the tools to create and sustain a full and rewarding professional and personal life.