Work/Life Balance… or Blend?

How do you think about your approach to your personal time management?

A couple of years ago I heard something on the Manager Tools podcast that made me sit up and think – that you shouldn’t think about “work/life balance,” but “work/life choice.” Their message was that you have control over how you use your time; that “balance” wasn’t the right end goal, but rather you should choose how you want to prioritize things.

Personally, I’ve chosen to prioritize work for the last few years. Balance went out the window, along with many of my other hobbies. I’ve found that choice hard to live with mentally at times.

However, at PodCamp Toronto this weekend, I encountered another way of thinking about things that really made sense to me. As Rachel Segal tweeted, Leona Hobbs suggested we should be thinking about work/life blending, not balance. While I unfortunately wasn’t in Leona’s presentation, the concept itself spoke to me.

This is so simple, it’s brilliant. Unless, through some extreme effort, you can completely shut-out your personal life from your time at work, the two will overlap. What’s more, the more you are passionate about the work you do, the more that “work” BECOMES “life.”

This fits perfectly for me – I often say that my day doesn’t feel like work, and my activities outside work often closely follow the things I do in the office. So, work and life blend smoothly for me – that’s why I’m happy with the choice I made.

Does this make sense to you? How does this fit with how you see your time?

  • It makes perfect sense, Dave (sometimes the simplest equations are definitely the best). I think the last ten years or so have made distinctions harder to, well, define – there’s much more emphasis on the need for work to just stay alive.

    If you can be fortunate enough to do something you love, it never feels like work; more like being paid for your hobby. Of course, you still need to take a break from your hobby; but at least the choice is there on how the hobby blends into the home.

    Cheers!

  • All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
    All work and no ply m”Kes Jack a dull boy.
    All work and no pllay makes Jack a dull boy.
    All work and no play makes Jacs a dyll boy.

    All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
    All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
    All work and no play makes Jack a dullboy.

  • david (digitaljoy)

    For me personally, I agree with your view. I have chosen to do work I love, work was (is) my hobby, it was (is) my social network. I love to go to work in the morning. However, lets not confuse our, dare I say, “exciting life”, with that of a habitual, 9-5er, who just works so they can pay the bills. This, I am sad to say, is most people. For these people the thought of a blackberry is repulsive. The thought of overtime is repugnant… I’m already out of adjectives, but I think you know where I’m going. For those people work / like balance is essential. I guess we should consider ourselves lucky!! (well I would consider myself lucky if I was going to work in the am… but sadly I just spend my days wait for you to post a blog so I can comment lol)

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  • Dave, this speaks loud and clear to me. A work-oholic by nature, I personally have a difficult time with balance. I LOVE this concept of “blending” and hope to achieve that myself in the very near future. I just have to focus on what I’m passionate about and pursue it.

    After all, as Danny pointed out, when you love what you do, it’s not really work.

  • Guy Skipworth

    It doesn’t have to be “blend” or “balance.” The ideal scenario for me is one in which I enjoy my work and enjoy my time away from work. Where you need to step back and do a reality check is when you feel one is suffering at the expense of the other. Are you not contributing at work because you are off golfing, etc Are you feeling you are missing out on family or friends or personal time because you are always on your mobile device responding or initiating work files.

  • It makes perfect sense: we spend most of our life working, so we better do a thing we like to do. Blending work and “life” is a great way to get the most out of both. Only if they really get together. This means you must really like your job. Or quit it to find the best one for you.

    Good post, David. Keep it up!

  • Hi Dave – thanks for blogging about this. I believe the point I was making with my talk at Podcamp on Sunday (I was operating with a wicked headache at the time, so this is all a bit of a blur…) was that the concept of a blend is a much healthier approach than to think about balance. I think work life balance is a bit of a trap. The key to blending, as you’ve pointed out, is to have an eye on your priorities, your values and what is most important. You’re right about choices and priorities. We all make choices about what is important and where we place our attention.

  • While I think this a great way of looking at your job when it’s something you’re pasionate about, it’s worth remembering that our family doesn’t always share that passion. I know my wife could care less about social media. She just wants me home and spending time with her and my son – off line.

  • The concept of work/life balance is one which sounds simple but in reality I think it heavily depends on the type of ‘work’ you do. As graphic and web designers for example, most of us really love what we do – it is an extension of our favourite hobby which we are generally happy to think about both at work and when we are away from work.

    This ‘blending’ concept rings true in my ears in the sense that I don’t think I ever completely switch off from my creative mind – I’m forever finding inspiration for my ‘work’ in my ‘life’ – this overlapping is not a bad thing in my opinion, but I do think it is important to remember to have time to relax and enjoy family and friends and other hobbies – as Gary says, they don’t always share our passion for design/social media – meaning that sometimes it’s quite refreshing to be ‘offline’.

  • Ashley Showen

    I totally agree. As a student, I find that pretty much every waking hour is devoted to something related to school or to my future career (public relations) but I’ve come to terms with that. A lot of my best friends are journalism majors as well, so we all connect through that and support each other. There is really nothing I would rather be doing besides spending 50+ hours a week doing something related to PR. My work and life are absolutely blended, and for now it is working out rather well. Thanks for the insight.

  • Phil Menger

    Once you have had cancer your realize time management means you can gather all the wealth you want but you can not buy back your health. You learn to prioritize and everything flips upside down in your priorities. Work then becomes subservient and is used to finance what you really value. Even if you enjoy your work you learn to make sure to include other priorities in you life. Work is work but I make time to totally shut down and shut it out.

  • I worked for that 24 hour copy place for about 16 years and the leadership spoke sincerely about a balanced tripod — work, love, play. I still think about it today and believe it is very important. I strive to find that balance — I havent thought of blending until today. Maybe it is symantics… I would also toss in health too to round out the blend.

  • Lisa Gibbens

    I think this is something that changes as we age. When I was younger (not that I’m THAT old!) work meant more to me and I was happy to spend much of my time thinking about it. I changed industries to work in a field I’m passionate about, and some of that work was the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. But after a year I gave it up because it was consuming my life. As much as I enjoy work, I also enjoy volunteering, spending time with my family and having time to myself.

    So for me it’s not about work/life balance or blend. For me it’s life first. Find work you enjoy that lets you live that life.

    I can always find another job. But life rarely gives you a ‘do-over’.

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  • Interesting post Dave. Here’s my take:

    It’s important that we blend work and life. We spend so much time working that it would make sense if we make it our lifestyle and part of who we are. Now, it might be difficult to “be” a hamburger flipper. But hear me out:

    Instead of looking at what we do within narrow confines let’s open it up. so instead of the burger flipper being a burger flipper, he or she now becomes someone who ensures that people go to work fed. You see the difference?

    My two pence.

    kk

  • This is an awesome post. Resonated very well with me.

    Thanks for taking the time to put this together Dave.

    Vinny

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