When people talk about work-life balance, they often focus on scheduling, how to balance the actual time between work and the other important things in life. Statistics suggest the work habits of Americans haven’t changed in years, and these data are also measured by the hours worked each day.
But work-life balance, the concept of prioritizing between “work” (career and ambition) and “lifestyle” (health, pleasure, leisure, family and friends, intellectual and spiritual pursuits), is about more than the hours spent working versus doing other things. After all, can work and life truly be separated? Isn’t your health and happiness an integral part of who you are both at home and at work? Is it possible to never think about family and friends while at work? And outside the office, do you never think of work? Trying to divide the two with a firm line is impossible.
Ideally, we’re essentially the same person wherever we go. And if the aim is to be happy everywhere, tallying the hours spent here or there is a dubious route. That’s not to say that 12-hour days at the office are going to improve relationships outside of work. The goal is to approach everything we do mindfully. If successful, the hours just might take care of themselves.
How is that possible? Two ways:
1. Mindfulness saves time. If we aren’t distracted, allowing our minds to wander from the task at hand, we can focus on what matters in the present (like getting projects finished or having constructive meetings). This heightened focus leads to higher productivity, which can cut a workday’s hours significantly.
2. Focusing on the moment can also lead to more rewarding experiences outside of work. When you’re not in the office, remain mentally present for these interactions and activities. Just as focus can heighten productivity at work, mindfulness will enrich experiences and relationships beyond.
With practice, it’s possible to get to a place where differentiating between work and the rest of life isn’t necessary because focusing on one moment after the next can create a rewarding balance on its own.