Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Achoo! Work life balance is a myth.

I am allergic to conversations on work life balance. Basically, they make me feel uncomfortable and guilty, which make my eyes red and itchy. (And allegra doesn't seem to make the deadlines go away...)

So I was happy to see this article in Fast Company by Craig Chappelow, "Work/Life balance is a myth; here's what you can do about it." There was no real news in the article, but I liked this a lot:
Here’s what I tell [executives]: work-life balance is a myth. That myth compels many of us to view an ideal life as a set of perfectly level scales. On the tray on one side is your personal life. On the other side is your work life. With heroic efforts, you can keep both trays exactly level. If one starts to tip too far, you make some kind of nifty move that balances them again.

In reality, that perfect balance almost never occurs, except for those rare, fleeting moments when the trays pass each other on the way up or down--and we’re too frazzled to appreciate that brief moment of self-actualization anyway.
In professional life (both academically and previously in industry), I tend to find it's feast or famine. There are times when everything is going nuts, and there are times when things are calm, peaceful, and somewhat boring.

In personal life, things are usually calm, peaceful, and somewhat boring with occasional intense, dramatic moments. Some of these dramatic moments are quick and minor (flat tire, broken furnace, lost filling, puking child), some of these moments are lengthy and painful (health decline / death of family members, financial worries, etc).

It is not possible to predict when dramatic moments will occur in real life, and it's only a little bit possible to predict when fires will happen in professional life. So I tend to agree that having work life balance is a bit of a myth.


  1. I have always thought the work-life thing it's more of a seesaw. And you tend to whatever needs tending at the moment.

  2. I guess I just think of "balance" as having time for both, as opposed to regularly working 80 hours a week. Which in some fields/careers/jobs seems to be expected. i.e., if you're in a job that doesn't even let you take time for the types of personal things you describe, then you definitely do not have balance.

  3. I think when most people think of "balance" they imagine a flat line that is exactly halfway between "work" and "life." In reality, it's more like a sine wave, it goes up and down between "work" and "life," but hopefully the "average" is somewhere in between "work" and "life," and with some control the oscillations aren't too big. It's like...a PID control system? And hopefully the gains are set properly?

    Way to be a nerd!