22 Jul Balancing Work and Life
Good drivers perfect spatial awareness to keep them safely on track. We can learn from them to secure work-life balance, and happiness!
How many times have you complained about not having work-life balance?
The funny thing is, you hardly ever hear anyone complain about having too much life and too little work!
I’ve mused on this topic often, usually when I’ve overburdened myself with work, leaving insufficient time to enjoy life. Sound familiar?
I have a few ideas that I hope will be valuable on your own work-life journey.
Driving in the Middle of the Road
How often do you drive in the middle of the road … precisely in the middle? Well, not really the middle of the road, but the center of your allocated lane?
I know you’re a good driver, and your attention never wanders, and you’ve never been distracted by a conversation or a text message. So, your answer to my question is naturally “always”. You always drive in the middle of your assigned lane.
Let’s examine this a little closer.
Truth be told, you hardly ever drive in the middle. You’re almost always on one side, or the other.
If you’re a good driver, you’re continuously and smoothly making minute adjustments, often subliminally, to correct your position. One second, you’re a little too far over to the left, and the next you’re a little too far over to the right. If you’re a bad driver, you make wild lurches and swings from side to side.
I’ve come to see work-life balance in the same way.
You’re seldom truly balanced. Instead, if you’re managing life well, you’re continuously, smoothly and often subliminally making tiny adjustments to ensure that you’re “adequately balanced”.
Learning from Good Drivers (and Bad)
Good drivers are aware of where they are on the road, and use two specific invisible triggers to keep themselves safe.
Good drivers know what is dangerous—the place on either side where it is simply unsafe to drive. On one side, they run the risk of hitting oncoming traffic. On the other side, they run the risk of ending up in a ditch.
More than this, good drivers have two additional lines that they pay attention to—let’s call them the “lines of tolerance”. When they reach one of these two invisible lines, they realize it’s time to take corrective action … before it’s too late, and they find themselves in the danger zone.
Experienced drivers don’t stress about staying in their lane, because they’re unconsciously aware of, and responsive to these invisible guiding lines that keep them far from oncoming traffic and the ditch.
Similarly, you needn’t be stressing about your own work-life balance.
Define the danger zones, and the lines of tolerance, and simply correct before you get into big trouble.
I suggest that you’re very deliberate about describing the lines of intolerance in your life. How many hours do you want to spend with your children, and partner, and hobbies? Is it ok to spend quality time with your small children only in the morning (when they’re fresh and lively), or only in the evening (when they’re sleepy and irritable, and ready for bed)? Or do you want more time? Choose your line, and watch it closely.
The next thing good drivers do is to concentrate on their driving. Once you’ve deliberately set the lines, then periodically ask how you’re doing. Over time, you’ll learn to correct before you get into trouble. Like the good driver, deliberate attention to detail soon becomes second nature. Driving becomes easy, and stress-free!
Count on your fellow-travelers to help you. How often haven’t you had to flash your lights or honk your horn to warn a fellow commuter that their attention is wavering? Or your partner in the front seat next to you gives you a gentle warning to return to your lane. Contract with your loved ones, friends, and colleagues to alert you when you’re beyond your lines of tolerance.
Finally, don’t stress if you feel that you’re out of balance. We’re all out of balance, most of the time. You’re not alone. Like the driver, we’re seldom in the exact middle of the road. Instead, we smoothly glide from one side to the other. Condition yourself to feel pain only when you’re beyond the lines of tolerance.
The Autonomous Future
Driverless cars are coming, like it or not! Somewhat fancifully, I wonder if one day we will have technologies (an app maybe) that help us navigate work-life balance, seamlessly?
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