Stop Trying to Find Balance
Work-life balance has been a huge buzz phrase over the past few years. Everyone seeking to gain that perfect balance between work, gym and social life. Working up to the last minute and getting out just in time for your CrossFit class. Sometimes adding in a yoga class and now with training volume akin to professional athletes, while showing that you're also a high performer in the business world. You also have time to switch off in the evening and relax with the latest Netflix documentary. But wait. A project pops up in work. It's a short deadline. This means long hours and something's got to take a hit. But you've got the perfect work/life balance and you can't give it up.
Forget about balance in that way that you know it. Balance isn't necessarily balancing every day as it were the perfect day. Change your mindset more towards counter-balance, a term that a friend of mine (DOD) introduced to me. I think I have pretty good work-life counter-balance. It doesn't mean I get everything done that I want to get done but on average it's pretty good. So, here's my philosophy on that.
I mix the counter-balance philosophy with the theory proposed in the book Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg & Steve Magness. The authors use the equation, Stress + Rest = Growth. The equation holds true for all aspects of life and can be utilised for better performance in sport and business. Its about counter-balancing Stress and Rest.
Stress + Rest = Growth
How This Applies in Sport
Simplistic Micro View - Athletes may train 6 days per weeks, sometimes twice per day, this is the stress. A rest day then allows for adaptation and growth.
The Macro View - They may have 4-6 weeks where training is increasing or consistent in load and follow this with a de-load week (rest). This allows for adaptation to training and in return growth.
What happens if athletes just continue to train hard every day, no easy days, no rest days or train hard week on week without de-load?
Constant stress -> Burnout
Application to the Business World.
Continually working hard, day in day out. Looking at emails at weekends, looking at them last thing at night and first thing in the morning. Sometimes there is no optimal 'work life balance' and there will be periods when increased workloads are necessary but this should be managed with rest.
What is rest - Rest may be a 1 hour gym session. It might be going for dinner with family / other half or something as simple as reading and relaxing in a cafe. This can be the micro view of rest (how we apply it daily/weekly).
Macro rest - Looking at the macro view (yearly) we can apply rest through taking the holidays we are given. Actually booking holidays and taking down time, whether the holiday is at home or abroad we need these days to help prevent burnout and allow for continual growth.
What about Counter-Balance?
Counter Balance is about zooming out. If you continually aim for this perfect balance of work, fitness & social life you are likely putting yourself under constant stress. Trying to have a balanced day is futile in the long term, as priorities change and demand your time. But having a balanced month or year is much easier to manage. It means unbalanced days and weeks, where the scale will lean one way more than the other. If we aim for counter-balance it allows us to optimally allocate our time and energy to what needs it most a that time. Let's use the example of an important project in work, last one month and requiring a lot of time.
During this time you will give more effort to work. Increased intensity and time. Therefore increased stress. You will continue to workout but the intensity and the time may be less. You can still socialise but again, it's secondary/tertiary now. The smart thing to do would be to counterbalance this intense period with a period of rest. This might be a weeks holiday or a few days off. Tipping the scale in the other direction. Having that rest period. This gives us long term growth as opposed to burnout.
An analogy a friend likes to use, is that it's a bit like trying to balance a scale. You don’t put weights on both sides at the same time - you load up one side and then balance the other. For this reason you should look at the macro level, a volume and intensity of training/working per month, not per day, and work backwards from there.
If we aim for counter-balance it allows us to optimally allocate our time and energy to what needs it most a that time. Taking this approach will allow you to give the right effort to the important factors at the right time. It doesn't mean that you completely drop one for the other. It simply helps you to manage your effort. To tip the scales one direction or the other.