But you can find your flow.
All our talk and worry about "work-life balance" is such a bunch of baloney.
I don't mean to be depressing, but you will never find "balance" between your work and your personal life. That very idea hinges on an implicit belief that there is some perfect ratio between time spent on work (and work-like activities, like checking your email) and time spent on everything else (like sleeping, or eating your lunch away from your desk, or helping your kids with their homework).
Your work and your personal life do not amount to a zero-sum game, where more of one means you're compromising the other. In fact, the quality of your work and your productivity -- your ability to create something of value and meaning for yourself and for others -- is utterly dependent on the quality of your personal life.
How happy you are profoundly influences how well you do your job. Reams of research shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that what we do outside of work thoroughly influences the energy, motivation, focus, creativity, persistence, insight, and raw intellectual power we bring to a given project or task at work.
The better your personal life is, the higher your potential to do great work.
I can hear the war cries from Silicon Valley and Wall Street now. "But no one in tech or at a start-up or who is brokering a billion dollar deal has a life!!! And THOSE people are rich and successful!!" you protest.
Hah. While those professions are certainly rigged so that the [mostly male] people at the top take home more money, their success is deeply subjective. Are they wealthy in the things that matter to you? Brigid Shulte reminds us to "remember that the wolves of Wall Street bragging about those long hours at the office got us into a global financial crisis, and that 95 percent of startups fail."
Our sense that the most successful and productive people -- "ideal workers" -- put in an insane number of hours is just wrong. But what does the real "ideal worker" ACTUALLY look like?
I've been pondering this question for five or six years now, and I've come to see that the real ideal worker has seven core qualities or skills, listed below. But before I lay them out for you, let's remember: Those of us who cultivate these qualities are more than workers, of course.
We are the joyful people who are working toward fulfilling our potential for creativity, productivity, intelligence, and -- most importantly -- meaning, fulfillment, and connection in our lives. We are the people who actually enjoy the lives that we've worked so hard to create. We also happen to be very good at our jobs.
We can attribute our happiness and success at work to the following seven skills and abilities.
- We are able to do our most important work first. We work hard to decide what our priorities are. We seek to understand what work and relationships bring us meaning and fulfillment, and we schedule our time and our tasks accordingly. We understand the positive impact we are having on the world and other people, and this provides a tremendous source of energy and motivation.
The "real ideal worker" is not a mythical, unattainable ideal. There are successful people all around you who aren't working themselves to the brink of exhaustion and burnout. We aren't perfect, but we're dedicated to seeking the most joy possible out of our lives, including our lives at work. We are the people who know how to find flow. Personally, I'm hoping you will join our tribe. Aren't you ready to reset your vision for what you want for yourself?
Learn more through my latest eCourse, "The Science of Finding Your Flow," (launching this Spring). Pre-order this eCourse now and receive a FREE hardcover copy of my latest book, The Sweet Spot, and $50 off! If you register soon, you'll also have the chance to help me test out the content before the launch. Click here to pre-order The Science of Finding Flow eCourse.
Photo by Michael Coghlan via flickr