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September 20, 2016

What if Work/Life Balance is the Problem?

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I don’t believe in work/life balance.

Yes, I know helping employees balance office and home is all the rage at progressive organizations these days. After generations of demanding workers leave it all on the field, employers now realize that it’s short-sighted to put work first. It’s a laudable sentiment, but please count me out.

I don’t believe in work/life balance because I don't see a difference between them. Looking for a balance between them implies work and the rest of life are in opposition and if I give more to one, then I take away from the other. For me, work and life are not part of a zero-sum game  – they are mutually reinforcing parts of the same game.

Work is Part of Life

Instead, I look for creative flow. The same energy, creativity and dedication I bring to my job is the same that I bring to the rest of my life. Work and play, productive energy and creativity, professional problem solving and personal connection — they all happen all the time.

If you want to see what I mean, think about the last time you had a great idea sitting at your desk at work. Been awhile, hasn’t it?

Now think about the last time you got a good work idea in the shower, or in the gym or sitting on a chairlift while skiing. Those are the places I get my best thinking done.

A great day at work makes for a better time at home, and vice versa. And no amount of quality leisure time can undo the corrosive influence of a terrible day on the job.

Focus on Creative Flow

So instead of work/life balance, conscious leaders think about creative flow. Instead of neatly delineated sectors of the day, these conscious leaders think in terms of rhythms and waves, the peaks and valleys of thought and energy that support our work and the rest of our existence.

These leaders know that it’s not the quantity of work that counts for most skilled workers; it’s the quality of the work. Rather than try to answer every email that crosses their computers as quickly as possible (a prevalent measure of effectiveness today), effective leaders focus on creating time for doing their best thinking. Which creates more value: promptly answered emails or an innovative solution to some long-standing problem?

Some Moves to Increase Creative Flow

A key question conscious leaders ask themselves is: “What practices support me and the people around me to be as energized and creative as possible as often as possible?”

Some common answers:

  • Set aside time for work on my most important projects early in the day and don’t respond to email during that time
  • Get up and move at least once every hour
  • Spend more time working in my zone of genius and less in my zones of incompetence, competence and even excellence
  • Tune into my emotional intelligence (EQ) to notice what emotions I’m having and what they tell me about what I’m up to at the moment
  • Pay attention to what my body is telling me about any decision (do I feel relaxed or tense about the possibilities; where do I feel pain; is my gut churning; do I have a hunch about this; etc.) — aka use my Body Intelligence (BQ) to add information in addition to IQ
  • Start meetings with a moment of appreciation and personal connection
  • Pay attention to when I am most energetic during the day and schedule my work accordingly
  • Keep a notebook by the bed to jot down those midnight inspirations and insights

All of these moves can increase creative energy whatever you’re doing and whenever you’re doing it, slay the work/life split and allow each to reinforce and support the other for a maximally creative life at all times.

So, what can you do to support your maximum creative flow right now?

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