When I moved to Vancouver 5 years ago, it was for an intense 12-month Fashion Marketing program. As a woman in her mid-thirties, I thought I knew it all about work-life balance. It turns out I was wrong.
During this time, I was working full-time, wrestling with 40 hours of homework/week, competing for unpaid internships, dragging myself to the gym and struggling to find a moment of peace with my husband.
Something had to give.
After graduation, I naively assumed finding the balance I’d been striving for would be easy. That’s when I had my light bulb moment.
All this time I’d been trying to unsuccessfully balance individual parts of my life when instead I needed to integrate them.
The rise of work-life integration
If you visualize work/life balance what do you see? I picture a scale that’s perfectly balanced (good) or swinging wildly out of control (bad).
The thing is life is unpredictable and messy; it’s also unique to each of us.
It’s impossible to compartmentalize our lives into separate segments to sit neatly on either side of the scale. The reality is, you need to figure out what balance looks like in your life and be open to the ebbs and flows that will occur throughout your life.
One core issue with work/life balance is right there in the language. The demand that we keep the two separate, and the implication that if we don’t, one is infringing on the other.
Embracing life as a giant puzzle that encompasses everything that happens within it (e.g., work, friends, fitness), it’s time to integrate all our parts, not to balance them.
The secret: you can’t have it all
The harsh reality is everything you do has a cost and a consequence. If you continue to live under the impression that you can indeed have it all it’s only a matter of time before cracks begin to form.
As an entrepreneur you might be working a part-time job to bring in extra money, taking online business courses, putting out fires at your new shop and trying to make your kid’s game – all on a typical Monday.
You’ll need the drive and determination to keep hours outside of a standard work day. To do that you miss out on sleep, skip the gym and maybe even flake on a few family get-togethers.
Why? Because grinding it out now determines when your vision become a reality – so the fact that your life isn’t balanced doesn’t mean it’s unhealthy. Sometimes you need to give something up to go all in on your passions.
After years of striving for the perfect work-life balance that doesn’t exist, where do you go next?
Here are the 4 steps I used to master work-life integration:
1. Ignite your passion
Are you beginning your day excited about the adventure ahead, or is it taking every last ounce of strength to drag yourself out of bed?
According to the Huffington Post, the average person will spend 13 years of their life at work compared to just 3 years on holiday…let that sink in for a moment.
If your reaction is stomach dropping fear, it might be time to start exploring new opportunities, or at the very least begin working on your mindset.
If you can learn to love (OK, OK like) your primary source of income it gives you the freedom to invest in passion outside of work – in your life.
2. Be conscious of your actions
During a typical workday, my phone lights up anywhere between five and ten times an hour. It can be an email alert or texts from friends, and as a writer, any distraction is enough to pull me out of flow and down the rabbit hole where I lose my way.
To successfully integrate work into my life I’ve been forced to create systems and automation to set clear expectations.
For me, putting my phone on airplane mode during certain hours each day lets me work without distraction. When I’m out of the office, I’ve created autoresponders, so my clients aren’t left hanging but instead given clear direction.
As an entrepreneur with a new or established business, automation and well-oiled systems are essential to work-life integration.
3. Discover a schedule that works best for you
Gone are the days when the traditional Monday through Friday, 9-5 was the norm. Most of you don’t have an average workday, and you’re not clocking out and transitioning to life at the end of a shift.
Discovering a schedule that works for you may take some planning, it’s about making adjustments and juggling all the balls that make you feel fulfilled and healthy:
If to be your best you need 8 hours sleep, an exercise class, a weekly meetup with friends and a few hours to work on your sketching – find the time and get it in your calendar. You may be getting up well before sunrise for your run or only booking clients until 4 pm to grab dinner with friends; you’ll uncover what works best for you.
Give yourself flexibility, find out your optimal schedule and be on the look-out for maximum productivity.
4. Rewrite the rules
If you’re struggling to design your ideal life by following the beaten path, it’s time to veer off course.
Focus on one social media platform for your business instead of three or switch to online appointment scheduling software rather than relying on a tattered old book. Just because tasks have always been done a certain way doesn’t mean they’re the right fit for you.
Take your first step toward revamping the rules. Have the guidelines fit your life instead of bending your life to conform; you’ll be breathing easier in no time.
Are you ready to try work-life integration?
Work-life balance is a concept that’s going to die a long slow death; the message has been drilled into us by industry experts, wellness gurus, and productivity masters.
The above work-life integration methods that have worked for me may not work for you, but that’s the remarkable thing about the online conversation. Together we’re finding ways to work and live better successfully.
Now it’s your turn
Tell us your methods for work-life integration in the comments 👇. We want to hear from you.