Work-Life Balance

donkey-in-airThe month of June has been the busiest month of my life, and it has reminded me of a few things about work/life balance that I’d like to share briefly. I’d love to hear your ideas of how to balance work, ministry, family, school, etc as well!

Do you work hard? How do you know? I mean, when I ask that question, do you automatically associate it with your vocation or possibly with school if you are a full-time student? What about other aspects of life? Can you have a good work ethic and only put 40 hours a week into your vocation? Are you any less of a “hard worker” if you work 40 hours as opposed to 80? The answer is, IMO, the same as 90% of all questions…”it depends”.

What I continue to believe more and more strongly is that compartmentalism in life is a bad thing. Treating work, family, ministry, school, etc as entirely different things with different rules and equal demands can put significant, even unreasonable, pressure on a person. Taking each individually, one feels they need to perform at each one almost as if nothing else was going on just to meet expectations of a solid work ethic. Many must work 80hrs a week, spend “quantity” time with the family, and/or study virtually every hour they are not in class to avoid feeling like they are slacking in some area.

Living a balanced life will likely not win you any awards in any single area, but it is the only sane way to run this race.

The secret, IMO, to a balanced work/life is three parts. These have helped me deal with shifting priorities, expectations, and time requirements without feeling like I am slacking in some area.

First, set your expectations at the “life” level and not at the “compartment” level. Do not look at each “compartment” and assess your work ethic in that area as if no other “compartments” existed. Rather, take everything together and set your expectations in each compartment accordingly. When you do this, you may find that it requires a significant work ethic to hit 40hrs a week considering your commitments to family, school, church, friends, etc.

Second, understand that people in each “compartment” will expect you to live as though no other “compartments” exist. Bosses think people who work 80hrs a week are hard workers; teachers look at your study habits to see if you are a hard worker; your family may judge your work ethic based on how much time you spend at home with the wife/kids. Ignore these expectations, become comfortable with your own “life-level” expectations, and accept any natural consequences that may come in any of the individual compartments as a result of trying to live a balanced life.

Third, be careful not to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. Some may work 80hrs a week when you work 40hrs, but that does not mean they have a stronger work ethic. Work may be all they have, where you have three other compartments you are trying to manage. Keep your expectations at the life level and remain content.

Living a balanced life will likely not win you any awards in any single area, but it is the only sane way to run this race. Maybe I’m the only one, but I’d rather finish strong and not win any stages than win a stage or two along the way but fail to finish the race.