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Work-Life Balance Is a Lie — Here’s How to Really Stress Less

Nathan Brooks
6 min read
Work-Life Balance Is a Lie — Here’s How to Really Stress Less

For a lot of driven people with successful businesses, work-life balance is nonexistent. It’s not because they don’t have the desire to spend time with their family, operate a killer business, and do things that personally fire them up. It’s because “balance” doesn’t exist in the way most people think about it. It’s not just about vacation time and PTO, flexible work schedules, and telecommuting—it’s so much more.

Take a moment and imagine yourself doing something you love to do. Does it involve your mind wandering to something else other than that one thing? Most likely not.

In personal development books, authors talk all the time about how the day before vacation you are so much more productive because you know you’re leaving the next day. Why is that? Because it’s not a balanced effort. It’s a full-out sprint toward the objective.

Each of these three areas—family, personal, and business—are interconnected. They live and breathe through each other, but they are not the same. They do different things for your life, for your desires, and for the ultimate outcome of achievement.

Hearing the term “work-life balance” can make you feel like you’re failing at everything if the aspects of your life don’t get an equal amount of attention all the time. We will all fail at some things at least sometimes. That’s why work-life balance is not only a false pretense, it can be dangerous. While it is important to have some flexibility and acknowledge when that focus needs to switch gears, it needs to be all or nothing to truly be effective. Rather than trying to focus on all things at once, you need to learn to keep all of your focus on one thing at a time.

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What is work-life balance?

The way we think of work-life balance now is completely misleading. It’s not about making time for our wellbeing while everything else is on our minds. It should be about taking time for each thing and committing to it completely for that time frame—and making that philosophy your lifestyle.

Think about it. It’s not the best idea to think about all the work you have to do while you’re cooking dinner; if you get too distracted, you could burn the food. Are you going to watch your favorite shows while you play with your kids? That’s not a good idea unless you want them to be mad at you. Just like with texting and driving, different aspects of your life require your full attention to get the best out of you. Doing too much of one thing can lead to all kinds of problems in every aspect of your life.

Work life

If you’re someone with an especially demanding career, work-life balance can be especially tiring. Focusing so much during your workday could easily mean you want to run home as soon as possible.

You don’t want to be stressed out all day just to mentally bring your work home with you. This is the fastest track to burnout and can take a huge toll on your overall mental health. How can you have job satisfaction when your work environment bleeds into your home? That’s another reason why it’s important to have a personal life where you can completely turn work off.

Besides, giving 100% of your focus to work during work hours can improve your performance. This could lead to raises or other perks that can have a positive impact on other aspects of your life. But it also goes the other way around. When you’re not in the workplace, it’s best not to think about the stresses of the job. Your career isn’t going anywhere and putting real effort into having a healthy work-life balance is best for not only yourself but everyone around you.

On the job, you want someone with a specific job to be supremely focused, clear on the objective, dialed in, and executing the activity.  This goes for leadership especially. You can’t balance doing a bunch of different stuff in your business at the same time.

Now, there are different personality types who can do different things pretty well. But this is not an excuse to let your mind wander all over the place. Having your focus in too many places at once could mean that it takes you longer to get things done or that nothing gets done at all. Or, if you do get things finished, the results are less than satisfactory.

If you’re trying to unwind with family or work on hobbies, how are you supposed to relax with work still on your mind? The stress won’t go away if it’s just pushed to the back of your mind until you’re back at work.

Family life

We all have our own lives, and it’s important to protect that space. Our family lives can be both relaxing and stressful. Things like buying homes, keeping up with homework, and making sure kids are safe and things are generally taken care of can also take a toll on our mental health and stress levels.

When all of these things are going on, losing your focus could be dangerous. Being too occupied with your working life to truly pay attention to what your kids are doing could lead to someone getting hurt. Besides, kids can tell when you aren’t really there with them. When kids play, they usually want all your attention. They want to feel valued and that other things aren’t more important than they are. The same thing can be said about a spouse or other family members.

Part of showing others you care is being in the moment with them. Think about all the times you’ve tried to have a conversation with someone who had their attention on their phone. It’s not fun to be on the receiving end of someone who won’t focus on one thing, especially when you’re trying to build or maintain a relationship or when you have something important to say.

Personal life

We all need vacations and this is where a personal life comes in. Think of any time you take time for yourself as a mini vacation from the responsibilities of your life. Some people don’t make this time for themselves and may feel like their work hours never end thanks to everything going on at work and home. Your personal life should be all about you and what you want to do. Be selfish with it.

Avoiding taking a vacation because you’re too busy at work? Be careful. Overwork can cause health problems—a study even found that when your professional life overwhelms your social life, you may be at greater risk of the flu.

Plus, think about all the hobbies you have that require your focus and devotion. Crafting and sports are just two examples of fun activities that could easily go bad if you don’t give them your all. Knitting, for example, allows you to create new things, but if you aren’t paying attention to your stitches, you could easily mess up a project. Or if you’re playing basketball, how are you going to make a shot if you aren’t paying attention to the hoop?

What are the benefits of a healthy work-life balance?

Having a healthy work-life balance gives your mind the focus it needs to really get things done so you can be proud of your accomplishments, whatever they may be. But think of all the ways everything could improve if you lived a more balanced life.

Less stress and improved mental health

We’ve already talked about how focusing on one thing at a time makes you less stressed. But stress is a real health hazard that needs to be reduced as much as possible. Stress can cause all kinds of health issues like high blood pressure, heart problems, depression, anxiety, and more. All of those things can land you in the hospital. Proactive self-care and a balanced life can be one way to seriously reduce stress and make the most out of your life.

Better relationships

As we said before, people like it when you give them your attention. They appreciate that you’re willing to make them your focus and they will be willing to do the same for you.

Increased happiness

Not being stressed can only make you happier. But even more important is sharpening your mind so that you can focus on being happy. When you don’t take your relationship with yourself seriously, you let your mind wander to all kinds of other things when you should be the only thing on your mind. It makes you less happy with yourself and less happy overall. Putting yourself first in your personal life is a sign that you value yourself, and you acknowledge that you work your best when you take care of your needs.

More creative thinking

When your mind isn’t bogged down with all kinds of stress, you can have more varied thoughts, and that can lead to some great ideas. Being more creative can help you in all aspects of your life. At work, you can bring your best ideas to the table and help others in ways you may not have been able to before. At home and with your family, you can bring up new games or ways to play with your kids, date nights with your spouse, recipes for dinner, and more. You may pick up some new hobbies or discover you want to learn skills in your free time. The possibilities are endless when you don’t limit your mind because of stress.

When you let go of this false idea of what a work-life balance is, the more interested and engaged you’ll be in the moment and the more you can actually enjoy the things around you.

It’s time to stop trying to balance everything and realize you can’t. Instead, be more focused in the moment on what’s in front of you. Put your phone down, look people in the eyes, and be present.

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Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.