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Work-Life Balance is a Myth — Instead, Find Work-Life Bliss

Justin Hoffman • Mar 17th, 2017

The day author and speaker Deirdre Maloney was interviewed on TV about a blog she wrote, she couldn’t get past what she saw on the screen — and how she felt afterward.

“I looked at myself, and I thought, ‘I look terrible,’” the former non-profit executive recalled at a recent PSA Partnership event. “I had big black circles under my eyes, and my hair was all stringy…. And then I took a bigger look around and said, ‘Well, I think my husband and I aren’t as close as we were before. And I haven’t really seen my friends as much. And I’m not really feeling great.’”

Maloney was missing the elusive work-life balance that so many employees seek. So, she decided to find “blissfuls” — people who had instead found work-life bliss. After learning the keys to their success, Maloney combined their experiences with hers in her 2015 book “Bogus Balance: Your Journey to Real Work/Life Bliss.”

“Work-life balance, the way we’re looking for it, is not a reality,” Maloney told the PSA Partnership audience. “The way we define it in this country is not achievable.”

Here’s why:

Fallacy #1: The TV Dinner Tray

In the 1970s, just like the popular compartmentalized TV dinner trays, people lived much more compartmentalized lives, Maloney said. Work days ended at 5 or 6 p.m. People would go home, and work would stay at work.

“Life is now a stew,” Maloney said. “Work bleeds into life and life bleeds into work, and the primary culprit is our connected devices.”

The good news: We can connect with anybody at any time, Maloney said. The bad news: We can connect with anybody at any time. To manage this, Maloney suggests executives and team members consider these questions:

  • How has technology kept you from finding real balance in your life — if at all?
  • What does your workplace do to honor and use the concept of the stew?
  • What could it do better?

Set boundaries for technology when you’re not at work, Maloney said. For example, if you’re on vacation and want to stay plugged in, establish from the start you’ll only check your emails, for instance, twice a day. And then stick to it.

Fallacy #2: The Seesaw

“Work is something we do to pay for all the cool stuff that happens in our life,” Maloney said.

For many, the goal is to “get a raise, always get a job that brings in the most money, always work your way up, even if management is not your thing,” she said. “Then you can pay for all that cool stuff that happens about five hours of the week, as opposed to all the work we’re doing the rest of the week,” Maloney said.

But in reality, work and life are blended. Work is a part of life, she said.

“The truth of the matter is, we spend more time at work and more time with our co-workers than we probably do with our families,” she said. “If we don’t like our work, we will not like our life.”

Consider the following questions:

  • What percentage of the time do you like or love your job?
  • What are your company’s greatest values? What are your greatest values? Where do they align?
  • What can you do or change to make your professional life truly balanced and/or more energizing?
  • How are you currently using the company’s values and mission to enhance the productivity and energy of the team? How can you improve on this?

Think about what Maloney calls the “70/30 rule.” At least 70 percent of time, you should like or love what you’re doing, she said.

As for managers, remind employees about the company’s mission and vision. Then, help them connect what they value to what your company values. Some people won’t connect the dots, and some won’t like their jobs and will leave. But according to Maloney, that’s OK.

“Would you rather have people who don’t like their jobs working in your company spreading that energy around, or would you rather have the people who are in it with you be in it with you?”

Fallacy #3: The Broken Promise

Most people want to have a successful job, quality time with family, the ability to do charity work — the list goes on and on. But there is never enough time.

“What ends up happening is we don’t do all of it well,” Maloney said. “Sometimes, we don’t do any of it well…. We need to go from ‘I can have it all’ to ‘I can have my all.’”

Stop feeling lousy about doing everything poorly. Make intentional choices about what your “all” is, she said. Think about what that “stew” looks like to you. Consider the ideal amount of time you’d like to spend each week with your job, family, friends and personal interests. Then, think about the reality.

For instance, instead of doing four activities during the weekend, pick the 1 or 2 that you most enjoy. And don’t feel guilty about your decision.

“Every single spoonful of that stew needs to be filled with things you love at least 70 percent of the time,” Maloney says. “If it’s not, you’ve got to change it.”

Deidre Maloney is an author, national speaker and president of Momentum LLC. For more information about her or how to find work-life bliss, click here. And make sure to join us for our next PSA Partnership event, “Leading at 90 Below Zero,” on March 28, 2017.  

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About the Author: Justin Hoffman is PSA’s Chief Marketing Officer. He oversees business development initiatives and PSA's Marketing Department. His focus includes sales leadership, Account Executive support and recruiting, sales training and CRM technology. He supervises PSA’s awareness, community-building and demand-generation efforts. The majority of his 14-year career has been spent at financial services firms, managing brand development initiatives, advertising, public relations and electronic marketing. Prior to joining PSA in 2007, he led M&T Bank’s sports marketing assets, overseeing relationships with the Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills and other sports franchises. Justin holds a Master’s degree in Marketing from Johns Hopkins University. You can reach Justin on LinkedIn or via email.