Someone recently asked whether I could offer monthly instalments of time wisdom. I am not sure that I can, but I do know that the question of how we live wisely and well in time is one that we all need to work on over the long haul. So I thought I’d at least try.
One of the ideas I have found least satisfactory as an attempt at time wisdom is the idea of work-life balance. You may think that this is because I am a workaholic and like all such can’t see the point of life after or beyond work.
Certainly I feel that ‘work’ is often engaging and satisfying and worthwhile, but I feel the same about parts of life that are clearly not work. I quite enjoy eating, sleeping and strolling in the countryside, for instance, and happily spend time doing them.
My problem with the work-life balance cliche is that it opposes overlapping rather than contrasting realities. Think Venn diagrams. Work is a circle inside life. You can and perhaps should question how large that circle can healthily be, but to call that a question of balance is a little odd.
There’s another issue too. It’s whether or not you think of your life vocationally. If you do – if you believe there is an aspect of calling about what you do and that your work not only meets extrinsic needs but also some of your intrinsic needs – then you will approach the question of how you think about the time spent ‘working’ quite differently.
This issue was explored in an interview with the entrepreneur Sarah Wood in a recent interview in the Huffington Post. When she was asked for her key tip to help women integrate work and life, she answered like this.
First of all, I wouldn’t talk about work-life balance because that suggests that work is opposed to life. Actually, I think we all owe it to ourselves to be working in jobs we absolutely love, that are our vocation. I’ve always been a big believer in the idea of vocation. If you’re following your vocation, then that is your life. So I would say it’s more about work-home integration.
One thing that has worked for me is to break down the divisions between home life and work life. I’m not sure it works for everyone, but it has worked for me. I bring my children to the office a lot, my children come to work events, and the people who come to our home are often from Unruly. What this means is I can be me at home and me in the office, there is no inconsistency. With respect to the notion that you have to put on a mask and have a particular professional version of yourself in the office, that doesn’t work for me. I like to feel natural and authentic and that means being the same person at home as I am in the office.
My tip would be to do what’s right for you, and make sure you have a support network in place. That’s really crucial.
What I like about Sarah’s answer is that she suggests that the way ahead is to break down divisions – rather than the traditional time management advice of creating boundaries.
Find more thoughts about time wisdom here
You can see the full interview with Sarah Wood here