Instead of work/life balance, make work/life integration your goal

Throughout my career, a healthy work/life balance has always been an elusive goal. Everyone wants it, and yet, I have never met anyone who said they had it. As an executive of a local business, as well as a mom of three kids, I know it has remained a seemingly impossible aspiration.

What I believe now is that the mere idea of work/life balance is a falsehood. Similar to two kids on a seesaw, if they try really hard, they might be able to balance above the ground for a moment or two. But going along with the ups and downs is both more sustainable and more fun. You can’t have sustainable work/life balance because something will always be out of balance. But you can achieve work/life integration. 

Shifting our minds to integrate both work and our personal lives creates space to accept that there are times when work takes more time and mindshare — like during an acquisition. We need to create the time and space afterward to let the seesaw go back up — whether that’s a vacation or just a getting home early to play with the kids.  

Once you accept the ebb and flow, there are a few areas that can keep the moving seesaw from being stuck on one side.

Establish your uncompromisables. Take the time to know what is and isn’t compromisable for you. This creates a map of your priorities and will aid in work/life integration.

Be creative and use leverage. The only finite resource we have is time, so there is nothing more precious. Be brutal in how you use it. We have a tendency to think we need to do everything ourselves, but there are a number of ways to get creative about time, for example, doing a videoconference instead of traveling, or hiring a chef or a personal assistant for even a couple of hours a week to free up more meaningful time in your schedule.

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. I’ve heard so many people say they couldn’t work from home one day a week. An alternative is to change the hours they work. Yet, when I’ve asked what the response was when they asked if they could do it, most never even made the request. If you don’t ask, you don’t know what’s possible.

Step back and assess. Take time to step back, at least quarterly. Assess how your work-life integration is going and how you need to adjust it. Just as life changes, your balance on the seesaw will change, too.

Finding the right work/life integration that works for you will be a journey over time; everyone’s is different. Truthfully speaking, I’m still working on mine (as I sit here at dawn with my coffee before the kids get up and the whirlwind of my day-to-day schedule takes over). But if we stop putting pressure on finding perfect balance, we have a much better chance of enjoying the ride.

Megan Mayhugh is chief strategy officer at TalentLaunch