For some of us, life has become a high-pressure vortex of tasks, responsibilities and 24/7 ‘connectedness.’
The concepts of work addiction, work-life balance and work-life integration are increasingly thrust upon us.
Once we find ourselves in the vortex of “hectic busy-ness” at work, all other aspects of our lives are often given a lower priority. As a result, over time, friends and family may stop calling or asking us out; intimate relationships can become strained or come to an end; leisure activities fade to distant memories and breaks or holidays can become so last minute that it seems easier to just keep working.
Just like all other addictions, work addiction is self-perpetuating.
“Work – life balance” has been the aspiration of busy people for years – A system where work, family and social responsibilities are allocated time and focus in balanced amounts. On the other hand, “work-life integration” has recently been promoted in the place of work-life balance as merging or intersecting these same responsibilities in a complementary way.
The proponents of work-life integration suggest that the concept of work-life balance is outdated and obsolete. Certainly, picking up the children from school and taking them back to the office where they can do their homework, read or occupy themselves while you finish work is a fantastic idea for those who work in progressive office environments. However, work-life integration methods aren’t often possible if you work in construction, mining, healthcare, law enforcement, emergency services and many other industries. Fly-In-Fly out work is particularly unsuited to work-life integration.
Work-life integration also sounds suspiciously like multi-tasking which neuroscientists have recently recommended we avoid. They’ve revealed that multi-tasking actually involves rapidly switching between tasks, increasing the risk of error and leading to poor performance. #
Therefore, work-life balance may be a more realistic goal for many of us although I prefer the term work-life alliance – A state in which work and other commitments form a harmonious alliance in support of our ideal life.
I’ve found that forward planning and organization are key to work-life alliance. As such, I advise allocating 90 minutes in your diary every 6 to 12 months to a dedicated work-life planning session. During that 90 minutes, co-ordinate your work, family and social calendars to include all the important events you’d like to attend. Then commit to regular breaks and holidays by actively scheduling and booking them (travel, accommodation etc).
For some, a complete life-redesign process is the only way to combat work addiction or find fulfilment.
Many of those promoting life-redesign inspire us to create a life where the joy and fulfilment of industry (not “work”) fits in seamlessly with our passion for all other commitments.
If you decide to accomplish life-redesign, I’d encourage you to take immediate action – Start discovering, defining and living your new life today.
There are a number of excellent books and audiobooks that you can use to guide you in life redesign. Some of my favourites are:
*The Great Life Redesign: Change How You Work, Live How You Dream And Make It Happen … Today By Caroline Cameron
*By The 4 Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere And Join The New Rich by Tim Ferriss
*Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting And Get The Life You Want by Michael Hyatt, Daniel Harkavy
*Awaken The Giant Within by Anthony Robbins
*The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander, Benjamin Zander
*Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure For Anxiety by Charlie Hoehn
*Finding Your Passion by Cheryl Richardson
*Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts
Asking yourself the following questions can also help to clarify a plan for life redesign:
*Do I need a holiday, break or “mini-retirement” to rest and recharge before starting my new life? (Often, recovering from the exhaustion or “burn out” of your current life is a must before making any changes to your lifestyle.)
*What are all the things in my current life that I’m grateful for and that I wish to keep in my new life?
*What does my ideal work day look like (from the moment you wake up to the moment your head hits the pillow that night?)
*What activities or experiences have brought me joy, exhilaration, excitement, relaxation and fulfilment in my life so far?
*What does my ideal day away from work (my “play day”) look like?
*Who do I wish to spend my time with? (Who are the most important people in my life?)
*What do I need to remove from my life to redesign it? (Consider people, belongings, activities, events, attitudes, habits etc.)
*What would I like to try to see if my life improves? (Write down new ways of eating, sleeping, exercising; new leisure activities; new ways of working; new skills you’d like to learn; new experiences you’d like to share with your family & friends; new places to visit or travel to.) Experimenting with new ideas or behaviours and then redefining your action plan, based on your results, is an essential part of moving forward with work-life redesign.
*How can I give and contribute to my family, friends and community in my ideal life?
If you’ve come to the realisation that your current life needs to change, the first step is to make a strong commitment to building your ideal life. Often, this simply involves telling yourself and those close to you that you are making significant improvements to your life starting now!
Next, decide which approach best suits your dreams and aspirations for a new way forward: Consider the concepts of work-life balance, work-life integration, work-life alliance and life-redesign.
Start exploring these options through books, audiobooks, online articles / blog posts / videos and discussions with anyone who can provide expert guidance (e.g. close friends, family, mentors, professional advisors, coaches).
Remember that once you begin your work-life redesign process, you’ll want to adapt and make changes as you experiment, learn and grow. There are no limits to what you can accomplish with self-belief and a passion for creating your dream life.
Whether you choose work-life balance, integration, alliance or redesign, choose to live the life you love!
# Ann Emerg Med. 2016 Aug;68(2):189-95. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2015.10.003. Epub 2015 Nov 14. Can You Multitask? Evidence and Limitations of Task Switching and Multitasking in Emergency Medicine. Skaugset LM, Farrell S, Carney M, Wolff M, Santen SA, Perry M, Cico SJ.