Why Balance is the New B-Word
Ellen Galinsky, President, Families and Work Institute, thinks its time we came up with alternatives to the word balance to describe the act of managing priorities at home and at work -- and I have to agree. Every time I see the b-word I feel out-of-balance, unbalanced, and doomed to be off-balance as long as anyone is keeping score.
So clearly the concept hasn't been working for me.
Galinsky makes an excellent case for ditching the term.
"First, the word “balance” implies a scale where if one side is up, the other has to be down. It
is an either/or concept. In contrast, our studies [at the Families and Work Institute] ... have shown that managing work and personal/family life is not a zero-sum game, where if people give to one aspect of their lives, they necessarily take away from the others."
It's also important to recognize that not everyone is seeking balance. Some people consciously choose to give work or family the edge during a particular stage in their lives.
Galinksy and a team of researchers from the Families and Work Institute, Catalyst, and the Boston Center for Work and Family recently examined the strategies people use to achieve their personal work-life goals (Leaders in a Global Economy).
The researchers discovered that dual-centric people (people who place the same priority on work and personal/family life) enjoyed the highest levels of job satisfaction and the lowest levels of stress (as compared to work-centric or family-centric people).
They also discovered that many of the dual-centric workers (62 percent of whom also happen to be parents with young children) use the following strategies to minimize work-family conflict.
- They teach themselves to leave work at work. They don't bring home briefcases of work home every night and they do their best to reserve evenings and weekends for family. This helps to reduce the spillover between work and family—a major source of stress for many workers.
- They focus on the task at hand rather than worrying about what else they could or should be doing. That way, they can finish the draft of the proposal or wrap up the client's year end -- and possibly still make it home in time to tuck in the kids at bedtime.
- They know when to give themselves a break. They work hard, but they play hard, too.
- They have a plan. They don't just let life happen to them. They make intentional choices about the kind of life they want for themselves and their family. Their life is all about acting on that plan.