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The Argument Against Work-Life Balance

Work to live, don’t live to work.

According to a recent survey by Ernst & Young, one third of full-time workers globally say that managing work-life has become increasingly difficult. 9, 700 workers in the United States, Germany, Japan, China, Mexico, Brazil, India and the United Kingdom revealed that they are working longer hours and harder than ever before, leaving very little time for much else. One could argue that we’re living in a golden age of workplace stress, largely due to the changing role of work in our lives. When work and life blend into each other, how can you begin to achieve an equilibrium that supports your physical, emotional and mental health? Perhaps it’s time to resist the binary construction (or fallacy) that is work-life and consider a new framework altogether.

In an article for TechCrunch, Blake Commagere (Founder of MediaSpike) challenges the contemporary concept of work-life balance. He says that the problem is not that we don’t have a balance — the problem is that workis our life, and we are trying to incorrectly define the “life” portion as this separate thing for which we have to make time:

Rather than seeking a traditional “work-life balance”, I simply reframed the things in my mind that are typically considered “life balance” as things that are part of my job. I began with a simple premise: at our startup, my productivity and efficiency are critical to the success of the company. This premise did not require any measure of cognitive dissonance — it is a premise I embraced prior to the thought exercise. The corollary to this premise is that: anything that reduces my productivity or my efficiency threatens the success of my company. Thus, anything that increases my productivity and/or efficiency is part of my job, and anything that reduces my productivity/efficiency is part of my job to not do.

When your work is your life, there’s no such thing as work-life balance. The traditional aspects of the 40-hour workweek are dying, and we must change if we want to increase our productivity and support our well-being. How you change is up to you, but sticking to the same old formula isn’t going to cut it. From an entrepreneur’s perspective, Kevin O’Leary, of Dragon’s Den fame, in an interview for Business Insider supported Commagere’s idea that there is no such thing as balance:

If you’re going to take the path of an entrepreneur…you have to sacrifice some stuff, which is just unfortunate. But, that’s just the nature of what we’re all dealing with…The sacrifice is there’s no bounds during the period you’re growing the business.

Examine the phrase “work-life balance.” It’s predicated on two assumptions: 1) Work and life are distinct entities, and 2) The “life” elements are equally, if not more, important than the work elements. A creative’s work is life; there is no line dividing work and life, because the creative doesn’t consider the work and life as two separate entities. You are a whole creative, and a whole person. Compartmentalizing is futile.

The key to finding balance is to be good to yourself in a way that supports your work. Eat well. Sleep well. Exercise. Nurture healthy relationships. And stop trying to tell yourself that you need to cram more convenience and experiences into the “remainder” of your 168 hours of the week. If you feel possessed by creativity and want to get your idea or product out to the world, it’s important to adjust your expectations: you can have work-life balance, as long as the two are one-and-the-same.

This post was originally published on 99u.

Title photo credit

Written by Hamza Khan

Hamza is an award-winning digital strategist and entrepreneur making a splash in higher education.

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