Stop Striving for Work-Life Balance

work-life balance

By Yvonne Milosevic

Achieving work-life balance is #goals for many people in 2021. Yet we continue to struggle to keep those multiple plates in the air spinning. So, what’s the secret that has thus far eluded us all? Leadership expert and author Ashley Goodall thinks we need to start by getting rid of the expression work-life balance in the first place. “Work is not the opposite of life. It’s a part of it,” he says in this piece on leadership for Columbia Business School.

“There’s an oversimplified idea out there that life contains all the good stuff and work contains all the bad stuff. But our experience isn’t anything like that. At work and in life, there are wonderful, uplifting moments and moments that drag us down.”

He suggests we strive to achieve a “love-loathe imbalance” instead. To do so, Goodall says we need “to treat work the same way we do life: by maximizing what we love.”

Most of us have under-used our ability to shape our job into something that better fits our strengths, research shows. To make a clear-eyed assessment, Goodall recommends taking a week to write down specific things we love or loathe at work as they happen.

“Then, each following week, ask yourself how you can spend more time doing the activities you love and minimize the activities you loathe,” he suggests. “Focus on designing your life so that you’re spending at least 20 percent of your time—one full day a week in total— on the things you love the most, whether at work or outside it.”

It’s unlikely you can cut out everything on your loathsome list. But you can work toward spending more of your time on the things that energize and absorb your interest.

Is this the magic formula for work-life balance?

Some of us need concrete advice that goes beyond productivity hacks and mindfulness mantras. That’s where Tommy Mello’s article for Inc. comes in. Citing a Europe-wide study on work-life balance from the University of Kent, Mello says becoming a “top performer” is the single surest way to achieve this elusive goal.

“Top performers are far more likely to get control over their own work schedules,” Mello notes. “Over time, you build a great work reputation, which gives you leverage to have the optimal work-life balance. And with work-life balance, you are naturally going to be more relaxed, productive, and successful.”

As the owner of a company with more than 200 employees, Mello has observed a few key characteristics he sees in top performers. First, they are competitive but nice. Second, they have deep expertise in one or two areas, making them irreplaceable. Third, he says, “they can sell a bagel to a Parisian.”

“Selling…is a skill that everyone should master,” Mello stresses. “The better you are at selling, the more you’ll be able to bend life to your will.”

Now that you have the formula, it’s on you to put in the work. Nobody becomes a top performer overnight. The road to superstardom may take months or even years of sweat and tears, he warns. But the freedom you’ll reap will be worth every drop.