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Strive for work-life effectiveness, rather than balance

Image credit: woaiss, Shutterstock

Image credit: woaiss, Shutterstock

Work-life balance is an important issue for many employees, but are we thinking about it the wrong way? Christine M. Riordan over on the Harvard Business Review argues that “balance” isn’t always the point. Yes, frustration from work can spill over into personal lives, but by making our work together integral to our lives, and not some separate, frustrating thing, we can change our attitudes:

Some people appear to manage career success and a positive private life with ease. Here are a few pointers:

1. Strive for work-life effectiveness—not balance. The term work-life balance implies that one dedicates an equal portion of time to work and life. Catalyst, a research firm focused on women in business, uses the phrase work-life effectiveness, and suggests striving for a situation where work fits with other aspects of your life. Researchers Jeffrey Greenhaus and Gary Powell expand on this concept and recommend that work and personal life should be allies and that participation in multiple roles, such as parent, partner, friend, employee, can actually enhance physical and psychological well-being — especially when all of the roles are high quality and managed together.

2. Define success in all categories of your life. Every person needs to define success on his or her own terms. Ultimately, for both men and women, the definition of success is deeply personal. At the end of each person’s life, only he or she can look back and say, “I was successful.” It is also important to realize that what constitutes success to one person may not constitute success to another. Ryan Smith, co-founder of Qualtrics, manages his success by doing the following: “Each week, I examine the categories of my life — father, husband, CEO, self — and identify the specific actions that help me feel successful and fulfilled in these capacities. This weekly ritual helps me feel like I’m doing everything in my power to address my needs and the needs of those around me. This is important because I can’t lose sight of the business agenda, and we’ve all seen or read about what it looks like when you lose sight of your family’s needs.” As Smith suggests, consider sharing your priorities and ideas of success with important stakeholders in your life. By doing so, you will gain valuable perspective and, perhaps, buy-in to your work and life goals.

What do you consider success in your life? How can you work to bring together you work and personal life in the most effective way?