Working remotely? Less balance, more integration
Hey, how’s it going? No, really, how are you? Sometimes not so good? Yeah, me too.
Remote work, nonstop meetings, catastrophic weather, unemployment, politics, children, extra work hours, elderly parents—you know what I’m talking about. You probably have your own personalized list of stressors. Take all of that and wrap it up with a global pandemic bow on top, and it’s not a pretty package. It’s no surprise if you aren’t feeling in control right now.
Don’t get me wrong. Like many of you, my list of wonderful things I’m grateful for is longer than my arm. My life is not all doom and gloom. But I can still get stuck on the stuff that keeps me awake at night, gives me a headache, and makes my heart race with uncertainty. I know I’m not alone in this, but the good news is that your life doesn’t have to feel like chaos.
If you’re thinking I’m talking about work-life balance, you would be wrong. First off, I personally reject the word balance. Why? Because balance is fleeting and precarious. It is temporary and perfect. It conjures an image of minute adjustments. Step back, hold your breath, cross your fingers, and hope your efforts don’t crash down. Nope, no thank you. Not for me. My work life and my home life aren’t nice, neat packages on opposite sides of an imaginary scale. Every day I deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly. Just like you.
Let’s instead use a word that is practical and realistic—integration. Think about it: integration reflects what really goes on in a day. I manage to mush (or integrate) work and life into each 24 hours. Some days more work happens, and other days more life happens. No balance here. No perfection either. Shifting your mindset away from finding the perfect balance to instead focus on doing the best you can in the time you’ve got can take a lot of pressure off.
A wholistic approach focused on finding synergy between all areas of life can help you really make the most of the hours you have. Hint: the secret is not just to cram more and more productivity into your day.
Science-backed strategies can help you integrate your work life and your home life. Key strategies include setting boundaries around your work and life—for example, setting clear work hours and sticking to them. If you have trouble letting go of your work at the end of the day, try incorporating transition techniques such as sticking to a set routine as you start and end your workday. These can help you uphold the boundaries you’ve set. In addition, harnessing helpful habits is a powerful way to “automate” your life and create smoothness within your daily routine without increasing effort.
Knowing and understanding what goes on in your head is important too. Decision fatigue is a real thing—if you’ve ever become overwhelmed by the simple question of “What’s for dinner?” you’ve felt it. Learning how to focus your concentration properly can help you avoid decision fatigue and make every aspect of life a bit easier. Learning how your mind and your mood work either for or against you can be a game changer.
The synergy created from integrating our work and home lives can help us gain control, feel more secure, and make the most of our time. The changes we face may feel overwhelming, but making even small adjustments can have big results.