Balance Is Bullshit
Ted was worried that he was spending too much of his time and focus on work. He was putting in nine to ten hours at the office, another three to four hours at home in the evenings, and weekends were chewed up by the things he didn’t have time to get to during the week. He was feeling distant from his family and he couldn’t seem to find even a moment for himself. Desperate to find a better way, Ted remembered reading in some self-help book that balance between work, family/friends, and personal time was the key to happiness. Unfortunately, Ted was a bit of a literalist and he set about to find a way to create the perfect balance of time between the three areas of his life: 33% to work, 33% to friends and family, 33% to personal time. He figured he could get by just fine on six hours of sleep, leaving eighteen hours in the day. With a few adjustments here and there, Ted was ready to put his new plan into motion.
Day 1: Ted got up at seven a.m., his usual time, but rather than throw on his suit and rush out the door, he went to work making breakfast for the family. Eggs, bacon, pancakes, a big bowl of fresh fruit. His teenage son and daughter were confused. For them, breakfast usually consisted of a PopTart on their way out the door. His wife thought it was charming. As they sat around the kitchen table and dug into the food, Ted kept checking his watch. He had allotted a half hour for breakfast. At the thirty minute mark, he announced he was off to work and left the pans and dishes for his wife to clean up. During his thirty minute drive to work, Ted put on an audiobook he’d always wanted to listen to. He put in six hours at the office, then listened to another thirty minutes of his book during the drive home. He got back to the house well before his wife and kids were home from work and school, so he got in a workout in the home gym he had purchased but never used. He made up a chart of his new balanced schedule right down to the minute. He did some gardening. When his wife and kids got home, Ted announced they were going to the movies. His son and daughter said they had homework; Ted told them they’d have time to do it later. Ted loved the movie; his wife thought it was okay; his kids stared at their phones the whole time. Afterwards, Ted calculated that between breakfast and the movie, they had spent three hours of family time together and had three hours to go. Off to dinner. Ted ordered a steak; his wife had the fish; his kids stared at their phones the whole time. Back home, with just over an hour of family time left, they all sat down to watch the latest episode of Stranger Things. Ted didn’t get it; his wife fell asleep; his kids thought it was great. With his wife and kids off to bed, Ted still had several hours of personal time left. He spent most of it trying to figure out what to do. At one a.m., satisfied that he had successfully balanced the day between work, family, and personal time, Ted hit the sack.
Day 2: Family breakfast. Audio book. Six hours in the office. Audio book. Workout in the home gym. A YouTube video about fly fishing. When his family got home, Ted announced he had invited some friends over for dinner, which was quite a shock for his wife who had planned on no such thing. They ordered take out and everyone enjoyed themselves. Later that night, Ted’s wife wanted him to come to bed with her but he announced he still had two hours of personal time left. He spent most of it staring at the wall while his wife fell asleep alone. As far as Ted was concerned, this balance thing was a real home run.
Day 3: Was a disaster. Ted’s kids said there was no way they were going to eat eggs, bacon, pancakes and an entire cantaloupe for breakfast every morning, that they were falling behind on school work, and that the last thing they wanted to do with their free time was to hang out with their parents. His wife was a bit more understanding, but she had to agree with the kids. This whole balance thing was just a bit too much. Ted’s boss wanted to know why the hell he’d been leaving the office two hours early for the last three days and demanded that he make up for it over the weekend.
What Ted had failed to realize was that creating the perfect balance of time between work, family, and personal time was an illusion. And trying to force it into existence was an exercise in futility. The pie chart of his life simply couldn’t be divided into three perfect thirds. The fact of the matter was that, at this time of his life, most of that pie chart needed to be devoted to work. He had a mortgage to pay, kids to send to college, and wealth to build. And that’s okay. He didn’t need to spend an equal amount of time with his family as he did in the office. What he needed to do was make sure that the time he spent with his family was focused time. Taking an hour in the evening to sit down and have dinner and engage in conversation was far more valuable than filling six hours with frivolous activity. The pie chart needs to be fluid. For Ted that might mean that seventy-five percent of the chart is filled with work for six months and then he can devote a week to taking the family on a road trip, or a vacation to Hawaii. During that week he can erase work from the pie chart altogether. And listening to that audiobook during his commute and finding thirty minutes in the evening to hit the home gym is a perfectly reasonable amount of personal time until he’s able to, I don’t know, sign up for a Power Series weekend!
If you ever find yourself being a Ted, don’t worry, you’re not the only one. A lot of people struggle with this thing called balance. So I’ll put it to you bluntly: Balance is bullshit. At IMS we can help you see balance through a whole new lens. For more information click HERE and start your journey to a new perspective.