From Balancing to Juggling to Integrating… Which One Is It?

I recently attended a program where the speaker said, “There is no such thing as ‘work-life balance,’ there is only life.” That statement caused me to pause and ponder on the concept of work-life balance. Almost everyone I know is searching for the perfect balance in their lives—even women who stay home to raise their children seem to be overwhelmed. Imagine the women who, in addition to running the household, also have to work outside the home to contribute to the family’s income.

Years ago, most of the publications I read or speakers I heard on the subject of work-life balance, referred to “balance.” Some commentaries said, “It’s impossible to work 50% of the time and spend the other exact 50% of your time living your life.” And it’s true. Mathematically, that equation doesn’t work. Opinions varied supporting the concept or not at all. Then I started hearing and reading about the concept of “juggling,” described as, mostly women, juggling all the balls in the air trying desperately to not drop one. But what they never said is that in order for jugglers to “juggle and not drop the balls,” they have to be 100% in balance. Otherwise, they will drop at least one ball, if not all of them. So that concept didn’t make sense to me either.

Then the new concept of “integrating” your work into your home life, and vice versa, came about and that seemed to make a little more sense since it allowed you the idea of having time to do everything whenever you could throughout the week. However, as you can predict, work became the main thing that occupied your entire week. Work literally “integrated” itself into your personal life—all the time, every moment of your waking life, you were doing emails, answering phone calls, and putting out fires. What people forgot when this concept was introduced is that work never ends and it has the ability to infiltrate your entire life. This concept offered no boundaries. You fooled yourself thinking that because you could take an afternoon off to take your child to the doctor, you could then (or should, out of guilt) work the entire evening, missing out on the family time.

So when I heard this last comment, that there is no such thing as work-life balance, there is only life, I asked myself, “from balancing, to juggling, to integrating… which one is it?” I concluded that life is all of the above. Sometimes you juggle everything you have going on and are able to keep all the balls in the air. You feel balanced and accomplished. Even though this rarely happens, it can and it does happen. Other times, you need to integrate your work into your daily life way more than during other times, depending on the workload and also on how many activities you have going on at the time.

The key is to know that balance is achievable but it takes a lot of discipline, daily sacrifices, and daily choices. You also need to be clear as to what balance means to you. You need to take into consideration everything in your current life including your own capacity to handle various situations and workload—both at home and at work. Below are ten tips that I’ve done in my life to strive to achieve balance:

  1. Balance is a long-term choice
  2. Balance is a daily decision
  3. You will need to make sacrifices in order to obtain balance
  4. Communication is key in maintaining a balanced life
  5. Surround yourself with people you love and that love you
  6. Know your limits
  7. Establish boundaries
  8. Avoid comparing yourself to others
  9. Balance your entire being – physical, emotional, and spiritual
  10. Set your priorities straight in your life

As working women, we need to set an example to the next generation that it is possible to achieve some kind of balance in our lives while also taking care of ourselves. I encourage you to look at your life and see what things you can stop doing, what activities you should start doing, and really examine your daily, short-term and long-term choices. Only you can be the judge of your own “work-life balance” situation.

I just spoke at the Wayzata Chamber of Commerce - Women in Business group where I shared about "A Passion for Women in Leadership." One of the traits of successful leaders is that they strive to have balance in their lives. I love to expand on all the tips mentioned above so if you’re interested in having me speak at your company, contact me at the information below.

Marci Malzahn is a banking executive and founder of Malzahn Strategic (www.malzahnstrategic.com), a community bank consultancy focused on strategic planning, enterprise risk management and talent management. Marci is also an author and motivational/ inspirational speaker.