What is the Work/Life Overlap?

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When I use the phrase work/life balance, how does it make you feel? My guess is that the answer is something along the lines of “not great.” Perhaps you try really hard to achieve the perfect balance, but the scale always seems to be tipping to one side or the other. If this sounds familiar, don’t worry: you’re not alone.

One thing I’m reminded of over and over again when working with coaching clients is that there’s no such thing as the perfect balance. In fact, thinking of our lives in this way can actually set us up for dissatisfaction, as it pushes the idea that our personal and work lives should be totally separate. There may be a small minority of people who are able to compartmentalise in this way: but I haven’t met them. For most of us there’s a great deal of overlap between our work, our family, our social lives and our hobbies. This means that if we’re experiencing frustration or discontentment within one or more of these areas, it typically leaks out into the other ones too.

It might be healthier for us to accept that there’ll always be a work/life overlap. After all, the more we come to appreciate the different areas that make up our lives, the more likely we are to enjoy each of those areas and experience greater overall happiness.

Why not try these ideas for embracing the overlap?

  • Try to focus on being present in where you are, whether it’s at home or at work. If you’re constantly worrying about the school pick-up while you’re at your desk or the following day’s meetings while you’re eating dinner, it’ll be easy for dissatisfaction to creep in.
  • Give yourself permission to talk about work with friends and family members, especially if there are issues that are bothering you.
  • Think about how much of your personality you’re currently showing at work. If the answer is “not much,” you might want to consider how you can work in a way that’s more authentic to who you are.
  • Aim to address issues head on instead of dwelling on them. Bottled up negative feelings will affect your whole life, even if they just relate to your job or your relationship.
  • If you are feeling generally dissatisfied, it may be time to take a good look at your life and consider which aspects are causing problems. In many cases the problem might be solved with a few small tweaks, but in others you may need to make bigger changes.
  • Don’t underestimate how much of an impact changes in one area of your life might have on another. For example, addressing issues with your relationship might help you to be more confident at work. Equally, re-focusing your business could enable you to be less stressed during family time.

The world is becoming more connected than ever, and as a result the image of the perfectly balanced scales just isn’t working. Instead of taunting yourself with the myth, why not embrace the imperfection of the work/life overlap?

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