There is no such thing as work-life balance.
There, I said it. Work-life balance is a social construct that points us in the wrong direction, pitting work against life. The phrase “work-life” suggests that work is not part of life but something you struggle through so you can get to live your life. No wonder people dread Mondays and trudge through the weekdays with their sights set on the weekend … then complain that the weekend is too short while they start the vicious cycle all over again. What a shame to wish 50 percent of your life away!
The fact is, work is very much a part of life and is meant to make our lives more meaningful, fulfilling and challenging in all the best ways.
Work was the very first assignment God gave mankind as a blessing so we could partner with God in the work He is doing (Genesis 2:15).
What if we could see our work—all work—not only as a blessing, but also an integral part of living a joyful and meaningful life? We would need to reframe the goal to be less about seeking balance and more about aiming toward living a truly integrated life; one in which we steward all elements of life well based on God’s guidance and each season of life (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
From my experience, the first step to living a fulfilling and joyful integrated life is to make sure your top priority is your relationship with God (Matthew 6:33). Putting your relationship with your Heavenly Father first and taking intentional steps to make sure that you invite Him into every part of your life is the key to ensuring the other parts of life are working, that you are taking the best next steps with your relationships, your work and everything else.
From there, take account of your priorities at this season in your life. I like to look at life somewhat like an equalizer. Relationships, health, work, children, education, community, church, and so on will require different levels of investment at different seasons of your life. There are going to be seasons when you need to invest more in your work, others where children or elderly parents take more of a priority. You may be in a time in which your health needs more of your time and attention. And there will be seasons when things like education or other interests need to be factored in.
In 2016, I decided to go back to school to get my bachelor's degree. I’ve been pacing myself, taking two classes a semester, one class at a time. While I’m in class, I cut down on volunteering, socializing, and other activities (housework) so I can focus on my work. When I have a break, I jump right back into volunteering for Ladies of Grace, spending time with friends (and cleaning!). My mindset is that I can do all of it, just not all at the same time.
Just like an equalizer needs to be adjusted for different musical pieces, the levels of time and energy you give to different things in your life will need to be adjusted up or down. What we want to avoid is allowing work to dominate our lives so there is scarcely time for God, self-care, or your most important relationships.
Colossians 3:23-24 tells us that whatever we do, we are to do it with all of our hearts as working for the Lord. All the work we do is a means of partnering with God and giving Him glory.
By focusing on living an integrated life, you can reclaim the energy spent compartmentalizing and enjoy all aspects of your life more fully.