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Why Work-Life Balance Is Outdated and What to Go for Instead



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After a period of time of being in the workforce, you begin to hear about this idea of work-life balance. On paper, it’s a smart idea – you’re keeping your work separate from your own personal time. And while that was something I strived for, I realized how wrong this pursuit was after some time. That humble pursuit of striking a balance between work and life ended with me being in a bad spot. Beyond personal experiences, I find the pursuit of this idea still outdated and there are significantly better things to pursue. Here is what I suggest.

Work-Life Balance Causes You To Sacrifice A Lot

First off, why is striving towards a work-life balance such a bad idea? Well it’s a bad idea mostly due to how people think a balanced work and life ought to be. When you think of striking a balance between the two, you’d think automatically that both sides have to be good. You want a positive life just as much as you want work to be positive as well. On top of that, you want your personal and work lives to be separate.

Striving for that way of thinking is impossible from my experiences. I’ve seen plenty of results from people at various levels of happiness in their work life taking our Full Life Assessment at Lifehack, and have received some predictable results after taking our courses at the Lifehack Academy.

If people are really happy with their work, other parts of their life are crumbling such as health, and relationships. If people are happy with life, what tends to be the problem is wealth and career satisfaction are lower. These sacrifices are too much and aren’t practical for people to live in them long-term.

The Alternative: Work Life Harmony 

This cycle of giving up on something in order to fulfil something doesn’t make any sense. From my own personal experiences, it’s a path that isn’t good for you long-term. Once I realized that, I began working on alternatives and options for what people can do.

Because not all jobs and life are satisfying and things we want to do constantly, I realized that our balance is more revolving around harmonizing both aspects. In my book The Full Life Framework (The Essential Guide), I talk about the importance of taking the good and the bad in various parts and balancing those.

Below are some recommendations I listed in my book for obtaining work life harmony:

1. Rethink Time Management

First is to change your thinking about time management. We all have limited time here and so people are constantly telling us to make the most of it. But how do you really make the most of it? Should you try to eat up as much time of your day as you can doing many great things? Or should you try to do fewer things and really make them great?

It’s a quantity vs quality question when you first think about it. But what if I told you instead of wrestling with that you focus on prioritizing. Spend all your time on the actions that will lead to creating more valuable moments later on in life.

This idea isn’t anything new. It’s been around. But not many people have thought that much about this. I bet this is your first time even thinking about this. So I’d encourage you to look at that. Find the actions that will bring you more results.

“Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices.” – Betsy Jacobson

2. Explore Your Passions

Another thing people tell us is to follow our passions. It’s not the greatest advice as we all have multiple passions and interests. And we can continue to foster new passions and interests over time as well. Instead of following passions blindly, I’d encourage you to consider them all. But first, look at what it is you’re currently doing in life. Is what you’re doing right now in life something you are truly passionate about? Is it possible for you to find a deeper meaning to what you are doing in your life? Ask yourself those questions before thinking about what other areas you can explore. Consider everything from what brings you joy and excitement and happiness. Are there particular industries that you’d love to be good at?

3. Don’t Be Scared Of Limitations

Creating work-life harmony is also about knowing yourself. This includes past obstacles as well as the limitations that you have placed on yourself. If you have an understanding of these things, you can become more resilient to them in the future. If you’ve never experienced struggles or problems, then you haven’t been made to adapt or mature in any way. In theory, you’d have faced obstacles by this point since they are such necessary parts of our lives. From there it’s a matter of overcoming these limitations. It’s about rewiring our thinking to see limitations as opportunities to grow and overcoming them can help us reach our goals. The more you reinforce that idea, the more resilient attitude you’ll develop when you’re faced with the inevitable setbacks and problems.

4. Delegate When Necessary

The last aspect to having work-life harmony is delegating tasks when it’s necessary. If you want to increase productivity and minimize time or effort spent on something, delegation is an easy method.

Whether it’s at work or at home, if you’re losing a lot of time on something that could be delegated, you’re losing precious time. Again, the goal is to have a harmonious work and living situation and find meaning in everything that we’re doing.

Even if an overall goal could be meaningful doesn’t mean that the milestones you’re setting automatically are. We all have strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. If one part of something bothers you or takes up a lot of time, find someone who loves doing that part.

True balance in work and life shouldn’t be about sacrificing one thing over another. It should be about working through the bad and enjoying the good. Obtaining some level of harmony with your life and work is more rewarding and fulfilling in the end. And by going through those steps, you’ll find it easier to achieve that.

Having been listed as Business Week's #4 "Top 24 Young Asian Entrepreneurs," Leon Ho is the Founder and CEO of Lifehack - a productivity blog he started in 2005. He has grown Lifehack into one of the most read self-improvement websites in the world - with over 12 million monthly readers. Grab his latest book The Full Life Essential Guide here.

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