Let’s look at a real-life example addressing the importance of work-life balance. Recently, a high-performing employee — Nina — came to my office for a coaching session. Nina had recently been given a high-visibility project to manage. She was doing well, so our sessions were usually future-focused and optimistic.
That day, though, Nina was in tears. She shared that she was overwhelmed by tasks and was staying at work late each night just to keep up. “I realize I need to sacrifice work-life balance right now, because this is a high-profile project,” she said. “But I need strategies for managing the work better given the hours I am keeping.”
It was time for Nina to question her assumptions about work-life balance. Many high-performers believe that during important projects, work should be at the forefront, and life must take second place until the project is over. This is the “ebb-flow” theory of work-life balance – sometimes, work comes first, sometimes life does.
There is a big flaw in this logic, though. Too much emphasis towards work — even for a few days — doesn’t give the brain time to process and rest. In her long hours, Nina was losing perspective – she was so busy thrashing through the trees that she was unable to see the larger forest. She needed to walk away from the trees to access that broader perspective.
In our session, I had Nina remember times when she got a new perspective on work while away from it. She shared a time when watching her child find a shortcut on a school assignment sparked her to look at a work task in a new way – the insight ended up saving her hours.
She also recalled seeing parallels between a challenge at work and a challenge faced by an organization she volunteers for – seeing the same problem in a different context helped her see new solutions. These memories reminded Nina of the power of getting away from the office to recharge and reframe.
Gaining perspective is a key benefit of work-life balance. Next time you are overwhelmed, try getting away from work to get a fresh view of it.