In 2012, my attorney, Cathy Robertson (www.Pahl-mccay.com), invited me to the 10th Annual Women in Leadership dinner sponsored by the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. Dinners like this are not my thing. I really like my attorney though – she and I have gotten to be good friends.
Not only are dinners like this not my thing, key-note presentations usually bore me. To stay engaged, I play a game where I have to find one take-away or a-ha moment.
The key note presenter was Blair Christie, the Senior VP and Chief Marketing Officer at Cisco Systems. I really wanted to not like her. And then the thing happened. The a-ha…the game changing concept.
Work/life balance is a fallacy. Utter hogwash. Balance should not be our goal. We should strive for blending.
Visualize a scale that is out of balance. Our first impulse is to take from the heavier side and move it to the lighter side. We fixate so much on the sides being equal that we lose sight of a simple reality – there will always be something that requires more or less from us. Fighting to keep all areas of our lives in perfect synch sets us up for failure. Every. Single. Time.
Let me ‘splain…
We started telecommuting before telecommuting was cool. In the early years, I really struggled with keeping work and home separate. When I was working I was working, when I was not working, I was not working. Period. I felt it was the only way to honor the opportunity I had been given. I struggled for balance. I set office hours, shut down my computer and walked out of my home office at a specific time each day. It was the only way I knew to try.
Then the lines blurred. Suddenly, my laptop was in the front room, I was sending and responding to email at 8pm (or 9pm, or 10pm). To compensate, I also went to the grocery store, took the dogs to the park and spent time with my family during the “work day”. I thought I had balance.
I was wrong. I was wrong because I felt guilty all the time. I felt guilty when I sent that email at 10pm and I felt guilty when I was at the grocery store at 10am. The result was that I NEVER disengaged from work. I was never NOT working. There was absolutely no balance in my life.
Blending started with acknowledging that the scales are never going to be weighted equally for any length of time. The Libra in me screams obscenities at this. I had to learn to tell Ms. Libra to shut up and mind her manners.
I took a hard look at what I was doing and the toll it was taking on my world. One of the first things I did was put my laptop back in my office and did away with wireless internet for it. If I was doing things that required my laptop, I had to be in my office. I deleted the app from my iPad that enabled me to login to my work server. From there I went about blending the rest. I still send email at 10pm. I still go to the grocery store at 10am. The difference is that I don’t feel guilty about either.
Do I take client calls while shopping at Costco? Yep, I sure do. Have I come close to solving the problems of the world while walking my dog? You bet-cha! Do I send calls to voice mail while having lunch with my grandma? I do. Do I work weekends? Sometimes. Will I take off and go wine tasting on a weekday? Yes.
I learned to stop fighting the scales and simply accept that there are days when one area of my life has to take a back seat to another area of my life and that tomorrow or the next day that dynamic will shift.
So, thank you Ms. Christie. You probably didn’t even realize when you agreed to do the key-note that night that your words would change EVERYTHING.