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Why You Might Want To Give Up Trying To Balance Work and Life

career family finance

One of the concerns clients often raise with McKinley Carter advisors is how to achieve a healthy balance between activities that are associated with improving their financial situation (e.g., education, job, career, business) and their obligations to take care of themselves, their family, and their communities.

There is no single answer for how to manage these competing demands, but we do encourage them to reframe the question – away from the notion of “balance” and toward the notion of “blending.”

The concept of balancing (anchored in physics and math) orients thinking around re-allocating within a finite world – as with a seesaw, less of one thing means more of another,  also called “zero sum.” And since the time we have to take care of our concerns is in fact finite, it is a perfectly valid approach to the challenge that way.

But it may not be the most powerful approach.  Orienting around the concept of “blending,” or “integrating” (anchored in chemistry and biology) competing uses of our time may open our clients’ minds to new possibilities for how to manage the challenges of taking care of self, family, and career. 

I have found that framing the question this way invites creative thinking about how to combine components in ways that might produce entirely new sets of possibilities – not just re-allocating resources, but actually creating something that includes but also transcends those components.

 An article from the Harvard Business Review illustrates two of the core practices of thinking in terms of blending competing concerns as opposed to balancing them – conversation and commitments. 

We cannot manage time, which rolls on without regard for human intention.  We can, however, manage our commitments.  And we are likely to do a better job of that if we force ourselves to explore how to specify those commitments through conversations with others.

Why? Because we tend to make more grounded assessments about future plans when we know they are being heard by others than when we are just talking to ourselves.  And there’s nothing like a conversation between mutually respectful spouses to “keep it real."
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