20Oct
basket

Scale vs. Basket

Life-work balance is always something people seem to talk about. Any busy person worth their salt has had the balance discussion a time or ten. How do you balance all that you have going on? Work, family, hobbies, service, fun, sleep and more. There isn’t enough time in the day to do it all. So one must seek balance, the proper way to keep the scales, as pictured, in harmony. Place an equal amount of one thing on the left, and an equal amount of the other on the right, and poof! Your life is balanced and you get to do and have it all.

Nope.


Balance is difficult to be achieved because the concept itself has inherent flaws. How does one find two things that are different, yet weigh the exact same? Even a tiny bit of more or less weight on one side will make the scales fall out of alignment. What weighs more? Consider placing some of these things on opposite sides of the scale:

Time with your kids or getting a product shipped.

Skipping the gym to get to the office sooner.

Working at night from home or putting the laptop away.

Date night with your significant other or late night at the office.

Service opportunity or time with your team.

In my mind, none of these things weighs equally the same as it’s plated counterpart. While it can be close, it is never exactly identical in weight, and, by definition, the scale must be out of balance.

This is where the basket comes in. Instead of thinking about life like a scale that needs to be balanced, think of life as a basket that needs to be weaved. Each piece of the bucket is a strand of life. One piece that is intertwined is your business. Another is your family and so forth and so on. You get the picture. Notice that they are touching each other. Notice that they wind in and out of one another. But most importantly, notice that in order for the bucket to truly hold its contents, the fit must be tight! This is what life done correctly resembles (in my opinion of course).

Need to work? Work hard.
Want to play? Play hard.
Time to spend time with your family? Do it.
Going to stay at the office late? Make it worth it.
Kids need a little league coach? Volunteer.
Out of shape? Exercise.

And all of this can happen, simultaneously.

Don’t get me wrong, putting the technology away and focusing on family and friends is a very, very good idea. You have to do it. The basket and the scale and anything else related to work just has to be put away sometimes. Don’t use work as an excuse to avoid family, friends and exercise. That is not what this post is about. This post is not a license to pay less attention, work when you should be with your kids and so on. You have to use your brain and your gut to make sure you aren’t allowing your business to always be number one. But think of the basket instead of the scale. Weave it all together in a healthy, shared way.

Perhaps, somewhat surprisingly, you’ll find that elusive balance you sought in the first place.

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About Alex Lawrence

Alex has been a successful entrepreneur for 20+ years. His current venture Lendio ranks #34 on the Inc. 500 list. Alex earned a BS degree at the University of Utah and his MBA at Weber State University, where he is Vice Provost and Director of the Entrepreneurship Program. If you want to talk with Alex about business and entrepreneurship (or other questions), email him (alex AT startupflavor DOT com), or you can find him on Twitter @_AlexLawrence.
  • Curtis Howe

    I have found that this balance is a more dynamic process than a static process. There is an ebb and flow to it like trying to navigate a boat through the ocean. Some times more emphasis on work needs to be done and at other times more family time needs to happen. To give the same amount to both means you will miss opportunity and stunt your progress in both directions.
    Another part of this that I have found is that you cannot allow any one part run your life and dominate. Some things ( like exercise and “sharpening your saw”) just need to be done. Some things that will help keep you going just should be put in on a regular basis because it will help the rest of your day and life out.
    I use technology to help keep me moving on my WIN (Whats Important Now) strategy to keep me on the right path as well as better techniques ( Getting things done by David Allen, etc) to stay on top of things.
    Jack Canfield says that an hour of work on yourself and realizing your goals is similar to 7 hours of work in your business. This is a highly effective way to get ahead.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lindseymillerpetersen Lindsey Miller Petersen

    “Going to stay at the office late? Make it worth it.” This is my favorite line. It’s a never-ending balance. Being a person that’s worked from home for over 5 years now, the balance is just as difficult. I’m not headed into any offices anywhere, but I can be just as detached sitting her at my computer.

    I appreciate the sentiment of this post and the reminder it is to keep my true priorities sorted out. If I’m putting in extra hours, it sure as heck better be for a good reason.

    • alex_lawrence

      Thanks for coming to the blog, Lindsey. Totally agree with you — the extra hours are worth it if they are disciplined ones.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hollyonthehill Holly Richardson

    Most excellent, Alex. I agree whole-heartedly – when I do, I do 110%. Unless it’s just not worth doing well, then do enough to get by…..

  • Brad R

    That is an interesting way to think of balancing personal life and work. The hardest part for me is focusing on family when I’m with the family and not thinking about everything I need to do. I guess that might be what you are getting at with the tightly woven basket idea.

  • http://rocketmade.com Joshua Aikens

    I love the basket analogy. I also agree with Curtis on the ebb and flow. For years my family has understood when I’m in the middle of a huge project or video edit, I’m MIA, but when the dust settles, we all enjoy the time freedom Entrepreneurship provides.

    Just last night I pitched my company and laid it all on the line, then went straight home and held my 3 year old son in my arms the rest of the night. He’s still snuggley and didn’t mind a bit. I fell asleep in his bed and woke up because my older boy who I was supposed to tuck in, got caught up reading and stayed up way too late.

    Funny moment at my house, but the best part is I have work and I have family and that means I have it all.

  • http://twitter.com/_KenKaufman Ken Kaufman

    Great post, Alex. I have always said it like this: There is no such thing as balance. Actually, living life maximally unbalanced, going from activity to activitiy in your life, is the best way to operate. Put yourself 100% into whatever you are doing…that is the only way to achieve balance. Sometimes that means you sacrifice time with family. Sometimes you sacrifice time from work. And it is never a perfect balance. Priorities change by the day, and even more frequently. It is something that must always be assessed…both if you are committed 100% to what you are currently doing, and what time and mind-share adjustments do you need to make to properly “weave” it all together so that you can produce the most desirable outcomes for your life.

    Just my $0.02

    • alex_lawrence

      Ken — love this. Totally agree and actually how I generally approach most things (but admittedly, not all).

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