Settling into a Work-Life Rhythm

This past Tuesday Rick Santorum announced he was suspending his presidential campaign and no longer running for the White House. According to a Huffington Post article, “the combination of his daughter’s sickness and recent poll numbers showing him possibly losing his home state apparently prompted the early departure.” I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to make such a consequential decision at a very stressful time. It also prompts me to consider how we make decisions regarding work-life balance priorities.

When demands are high in both our personal and professional lives simultaneously, difficult choices must be made. Otherwise, we’ll risk burnout, at which point we’ll end up less capable in both domains. The things that govern our behavior and our performance–our talent, our emotional energy, our self-control, our productivity, etc.–are scarce resources. We can allocate them evenly across all our roles and responsibilities, or we can choose to set priorities and focus on certain areas at certain points of our lives. My observation is that striving for balance and allocating our resources evenly across all domains works well when demands are relatively low. But when demands increase, decisions about priorities must be made otherwise we risk overload.

In a fantastic article, Scott Eblin writes about work-life rhythm, “By seeking a rhythm, you acknowledge there are times when the pace is much more oriented to work and there are the times when the counterpoints of the other aspects of your life come to the fore. Shifting from the mindset of balance to the mindset of rhythm allows you to take the pressure off. You have permission to quit seeking that holy grail of perfect balance… You understand that some days or weeks are more about work and then home comes back around.”

Notice that your work-life rhythm will have cycles that are hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, or even longer. We are quite familiar with hourly (devoting time to work 9-5 and our family in the evening) and daily (working Monday through Friday and taking personal time Saturday and Sunday) cycles already. Look at the bigger picture of your life and career and you’ll notice monthly and yearly cycles as well.


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