Finding it hard to achieve work-life “balance”? Try “integration” instead.

Struggling with work-life “balance”? Try “integration” instead.

If you love your job, it may be hard to balance work with your personal life. This is especially true for people who work in constantly innovating industries that are passionate about what they do. There’s always a new book to read, a podcast to subscribe to, and industry people to meet. 

That’s a big contrast to the type of job where someone works for a paycheque and can easily detach themselves by going “offline” until the next shift. Besides having the power to separate work and life, that mindset allows a person to direct their efforts to hobbies and other recreational activities without thinking about their job.

For the rest of us, separating our personal life from our careers can be challenging. So is there a better way?

The answer is “integration”

The difference between work-life “balance” and “integration” is that the former mindset sets clear boundaries while the latter acknowledges that work is life for people that love what they do.

In other words, work-life integration is for people that are perfectly happy to dedicate their lives to their careers and make them part of their lifestyle. 

Not everyone is going to vibe with that of course! For example, family-oriented people choose to dedicate time to children, others have multiple roles in their community, and some people simply choose to have a job to pay the bills while dedicating time to other pursuits like art and music. 

Individuals like those in the above categories likely have to work at achieving a “balance” across multiple priorities. In contrast, work-life “integration” is a concept more suited to hyper-focused people focused on their careers. By integrating aspects of their work into their life, they can leverage this idea to achieve goals faster and with greater success.

What work-life integration looks like

Work-life integration will look different for everyone, however it helps to set goals and schedule in activities that ensure you stay physically healthy and mentally balanced while avoiding burnout. Some ways to achieve that include:

1. Establish a strict self-care routine

It’s really easy to lose track of time and miss out on important activities needed to stay healthy. Burning out is not an option! Besides compromising your overall health, it will reduce productivity and set you back. Some practices that can be incorporated into your routine include:

  • Working out in the morning to “get it done” and set your day up for success
  • Eating non-processed meals with adequate amounts of protein and fat
  • Taking quick ten-minute breaks to exercise throughout the day
  • Joining social clubs and meeting people outside work
  • Mind-body movement like tai chi and yoga
  • Team sports like basketball and football
  • Meditation 

Tailoring your schedule to include these activities is a work in progress, and you will figure out new ways to optimise your health as time goes on.

Stay disciplined! Every effort you make is worth it because staying healthy and well-rested ensures that you have the energy to stay productive and do more in the long run. Unfortunately, some of us may be so busy that we forget to take these steps in our self-care routine, so schedule them in to make sure they get done!

2. Establish boundaries where needed

Some experts believe that work-life integration is more about blending work and life. While that idea may help some people, it may be stressful for others because we are more than just our job! 

Blending work and life may also lead to a one-sided perspective for some people. This may not be helpful in the long run because many of us can benefit from different perspectives to gain a clear view of reality. 

Think about what happens when you travel – you meet new people, see new cultures, and often return home with a fresh outlook. With that in mind, can we improve our work performance by taking breaks and having new experiences? 

Harvard-trained neuroscientist Dr. Srini Pillay seems to think so. He advocates letting the mind wander and defocus through unrelated activities in order to allow new ideas to surface. In his book, Tinker Dabble Doodle Try, he demonstrates how certain unfocused activities can actually stimulate productivity, creativity and innovation by allowing the mind to relax and wander. 

In order to harness that approach, clear boundaries need to be set through activities that are not at all related to work. That might mean trying new things that are out of our comfort zone. Some examples include:

  • Taking an art or pottery class
  • Learning a new instrument
  • Joining a public speaking group
  • Playing a new sport
  • Taking cooking classes
  • Volunteering at a community association

Doing something totally new can take you away from your “normal” self and into a totally different paradigm. And while there really isn’t a wrong or right choice here, it’s up to you to choose exactly how far you want to go in creating a strategy to expand your boundaries. 

3. Understand that everyone is different

Many career-oriented people often lose sight of the fact that not everyone out there loves their job – some may even hate it! That’s why it may be wise to refrain from talking about work all the time around certain friends and family members. Also, in addition to #2, you can try reading new books or watching documentaries to broaden the subjects you typically discuss – that way you can offer new topics to the conversation and relieve yourself from work-related issues at the same time.

Also, when around others, you can try taking a listening role and ask other people about what’s going on in their lives and what interests them. Along with shifting the conversation topic, this can also help you disengage from work, learn something new, and even help a friend in need.

The key to work-life integration is to experiment and find what works best for you

Remote work has many benefits, such as setting your own schedule and working in different locations. At the same time, it can be very challenging to strike a balance – especially if you love your job.

Rather than struggling with the idea of “balance”, you may want to try an integrative approach that allows you to incorporate some aspects of work with life. At the same time, it’s also essential for hyper-focused people to set boundaries, so they stay healthy on a mental and physical level. 

A sole trader having a cup of coffee before she starts work

Ready to learn more?

Cool Company can help you save time and clear your schedule for new activities and projects. We offer services that give you freedom from administrative, accounting and financial hassles so you can focus on what matters in life. Ready to learn more? Click here.