The Top 10 Work-Life Balance Myths

By Andrew May

The term ‘work life balance’ is a myth. The term itself sets many people up for failure because they either feel like their lives aren’t balanced or don’t understand what balance is for them.

Here are 10 common myths around work that kill productivity, resulting in employees spending unnecessary amounts of time at work, leaving no time to have a life.

Myth 1 – Hours worked = productivity

This myth annoys me more than all of the rest. The notion that working an 11 or 12-hour day, every day, results in boosted output and efficiency, is totally archaic. Sure, there will be some days where you need to really put in extra big days to finish projects on time, but if you’re working excessive hours day in day out, something is wrong. Most people who think hours worked = productivity are stripped right back to reality when I do a time audit on their actually daily output. Eliminate 80% of the emails which are a complete waste of time, subtract the endless and pointless meetings that waste hours on end, then get rid of the dozens of daily distractions and you’re left with a few hours at the most of productive work.

Myth 2 – Compartmentalise your life into 8 – 8 –8

The old notion that we were meant to spend 8 hours working, 8 hours sleeping and 8 hours on recreational and social activities is largely a thing of the past. Most people work a lot more than 8-hour days to pay large mortgages and afford to live in some of our large cities. And who on earth has eight hours a day to relax and socialize?

Myth 3  Follow the leader

Now, this one sometimes gets me into trouble, but I’m sticking to it. So many companies espouse a high-performance culture, yet so many leaders exhibit a low-performance behaviour pattern. Just because someone’s card says ‘boss’ or ‘senior manager’ doesn’t necessarily mean they are a great role model for being productive or how to have a successful life outside of work.

Myth 4 – Be polite and respond to every request

Before technology invaded our lives we were all taught to return every phone call, write back to every person who wrote to us, and respond to every task that came across our desks. But with the explosion of technology, viral marketing, social networking sites, overloaded inboxes and information obesity, responding to every request or distraction is a good way to stuff up productivity and ensure your time, energy and attention are controlled by others.

Myth 5 – Time management will set you free

I think the old school of time management is fundamentally flawed. I tried it myself for years and went to every time management program available and despite it all, I had never ending to-do lists and unfinished tasks. Most time management programs were designed before the internet and digital devices totally changed the way we work. Rather than focusing on trying to do everything, focus on what’s really important and manage your energy and attention throughout the day to maximize output.

Myth 6 – Technology will give us more leisure time

Technology was hailed as our saviour. All of the new inventions hitting the workforce were purportedly going to ensure we got more work done and had more leisure time. The reality is the latest batch of digital devices keep us connected 24/7 and working longer hours than ever before. Are we really that important that we can’t switch off even for a few days?

Myth 7 – Great employees/managers are available 24/7

Work in periods where you are available and then take yourself off the grid and remove all distractions when you need to stick your head down and be super productive. Providing clear expectations about when you are and aren’t available avoids confrontation around for 98% of the population.

Myth 8 – Constant change is bad

If you can’t handle and bounce back from constant change, probably a good idea to look at leaving the workforce altogether. The only constant in the current workforce is change. We are a truly global marketplace and change spreads faster than ever. Look at the recent Global Financial Crisis; a great example of what happened to companies that couldn’t change quickly enough when the financial markets started to turn south is that they no longer exist.

Myth 9 – Work is done at your desk

The way we work has changed forever and working patterns are also starting to change. Just because you’re not at your desk doesn’t mean you’re not working, Work is no longer a place we go to in the morning and leave in the late afternoon, work is a mindset we dip in and out of around the clock.

Myth 10 – Corporate success = happiness

Countless studies report that happiness and contentedness is about bringing to life our complete selves, not just our corporate façade. Of course happy and content people work derive much pride and pleasure out of their occupations, but they also build in time for relationships, outside interests and passions, time for learning new skills and time to look after themselves.

Plan having a life – the 10% Rule

The key to achieving a better integration between work and life is to start planning what you do outside of work. I know this sounds so simple yet so many people make this so complex. If most people were to spend only 10% of the time and energy they spend planning their business life on planning their personal life, they would have a much greater chance of leading a rich and contented life. Take some time to write down the type of life you want to live – right through to where you live, where you go on holidays and what you do to relax and unwind.

Busting the myths and changing the rules around workplace productivity will ensure you achieve a lot more in less time. This will also provide you with the opportunity to spend more time with friends and family as well as engaging in the activities you love. Getting the mix right is really hard and requires constant calibration. But trust me, if you work at it I guarantee you can have a great career and an amazing life as well.

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