Work-life balance or blur?

by | Nov 28, 2011

So do you have work-life balance or blur? How much attention do we pay?

Many of us are so busy processing such a myriad of thoughts, that we operate on automatic pilot and forget how to pay attention to anything. Most of us claim to have no work-life balance.Have you ever been to the refrigerator and forgotten what you were looking for? Scientists believe that as little as 1% of our brain is actively engaged in the activity we are presently "focused" on! I use the word lightly!

The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of our activities yield 20% of the results in our lives. So there are strong indications that even when we are not especially stressed, we are not 100% present in our own lives and don’t pay attention, even to ourselves. What happens do you think when we are under any sort of pressure or stress, when problems become our central focus? You can see, with the complexity of modern living, how easy it is for “life” to take on a momentum all of its own, and how effortless it is, to drift. We are all so busy multi-tasking, that the incidence of error is on the increase.


Constant contact is often not only expected, but demanded by bosses, peers and our families. For the few remaining hours before we finally sleep, we field never ending demands generated by our partners, kids, parents, hobbies, friends, homes and any other relationships in our "free" time. Work-life morphs into one continuum.  David E. Meyer, Professor of Psychology, in the Cognition and Perception Program, at University of Michigan, writes extensively on multi-tasking.

Multi-tasking is not an achievement

He believes that excessive multi-tasking “can lead to chronic stress, with potential damage to the cardiovascular, immune, and nervous systems." He maintains that flitting from task to task interferes with demanding and complex mental activities such as reading, having conversations and planning. This all contributes to an increase in the incidence of error. Tasks then take as much as 100% longer than they should to complete. When we under perform and expectations (perceived and actual) are not met, stress levels increase yet again.

This is difficult to quantify, but there is no doubt that we are all impacted  psychologically, emotionally, and physically.

Work- Life Balance or blur

Advances in technology and mobile devices are also blurring the line between work and leisure, reducing the amount of down time we allocate ourselves for refreshing and re-charging our physical and mental batteries.  Physically we might be away from work,  but mentally we are still there. Re-packaged as work/life integration, rather than work/life balance, the outcome is still the same. We are now frequently reminded to switch off our mobile phones, some reacting to the request as if an inalienable right has been denied.

I recently went to Paris for 36 hours. Normally I would have worked in each direction on the train and checked emails late at night and early in the morning. This time I left my iPad and laptop at home. The result was a period of disconnect which was relaxing and productive. I had time to think about something other than my "to do" list. And I am my own boss!  It is a personal choice to work in this way. Imagine if I didn't have the flexibility to  "disconnect" and was always on call!

When was the last time YOU disconnected and re-charged? How is you work-life balance? Need help? Schedule a call.



Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she joins the dots between organisations, individuals, opportunity and success.
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