Traditional thinking of work-life balance myth harmony in binary terms is counterintuitive. This means you’ll have more time to spend time with your family and less time to manage your career.
However, if you don’t manage your career properly, you won’t be able to provide for the family. It’s a circular way of looking at the problem.
David J. McNeff offers a new approach. He authored The work-life balance myth. He asserts that there’s no such thing as work/life balance (2021).
McNeff’s alternative to the work-life balance is the seven-slice approach. McNeff instead of focusing on work and family, McNeff proposes seven domains for people to spend their time. The human race needs all seven.
The Spiritual Slice might refer to time spent participating in organized religion or thinking about the meaning and purpose of life.
The Emotional Slice relates to time spent in friendship, and not with work associates or family. The Intellectual Slice refers only to time spent learning something.
You can try this exercise:
The average time spent on each of these seven activities over your waking hours will determine how you allocate your time. This is an example of the profile that Gwen, a client, created.
Family Slice: 15 %
Professional Slice: 75 per cent
Personal Slice: 5.5%
Intellectual Slice: 3 percent
1 percent Emotional Score
Spiritual Slice: 1%
What would be your allocation?
Gwen’s first realization was that she was living her life in a vacuum. She had only been thinking about her family, work and friends.
She was neglecting important areas in her life. This negligence was creating stress and anxiety in her life.
How can she be more content with the little time she has left for her slices?
A binary approach to solving the problem is to consider work-life harmony. You cannot add time to either side of the equation by taking time off the other.
If you view the problem from an ordinary perspective, however, it is no longer an either/or proposition.
It’s about changing positions and merging categories. Ordinal thinking refers conceiving something within a list that can change or be combined.
Gwen began to play tennis every Saturday morning in an ordinary way. This allowed her increase both her personal and physical slice at the same moment.
Gwen used to turn off her mobile phone during her 40-minute drive to work and listen to tapes of books to start her day.
She was able to enrich her intellectual slices while not losing her professional slice.
Here’s an example of how we can eliminate the zero-sum approach to work-life harmony by making managing life an issue that is ordinal, where activities are possible to be combined.
One of our clients was Managing Partners of a lawfirm. The family went to church on Sundays.
The daughter was also a part of the religious education program at the church. The managing partner reviewed the church committees to find that the Religious Education Committee featured two bank CEOs.
He was a member of that committee. Because of the relationships formed on the committee one of these banks became a lawyer client. It was a great way to support his professional and family slices.
Summary of Conclusions
It is easy to define a life problem by referring to it as work/life balance. You can’t add time to one end of the ledger if you don’t reduce the time on your other.
You can creatively slice and dice between and within the categories by framing this issue as a sevenslice ordinal problem.
McNeff’s book does NOT include sleep as an important Slice. Sleep deprivation, however is a common business issue that is often not discussed openly.
People enjoy bragging about how little sleep they have, but poor decision making is linked to sleep deprivation. (Stybel Peabody, 2019).
Regardless of whether you believe that your life is comprised seven or eight slices it’s more beneficial to approach the issue this way than to talk about your lack in work-life balance.
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