I’m not talking about the balance between work and life. There are enough people covering the subject of working too hard and compromising your personal life. They’re right, too.
But they also don’t discuss balance within each of these areas. They talk about work/life balance, but not balancing work within work or life within life. They treat work and life as two half-circles that form a whole.
You can’t form a whole if one of the half-circles is broken.
I learned that recently – or maybe I always knew it and just forgot. “People miss you, James.” My friend said the words as gently as she could, but she also made them clear and direct so that I would get the point. “You give the impression that you’ve become too busy for them.”
I felt guilty.
She wasn’t quite done yet with me, either. “You’ve gone from being happy boys who showed up everywhere to comment, really thoughtfully, to becoming extremely… selective.”
Alright. Point made, and I knew in my deepest heart that my friend was dead-on right. My instinctive reaction? “I’ve been busy.” Her answer, “Yes, yes, I know.”
And the few days that followed had me thinking an awful lot about how the balance of my work life has skewed. I also see the same situation happening to others, which makes it worthwhile enough for a blog post.
We tend to focus on what’s important to us at the time. Need money? You focus on making money. Need to finish a project? You focus on that project.
That means that other areas take a hit. While you’re writing hard to make money, your marketing suffers. While you’re working to finish that project, the ebook you were developing gets set aside.
And then it becomes easy to forget what mattered most in the first place.
Some time later, when the work is done and the money is coming in again, you come up for air. “Whew! Thank god that’s over!” Yes indeed – but now you have to pick up the pieces where you left off.
The Cost of Focus
Every choice we make comes at a cost. We choose to do something, but that means we’re also choosing not to do something else.
If you set aside that ebook, the cost may be your interest in its completion when you come back to it. You might have forgotten some points you wanted to cover. Maybe the ebook doesn’t even seem like such a good idea anymore.
If you stopped marketing, the cost is clients. Now you have to find them and spend extra time trying to get customers to your door. You probably also aren’t working while you’re doing that, so you take an income hit, too.
That’s why balance in business is important. Your focus needs to touch on all areas that need attention and in proper proportions to make sure everything runs smoothly. Spend too much time on one area, and the other suffers.
Revisiting the Past
The wake-up call my friend gave me was long overdue, and it gave me pause. I sat back and thought for a long while about what I believed in, where my values lay, what parts of the business I loved and what was important to me.
I thought about balance, and how I’d skewed it in the area of work. I’d put all my energy into a project and forgot there was a cost: interaction with people.
People are a big part of why I love what I do, and why we maintain a blog. People fuel my day, keeping me company and discussing in emails. People share conversation with me while I have my morning coffee.
No people? James is one unhappy puppy.
Now I’m returning balance to where it should be, and I’m very thankful that I have friends and readers who were patient enough to stick around until I found my way back to what matters most.
Will I get busy again and need to make choices on where I have to focus? Sure. There are certainly going to be days where I can’t be as present as others, and there are going to be times when I need to put all my energy here or there.
But I’ll be much more careful maintaining balance and distributing my focus across what really matters, like people, communication, interaction and conversation. Putting all my energy into one place isn’t healthy.
Now I’m curious about your experiences. Pick one area, work or life. Have you ever skewed the balance within that single area? What were the consequences? Did you need to correct the situation? Was it tough?