Paul Butler: Work-life balance

Paul Butler

The dilemma of work-life balance is a relatively new phenomenon.

During the agrarian age, we knew when our work was done because the sun went down. We couldn’t plough the field in the darkness of night. There was a natural rhythm to our 24-hour cycle — we worked, then we played and then we slept.

As the industrial age dawned, most workers fled the field and flowed into the factory. Work became highly automated and mechanical. Time and motion studies mastered and measured every element of the day. Our shift was done when the whistle blew.

We’re now working in a predominately service-based economy, where the productivity of people cannot be measured so precisely and clinically. The output from all of our effort is no longer in direct correlation to the input of the hours we work.

Technology has blurred the lines between our “work” and our “home.” When we’re at “work,” technology enables us to attend to personal tasks. Likewise, technology gives us the ability for us to “do work” while we’re physically “at home.”

Whether we choose to call it work-life balance or work-life integration, it’s important to ask ourselves, why is this a vitally important subject? Well, let’s answer that by asking this question: Does anyone really enjoy working with a bent-out-of-shape workaholic?

See, the problem with being a workaholic, especially if you’re in a leadership or ownership position is, you set the tone for your work team. In the short-term, you may get results. But over the long haul, it’s just not sustainable. You’re not a machine and even a machine has to be maintained. If you’re not getting enough rest and rejuvenation, eventually, your health and relationships will break down.

If you allow work to be the focus of your waking hours, the easiest appointments to cancel are those you make with yourself. Investing time in your exercise or to renew and refresh those relationships that should matter most, you figure can always be done “tomorrow” but tomorrow never seems to come.

And therein lies the dilemma — people who lack work-life balance think they’re giving 100 percent, but in reality, they’re giving far less when measured over time. The performance of a person who lacks work-life balance is like a roller coaster with high-highs and low-lows.

They’re inconsistent.

One day they go fast and long. On other days, they go slow and long. On some days, they don’t show up at all because they’re so burned out from driving their internal engines so long. They’ve been so busy driving; they didn’t take time to stop and get gas.

It isn’t all about you. It isn’t just yourself you affect. As a leader or owner, the culture you set influences others — your lack of work-life balance adversely impacts those around you. Before you know it, you’re wondering why you lose staff and those who do stay, seem frazzled, fragmented and fed-up.

Having a mindset and skill set that exhibits healthy work-life balance can actually serve as a talent-magnet. You see, highly effective people have plenty of choices, and they choose to work with and for leaders or owners who have a healthy and whole-person paradigm. They enjoy working hard, but they also want to be refreshed, renewed and re-energized to start a brand new day, every day.

Work is important — we were designed to work but don’t “give your all” to your work. Instead give 100 percent while you’re working. You see, “100 percent” is not the same as “giving your all.” Giving your all implies there’s no fuel left in your tank: no energy or time left for you to rejuvenate.

Don’t sacrifice yourself for your work.

Yes, we each have meaningful work to do.

Yes, we can make a difference in this world.

Yes, there will always be more we can do, but we can only march on with our mission when we are each in good shape emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually — that’s the whole-person paradigm.

Let’s work on this together — while also enjoying this one wonderful life today — as tomorrow may never come.

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal newspaper. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].

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