The Truth about “Work-Life Balance”

When most people think about work-life balance, they imagine a perfectly balanced scale. I’ll tell you why this idea is flawed—and how to think about work-life balance instead.

Pat Flynn

The Truth about “Work-Life Balance”

Let’s talk about work-life balance.

When most people think about work-life balance, they imagine a scale that can only be perfectly balanced when there is equal weight on both sides. But I think this idea is flawed, and I’ll tell you why—along with how you should be thinking about work-life balance instead.

How I Like to Think About Work-Life Balance

First, realize that in life, things rarely fall cleanly into one category or another.

There are many aspects of “business” that are only “business”—but there are other aspects of “business” that also bleed into “life.” So when you’re trying to build a work-life balance, how do you know what’s “life” and what’s “business”? There can be a lot of overlap, so trying to put things in neat categories can often backfire.

The second thing is, many people think about and try to build perfect balance in their lives, but this implies that this kind of balance is a static thing. That’s a myth, and it’s one that affects a lot of people’s thinking. If you’re trying to build a life with perfect balance on both sides—work and personal—that never needs to be adjusted, you’re going to be doomed from the start.

That’s why instead of a scale with two sides, I like to think of work-life balance more like a constantly changing painting. It’s much more complex, with different colors and shades and textures, light and dark. The balances of all of those things to paint a picture of the life we have.

And it’s a painting that’s alive. It’s always evolving.

Instead of thinking about it as work-life balance, meaning things are perfectly balanced and stay that way, I think a better way to describe it would be work-life balancing. Instead of trying to create a fixed situation, it becomes an ongoing act of not wavering too far to one side or the other, making adjustments as you go and trying to paint a balanced picture.

It’s not a perfect metaphor, but I think it gets closer to the truth of this work-life balance thing, and it’s helped me create balance in my own life in the past decade of being an entrepreneur.

There are times where things shift way over to one side (or the painting becomes dominated by certain shades or colors), but I always do my best to intentionally rebalance things. After a moment or season where things are busy on the business side, I try to make sure to tip the scale the other way or balance the shades and colors of the painting.

This is how I’ve lived my life and run my business over the past ten years, and it’s worked out really well.

For instance, I recently launched a brand new course earlier this year, and a lot of time, money, effort, and head space went into producing and marketing it. There were several weeks where I was super focused on the course, and during that time I was less focused on my family. However, after that busy period wound down, I made sure to spend some dedicated time with my family, time when I was focused on them and only them.

This is the part of the beauty of being an entrepreneur. You can create these yins and yangs, these darks and lights, these salt and pepper shakers or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches out of your life. The things that balance each other out. You’re rarely going to be balanced within a single day or even a few weeks, but that can be okay as long as you’re aware of it and do something about it. You just need to do your best to not let the scale teeter too far to one side or the other.

Work-Life Balance and the Power of Planning

I have a giant event happening later this year called FlynnCon. It’s my first ever large, live, in-person event, and it’s one of the most exciting things I’ve done to date. (There are still some general admission tickets left—and even a few VIP ones—if you haven’t got yours yet!)

Needless to say, it’s involved a ton of planning along with the whole team. We’ve never put together an event on this scale before, and it’s been pretty stressful, to be honest. FlynnCon happens at the end of July. Although the heavy lifting should drop off and until then, there’s going to be a steady level of planning and activity related to the show.

Then, once August hits, I have a new book coming out, which I’m also super excited about! But of course, this means that the summer is going to be an ever more business-heavy period for me and Team SPI.

And what does that mean? Once FlynnCon is over and the book is launched, it’s time for some serious rebalancing.

So, before September rolls around, I’m going to take a little break and focus on being with my family. We’ll spend some vacation time together before the kids start school again. The work schedule will get a lot leaner, with nothing new planned until likely the later half of Q3 or maybe even into Q4.

How do I know all of this so far in advance? Because it’s all been planned out ahead of time.

You have to understand that you can’t balance for light and dark, yin and yang, peanut butter and jelly, or however else you want to describe it, unless you plan for it. But this is where I see a lot of newer entrepreneurs get into trouble. They get really excited about diving into their new business idea. They go in full-force and don’t consider what might happen on the other end. They don’t think about how they’re going to balance all this work that they’re doing.

They end up creating tension, and their quality of life starts to suffer. Maybe it’s their health or fitness, or their relationships, but something starts to give.

One of the biggest keys I’ve found to avoid this is to plan ahead.

In a lot of my courses, I talk about the importance of planning for the year using a calendar. Planning is crucial when it comes to your business. You need to know on what’s going to happen and when, or you’re going to run into trouble. But planning isn’t just useful to make sure you’re taking adequate breaks between running promotions—it’s also useful for your sanity. Calendar planning can be incredibly helpful in creating work-life balance.

You can use your calendar to balance out the busy periods with lighter ones, to make sure you’re giving adequate attention to both your business and your health/family/hobbies/friends. Assign a timeframe around your busy periods, then plan some downtime coming out of them. Set up your calendar so you can actually see those blocks of time—work and “regular” life—set against each other.

How Do You Create Your Own Work-Life Balance?

This work-life balance stuff is tricky. There’s no magic formula or easy answer to make it happen. You have to figure out a lot of it as you go. But no matter what, planning ahead can still make a big difference.

This blog post isn’t meant to be the last word on work-life balance. But it’s a topic that’s really important to me, and it’s something I addressed very recently on the podcast with one of my favorite people: Chalene Johnson, who’s helped a ton of people improve their health and fitness, as well as their businesses and their work-life balance. She shared the work-life balance mistakes she’s made over the years and how they’ve helped her grow. We also talked about how Chalene and her family use written personal policies and procedures to set goals and keep track of when something is taking over their lives.

And if you want to dig even more into it, here are some more resources from the SPI archives that might help you light your path to a better balance between work and non-work in your life:

The life of an entrepreneur can be hard to balance. I’d love to hear your strategies for keeping balance and maintaining your sanity when you’re trying to build a business and serve your own audience. When you find yourself in a busy season of your life, how do you counterbalance it? Do you have a plan in place, or are you winging it?


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