The Myth of the Work/Life Balance…and what to do instead

The Myth of the Work/Life Balance

The Myth of the Work/Life Balance

The myth of the work/life balance: Does work/life truly exist?

It was after work hours and I was at a shopping mall with my family. While waiting for my wife outside a store, I received an urgent email from work. The email informed me of a problem at work that required my immediate attention. I stood there for about five minutes trying to think up a solution.

I then figured out the quickest possible solution and implemented it. While waiting for my wife, I sent a quick email to an employee informing him of what to do. When I got home that evening, the employee emailed me back to inform me that the issue had been resolved.

This is the modern world. Work and family time mixed together. Solving a workplace crisis while shopping with your family. It got me thinking about the whole concept of work/life balance and how practical it is in the digital age. Here are my thoughts.

Unrealistic expectations

What does work/life balance mean to you? For some people, it means having enough time everyday for work, family religion and self. For others, however, it may mean spending equal time with family and work. This second idea is unrealistic. Such a balance rarely existed in human history and isn’t practical to maintain.

I would go as far as to say that work/life balance itself isn’t maintainable. Life is messy. It has ups and downs. Sometimes work is easy and family life is a mess. Sometimes family life is rosy and work is overwhelming. And there are days when both go smoothly. To expect to maintain a balance in all situations is not realistic.

Instead of focusing on balance, we should focus on the following:

1. Quality Time

It may not always be possible to give 100% to work or family, or both. Instead of focusing on quantity, focus on quality. If you have just an hour to your kids today, make that hour count. If you have six hours of work together, make those six hours count. Focus on improving the quality of your time.

For family, that may mean having a meaningful conversation, sharing a fun activity or just relaxing together in silence. For work, it may mean utilize dead hours for personal development, taking on additional responsibilities or catching up on those delayed projects. Quality is more important than balance.

2. Be in the moment

Whatever you are doing, be there and be attentive. During family time, put your phone away and give your kids and spouse undivided attention. During a high concentration task, be focused on the task and close all distractions, even if it means putting your phone on silent. Attention is key to making every moment count.

3. Be realistic

You not always going to be able to operate at 100%. You will have down days, lopsided days, mixed days. There may be days when you need to work and handle a family issue at the same time. Be realistic in your expectations of yourself and life. Balance isn’t always possible, but achieving realistic goals is.

4. Cut yourself some slack

You are going to mess up at times. You may have to work all night on a project for one week. Or you may have to spend a week nursing an ailing relative at the hospital, neglecting work. You may experience days of pure exhaustion when you can’t give time to either. Remember that you are human, so don’t expect too much from yourself.

Cut yourself some slack on days when you are unable to give it any semblance of balance. And try to make up for those days on other days.

5. During times of work crisis, increase time spent on that

There may be days when your work requires more of you. A week away from home. A long night of research and writing. That sudden business trip. A workplace emergency. Things like this happen. During such times, you will need to spend extra time on work. This is natural.

Your family should understand, but they probably do. More importantly, you should understand. As a working person, you will have days when work is all you do. That is part of life, and you need to accept that.

6. During times of family crisis, increase time spent on that

Family crises happen too. Funerals, interventions, and emergency room visits are all a part of life. During such times, you need to focus on the family. Be there for them. Lead the way in solving the problems. It may mean neglecting some work, or taking a few leave days.

This is part of life and during such times, balance is not possible. So focus on the crisis, and make up the lost work time when things settle down.

7. Double Crisis? Get Help!

It is very rare to face a workplace and home crisis at the same time. In case such happens, you need to realize that you can’t do it alone. You either need a colleague to take over the work matter, or a family member to step in and handle the family issue. Either way, you need help so don’t be ashamed to ask for it.

Conclusion: Do the best with each day

Life doesn’t have much balance. Some days are smooth, some are tiring, some are scary. Make the best of each day, and don’t beat yourself up if you are unable to find balance on difficult days. What is important is quality attentive time, not equal time.

I believe we can live much healthier lives if we focus on the quality of our time, rather than trying to attain unrealistic goals. So make each day count. But when you can’t, don’t sweat it, just find a way to make up for it.


Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Business, 6 comments

What does work really mean to you?

What does work really mean to you?

What does work really mean to you?

What does work really mean to the teacher?

Case A: She showed up to work today. Man, did she hate these kids. She just wanted to get through another day of teaching. So she counted the days until the next big holiday. In fact, she couldn’t even remember what she taught today. She was there for the paycheck, that was all that mattered. The question “What does work really mean to me?” never crossed her mind.

What does teaching really mean to her: its just a job.

Case B: She couldn’t wait to get to school today. She was living her dream. Educating children, inspiring them, changing their lives! Did you know she spent the entire holiday planning her lessons, and innovating new teaching techniques? She was ready, she was excited. She came, she taught, she inspired!

What does teaching really mean to her: inspiring and motivating the next generation to be better.

What does work really mean to the doctor?

Case A: He sighed. Another day of blood and sickness. He hated his job. His parents wanted him to become a doctor, so he became one but didn’t enjoy a single minute of it. He showed up, did what he needed to do, and went home. He didn’t take extra shifts, attend conferences, or make house calls.

What does being a doctor mean to him: Its just a job.

Case B: He woke up energized, with a clear purpose. Today he was going to save as many lives as possible. He was going to do everything he could to help as many people as possible. Every single day he woke up with this same purpose, and every single day he made a difference.

What does being a doctor mean to him: saving lives.

What does work really mean to the salesperson?

Case A: He shows up at your door, suitcase in hand. The one who makes false promises. He guarantees things which he has no right to guarantee. You know why he is there: he wants to make some money selling you a useless gadget. So you turn him away, as did ten other people. He doesn’t understand why.

What does being a salesperson mean to him: Its just a job.

Case B: He gives you a call. The product he is offering you is exactly what you need to solve your problems. The benefits clearly outweigh the cost. You buy it immediately and never regret the decision. So did ten other people today.

What does being a salesperson mean to him: Introducing people to products that solve their problems.

What does work really mean to the entrepreneur?

Case A: He starts a website. And produces a cheap-quality product to sell on it. He pours money into marketing. But nobody buys. The few who do regret it. The website shuts down. He starts another and repeats. Waiting for the idea that makes him rich overnight…it never comes.

What does being an entrepreneur mean to him: get-rich-quick schemes.

Case B: She has a great idea for an app that will solve a problem for thousands of people. She invests money in developing the app. When the app is launched, it is an immediate success. She uses the profit to invent a gadget that solves another group’s problems. It is another hit. She continues to repeat this process over and over again. Some hit, some fail, but all benefit those who buy them.

What does being an entrepreneur mean to her: creating solutions for people’s problems.

So what does work really mean to you?

The answer to this question makes all the difference in the world. Do you work solely for money, or for a greater purpose. Your answer to this question will decide whether you will be amazing or just exist.

Written by Shaykh Ismail Kamdar, Founder of Islamic Self Help and author of multiple eBooks and online courses.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Business, 1 comment

Working From Home: 5 Tips For Effectiveness

Working From Home

Working from home is slowly becoming a norm across the globe. With more internet-based jobs launching each year, the number of people who work from homWorking From Homee is growing exponentially.

I have been working from home since 2010. Since then, I have worked in multiple roles online which include teaching, managing, marketing and running my own website. As someone with 7 years experience in working from home, I know the pros and cons this role.

5 Tips for Effectiveness

Working from home requires a lot of self-discipline. It is very easy to wake up late, get distracted with media and laze about. The following five tips will help you remain an effective worker as you adjust to working from home.

1. Create a designated work space

Having a designated work space is key to avoiding laziness. If you think that you will remain productive by simply working in bed in your pajamas. Or by working in your lounge or Jacuzzi, then you are dead wrong. Our brains associate certain places with work and certain places with pleasure. It is important to keep the two separate.

Set up a dedicated work space at home. One way to do this is to convert a spare bedroom into a home office like I did. Other options include setting up a designated corner in a room were you work from, or at least having a work desk set up in your garage. Just find a place with minimum distractions and set up there.

2. Create sources of motivation

Working from home requires a lot of self-motivation. You need to be driven to work up early, work a full day and complete your tasks. The best way to make sure it all gets done is to do work that you love. That way the work itself serves as motivation to help you get through each day productively.

If the work itself isn’t motivating you, then set up alternative sources of motivation. These can be motivational quotes on your wall, a motivational video you listen to each morning before work, or a side project that you are working on. The responsibility to create motivation falls squarely on your shoulders.

3. Have a To-Do List

Every night before logging off for the day, make a To-Do List for the next day. I make mine at 5 pm every day. Adopt a similar practice. This way, you wake up knowing exactly what needs to be done each day for that day. A To-Do list provides a sense of structure, and makes sure that you get everything done, regardless of the distractions you may face at home.

4. Take regular breaks

Don’t overwork yourself. Your brain needs downtime. When working from home, it can be easy to lose track of time and work around the clock. This is unhealthy and can cause burn out and even affect your physical health. Make sure you take regular breaks, schedule in some fun time and some family time. Maintain a balance in terms of work, family and caring for yourself. This will help you remain productive.

5. Schedule Your Social Life

Working from home can be a cause of feelings of isolation. This is perhaps the hardest part of working alone. In order to overcome this, you need to take charge of your social calendar. Plan events, invite friends over, attend conferences, meet friends at coffee shops, and do whatever else you can to fulfill your social needs.

Isolation can cause great mental harm, and even lead to depression. be aware of this and take care of your social needs by making time to meet up with family and friends. This will help you stay healthy and productive.

Final Word

Working from home is amazing. I get to spend a lot of time with my family. I  get a lot of alone time. A lot of work gets done daily because there aren’t many distractions. I am free to pursue my personal goals and dreams. And I don’t have to deal with office gossip or drama.

The key is to motivate yourself and stay focused on clear goals. If you utilize your time wisely, you can accomplish amazing things through the opportunities that come with working from home.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Business, 1 comment

The Paradox Of Working Smarter

By Sarah Masud

“His command is only when He intends a thing, He says to it “Be”, and it is.” 
(Surah Yaseen 36:82)

Nothing is impossible for Allah. If he wished he could have established Islam by saying ‘Be’. If he willed he could have had every person be born as an obedient Muslim. Yet it was Allah’s plan that things should take their natural course. From Prophet Adam (pbuh) to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), many generations passed. Many civilizations came up, and were destroyed.

So many prophets and messengers appeared through the course of establishment of Islam, not one without a story of struggle and patience. Pondering upon this fact made me wonder. If someone of utmost supremacy did not apply any shortcuts to establish His religion, then what makes us, the humans, think that we can take shortcuts to success. Haughtiness and stupidity, I guess.

The phrase ‘work smarter, not harder’ has become the anthem for today’s generation. Some of us are ready to gamble money in lottery to become rich overnight. Others are willing to take unapproved medicine to lose fat, without any exercise. We are fooling ourselves in the alchemy of success, without investing an iota of time on self improvement. We have become a short sighted generation, focused on instant gratification.

But these shortcuts to success are momentary. They in turn cut short our chances of success, depriving us of a lifetime of achievements and contentment. These shortcuts to success bring more harm than good. They are a digression from the path of righteous. And who does greater wrong to himself, than he who digresses and is led astray by the Satan.

Working Hard and SmartWorking Hard

Working smarter cannot be a substitute for hard work. These two aspects are not antithesis of each other. In fact, they are complimentary. One has to work hard to achieve success. It is only during those years of earnest hard work does one realize his strengths and weakness, leaving room for improvement. It takes years to learn the tricks of any trade, and become smart. In short, you first work hard to attain smartness, and then work hard to sustain that smartness.

Learning to be smart at work is like a return on investment on the hard work you put in. The more you work hard, the smarter your working becomes. So stop roaming the blind alleys of shortcuts. Be smart, and work hard.

“And that there is not for man except that [good] for which he strives, and that his effort is going to be seen. Then he will be recompensed for it with the fullest recompense.”
Surah An-Najm 53:39-41

About the author: Sarah Masud is a Data Science intern at Red Hat Inc. She loves to read and write in her spare time.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Productivity, 0 comments