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Why work-life balance isn’t a reality for the self employed

Freelancers lose sleep over the elusive “work-life balance” conundrum, but the entire concept is bunk, and here’s why.

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work life balance

It’s confession time…

Listening to a group of fellow freelancers discuss the illusive concept of work-life balance a few weeks made me realize just how out of control my own life had become. To be honest, the thought of work-life balance was part of the problem for me until I heard someone interrupt the conversation with the word “harmony.”

The reason work-life “balance” doesn’t work for me as a freelancer is because of the definition from Webster.

Balance: a state in which different things occur in equal or proper amounts or have an equal or proper amount of importance.

How on earth can any of us balance everything we have to do in equal portions? No wonder I felt like I was killing myself in order to achieve a concept that was pretty much only a dream.

Let’s rethink how this actually works

Even though we all understand subconsciously that it is impossible to distribute everything we have in our lives evenly, the word itself carries that meaning and is taken literally whether we admit it or not. In doing that I have seen a lot of guilt, depression, and oppression on ourselves to meet this unobtainable goal of balance.

Harmony, on the other hand, is exactly what we are actually striving for, based on this definition from good ol’ Webster.

Harmony: a combination of parts into a pleasing or orderly whole; congruity

Doesn’t a consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts; congruity feel more realistic? Freelancers typically work a lot of hours, mostly because we enjoy what we do, but we still need human interaction, hobbies, and activities to keep us rejuvenated. Some weeks we may need more of one than another to keep ourselves in harmony – but we do not have to make sure we maintain an equal amount of everything.

Imagine harmony instead of equal balance

Imagine a week where you work only 30 hours and spend some time most days riding your bike, taking a short walk/hike in a nearby park, or having a cup of coffee (or a mimosa) with a friend to catch up on life and laugh. What would it feel like to take a couple hours and read a book once or twice a week?

Close your eyes and take a moment to envision activities to ignite your fire again each week. The beauty of this is it doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking to make a dramatic difference in your overall life. It’s about integrating all the pieces of life you enjoy instead of trying to make them all balance equally. 50% fun + 50% work is not the only option, and in fact it may not be a viable option at all. You could have a week of 100% fun and the next week 100% focused work, or you could find some other combination that works even better for you.

It doesn’t have to be a major undertaking

If you need more structure to your daily work-life harmony, you can design that in as well since that is a part of harmony for you. I have a little of that myself, so I usually take my mornings to create a structured agenda for work to be done and then let my afternoons be more free-flowing to allow for a bike ride or hike.

I often forget to even look up from my computer to create harmony between work and fun; it is the curse of freelancing for many. But you must! Burnout is quite frankly one of the worst experiences freelancing has to offer – harmony is the best way to achieve your goals and enjoy being a freelancer.

If you’re a freelancer, take a more holistic approach by integrating work-life harmony and watch your happiness and productivity increase while the guilt and depression fade away.

#WorkLifeHarmony

Emily Leach is a pioneer in the world of uniquely-talented people who feel empowered to go beyond conventional jobs and create businesses from unique vantage points and perspectives. She is the founder of the Texas Freelance Association, the first statewide association of freelance workers in the country and The Freelance Conference, the only event of its kind poised to become THE conference for freelancers across the nation. Her belief that those working for themselves deserve the same respect as those working for major corporations drives her tireless fight to ensure this growing population of “genetically unemployable” solo-preneurs are represented and offered some of the same opportunities as those working for large corporations. Because of her knowledge and expertise, Emily has been a leading-edge organizer and speaker for TEDx events throughout the U.S. Southwest. Currently living in Austin, Texas, Emily’s outside interests include rowing, sailing, traveling, scuba diving, snowboarding, whitewater and cycling – basically, having adventures and living life to the fullest.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Les

    May 12, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    Forage, harvest, hunt, kill, eat, laugh, love…..laugh, forage, laugh, harvest, laugh, hunt, kill, laugh, eat, laugh, love….. Repeat as necessary. And the greatest of these is love……

  2. Nando

    May 12, 2015 at 10:40 pm

    Love Emily. I remember having a conversation about this. It originated on a reply from Chris Brogan to my same use of the word “balance”. Harmony is more powerful and conduce to happiness.

  3. Pingback: What freelancers must do when it feels like competition is holding you back - AGBeat

  4. Job at home

    June 3, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    The truth is, everyone's definition of balance is different. What works for you may not work for someone else. Finding the perfect harmony is a process of trial and errors but the good thing is that once you figure out you're preferences and what works for you, you're good to go!

  5. Pingback: France could pass a "Right to Disconnect" law letting workers ignore email after work hours - The American Genius

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Opinion Editorials

Facebook fights falsehoods (it’s a false flag)

(EDITORIAL) Facebook has chosen Reuters to monitor its site for false information, but what can one company really do, and why would Facebook only pick one?

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Reuters checks facebook

So Facebook has finally taken a step to making sure fake news doesn’t get spread on it’s platform. Like many a decision from them though, they haven’t been thorough with their venture.

I am a scientifically driven person, I want facts, figures, and evidence to determine what is reality. Technology is a double edged sword in this arena; sure having a camera on every device any person can hold makes it easy to film events, but deepfakes have made even video more questionable.

Many social media platforms have tried to ban deepfakes but others have actually encouraged it. “I’ll believe it when I see it” was the rally cry for the skeptical, but now it doesn’t mean anything. Altering video in realistic ways has destroyed the credibility of the medium, we have to question even what we see with our eyes.

The expansion of the internet has created a tighter communication net for all of humanity to share, but when specific groups want to sway everyone else there isn’t a lot stopping them if they shout louder than the rest.

With the use of bots, and knowing the specifics of a group you want to sway, it’s easy to spread a lie as truth. Considering how much information is known about almost any user on any social media platform, it’s easy to pick targets that don’t question what they see online.

Facebook has been the worst offender in knowing consumer data and what they do with that data. Even if you never post anything political, they know what your affiliation is. If you want to delete that information, it’s hidden in advertising customization.

Part of me is thrilled that Facebook has decided to try and stand against this spread of misinformation, but how they pursued this goal is anything but complete and foolproof.

Reuters is the news organization that Facebook has chosen to fact check the massive amount of posts, photos, and videos that show up on their platform everyday. It makes sense to grab a news organization to verify facts compared to “alternative facts”.

A big problem I have with this is that Reuters is a company, companies exist to make money. Lies sell better than truths. Ask 2007 banks how well lies sell, ask Enron how that business plan worked out, ask the actors from Game of Thrones about that last season.

Since Reuters is a company, some other bigger company could come along, buy them, and change everything, or put in people who let things slide. Even Captain America recognizes this process. “It’s run by people with agendas, and agendas change.” This could either begin pushing falsehoods into Facebook, or destroy Reuters credibility, and bite Facebook in the ass.

If some large group wants to spread misinformation, but can’t do it themselves, why wouldn’t they go after the number one place that people share information?

I really question if Reuters can handle the amount of information flowing through Facebook, remember almost a 3rd of the whole world uses Facebook. 2.45 Billion people will be checked by 25,800 employees at Reuters? I can appreciate their effort, but they will fail.

Why did Facebook only tag one company to handle this monumental task? If you know that many people are using your platform, and such a limited number of people work for the company you tasked with guarding the users, why wouldn’t you tag a dozen companies to tackle that nigh insurmountable number of users?

I think it’s because Facebook just needs that first headline “Facebook fights falsehoods”. That one line gets spread around but the rest of the story is ignored, or not thought about at all. If there is anything Facebook has learned about the spread of fake information on their platform, it’s how to spread it better.

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Opinion Editorials

Will shopping for that luxury item actually lower your quality of life?

(EDITORIAL) Want to buy yourself a pick-me-up? Have you thought of all the ramifications of that purchase? Try to avoid splurging on it.

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shopping bags

In an era of “treat-yo-self,” the urge to splurge is real. It doesn’t help that shopping – or what ends up being closer to impulse shopping – provides us with a hit of dopamine and a fleeting sense of control. Whether your life feels like it’s going downhill or you’ve just had a bad day, buying something you want (or think you want) can seem like an easy fix.

Unfortunately, it might not be so great when it comes to long-term happiness.

As you might have already guessed, purchasing new goods doesn’t fall in line with the minimalism trend that’s been sweeping the globe. Being saddled with a bunch of stuff you don’t need (and don’t even like!) is sure to make your mood dip, especially if the clutter makes it harder to concentrate. Plus, if you’ve got a real spending problem, the ache in your wallet is sure to manifest.

If that seems depressing, I’ve got even more bad news. Researchers at Harvard and Boston College have found yet another way spending can make us more unhappy in the long run: imposter syndrome. It’s that feeling you get when it seems like you’re not as good as your peers and they just haven’t caught on yet. This insecurity often arises in competitive careers, academics and, apparently, shopping.

Now, there’s one big caveat to this idea that purchasing goods will make you feel inferior: it really only applies to luxury goods. I’m talking about things like a Louis Vuitton purse, a top of the line Mercedes Benz, a cast iron skillet from Williams Sonoma (or is that one just me?). The point is, the study found that about 67% of people – regardless of their income – believed their purchase was inauthentic to their “true self.”

And this imposter syndrome even existed when the luxury items were bought on sale.

Does this mean you should avoid making a nice purchase you’ve been saving up for? Not necessarily. One researcher at Cambridge found that people were more likely to report happiness for purchases that fit their personalities. Basically, a die-hard golfer is going to enjoy a new club more than someone who bought the same golf club to try to keep up with their co-workers.

Moral of the story: maybe don’t impulse buy a fancy new Apple watch. Waiting to see if it’s something you really want can save your budget…and your overall happiness.

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Opinion Editorials

How to ask your manager for better work equipment

(EDITORIAL) Old computer got you down? Does it make your job harder? Here’s how to make a case to your manager for new equipment without budget worries.

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better equipment, better work

Aside from bringing the boss coffee and donuts for a month before asking, what is an employee to do when the work equipment bites.

Let’s be frank, working on old, crappy computers with inefficient applications can make the easiest tasks a chore. Yet, what do you do? You know you need better equipment to do your job efficiently, but how to ask the boss without looking like a whiner who wants to blow the department budget.

In her “Ask A Manager” column, Alison Green says an employee should ask for better equipment if it is needed. For example, the employee in her column has to attend meetings, but has no laptop and has to take a ton of notes and then transcribe them. Green says, it’s important to make the case for the benefits of having newer or updated equipment.

The key is showing a ROI. If you know a specific computer would be a decent upgrade, give your supervisor the specific model and cost, along with the expected outcomes. In addition, it may be worth talking to someone from the IT department to see what options might be available – if you’re in a larger company.

IT professionals who commented on Green’s column made a few suggestions. Often because organizations have contracts with specific computer companies or suppliers, talking with IT about what is needed to get the job done and what options are available might make it easier to ask a manager, by saying, “I need a new computer and IT says there are a few options. Here are my three preferences.” A boss is more likely to be receptive and discuss options.

If the budget doesn’t allow for brand new equipment, there might be the option to upgrade the RAM, for example. In a “Workplace” discussion on StackExchange.com an employee explained the boss thinks if you keep a computer clean – no added applications – and maintained it will perform for years. Respondents said, it’s important to make clear the cost-benefit of purchasing updated equipment. Completing a ROI analysis to show how much more efficiently with the work be done may also be useful. Also, explaining to a boss how much might be saved in repair costs could also help an employee get the point across.

Managers may want to take note because, according to results of a Gallup survey, when employees are asked to meet a goal but not given the necessary equipment, credibility is lost.

Gallup says that workgroups that have the most effectively managed materials and equipment tend to have better customer engagement, higher productivity, better safety records and employees that are less likely to jump ship than their peers.

And, no surprise, if a boss presents equipment and says: “Here’s what you get. Deal with it,” employees are less likely to be engaged and pleased than those employees who have a supervisor who provides some improvements and goes to bat to get better equipment when needed.

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