Almost immediately upon entering mainstream culture and conversation, the concept of work-life balance shifted out of balance. Thanks to technological advances, we've become connected 24/7, which has blurred the boundary between work and personal life. As work-life conflict has intensified, so has our fixation on the idea that finding the right work-life balance is the ultimate solution.
But work-life balance is not the ultimate solution because it is inherently unnatural. It assumes that there can be an equal, perfect distribution of time, energy, and focus allocated to our professional and personal lives. This is simply not true.
In nature, perfect balance occurs only twice a year -- the spring and fall equinox. On these two days, day and night are exactly the same lengths -- 12 hours. Outside of these two days a year, nature must rely not on a concept of balance, but on her own pace and rhythm. Nature does this to survive and thrive; now, we must do the same.
Stop trying to achieve work-life balance. Focus your energy, time, and attention on finding our own pace and our own rhythm for your life.
To start this process, use nature's seasons as your guide.
In the winter, the plants send their roots deep into the earth seeking nutrients to replenish and restore to prepare for the growth that occurs in the spring.
How to incorporate a "winter" mindset into your days, weeks and months
What if you had a day each week of complete rest -- no work, no errands, no shoulds or must dos, just time to restore and replenish? What day works best for you -- Saturday? Sunday? Both? Or perhaps there's a time of day -- maybe first thing in the morning or as a break in the afternoon -- where you can replenish and restore? Find your "winter" pace and insert some pauses, breaks, and stops in your days and nights throughout the year. Prepare yourself for new growth in your life.
In spring, all of the plants bud and sprout new growth. Spring is the season of fresh ideas and new beginnings. It is the time to clean your calendar and your commitments so there is space -- mental and physical -- for the birth of new ideas, projects, and opportunities.
How to incorporate a "spring" mindset into your days, weeks and months
What are the old commitments, file folders, and time expenditures that no longer serve you and are preventing the budding of new growth? What meetings or stale to-dos can you remove from your week to create space for brainstorming, ideation, and innovation?
Find your "spring" rhythm and clear out the old and enjoy the new growth.
In summer, the natural world is in full bloom. Summer is the time to implement your new ideas that were birthed during spring. It is the time to water, cultivate, and nurture your goals, desires and dreams.
How to incorporate a "summer" mindset into your days, weeks and months
What projects and goals can you take action on now? What relationships need a little watering and nurturing?
Find your "summer" pace and take action, support your relationships, and allow your new ideas to grow.
Fall is the time of harvest. It is the time to reap what you have sown in the spring and grown in the summer. Fall is the time for the final push towards your sales goals, the celebration of the completed project, and thanksgiving for all of the people in your life.
How to incorporate a "fall" mindset into your days, weeks, and months
Are you on track to achieve your goals? If not, what do you need to start doing? Is there dedicated time to celebrate and give thanks for your professional and personal accomplishments and relationships?
Find your "fall" pace and reach the finish line; celebrate your accomplishments and give thanks.
Work-life balance does not exist. Balance is not the goal, nor the pathway to success and happiness. Find your own rhythm or pace that enables you to restore, create, grow, and achieve without burnout, without decimating your health, and without neglecting your personal life.
Remember, what works for you might not work for someone else; someone might love to restore themselves and center themselves every morning, some folks might need that time every afternoon at 3 p.m. Honor yourself and let your needs and desires set the rhythm and pace for your life.
This content was originally published via FastCompany.com on July 6, 2015.
Carson Tate is a productivity consultant and the founder of Working Simply, Inc. She is the author of Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style (Penguin Random House, January 2015). She serves as a coach, trainer and consultant to executives at Fortune 500 companies including AbbVie, Deloitte, Wells Fargo and United Technologies.
For more information, please visit www.carsontate.com.