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When most people talk about work-life balance, what they really mean is “how do I fit my life around my work schedule?”. Because work takes up the majority of our time, it’s only natural to think this way. This approach unbalances work-life balance, placing more of the burden on the “work” in work-life balance. This leads workers to chase the “hamster wheel” to find happiness. We look for higher pay, more distinguished title, or more power as a way to feel better.
As Harvard Business Review points out, a better approach to fixing work-life balance might be fixing your “life away from work” first.
That is the goal of the 7 books on the below book list. These books embrace the full picture of “work-life” balance, not just the time you spend at the office. If you are looking to get a little help in that department, you might want to take a look.
6 Books to Redefine Your Work-Life Balance Script for the Better
Work PAUSE Thrive: How to Pause for Parenthood Without Killing Your Career
by Lisen Stromberg
“Work Pause Thrive: How to Pause for Parenthood Without Killing Your Career” shares the struggles of working parents (especially mothers) as they balance moving up the career ladder while also raising children. Stromberg began the book as a result of her experience.
She had to spend more time off from work after a high-risk pregnancy but couldn’t find the resources or support she needed. That experience led to a career pivot in journalism and entrepreneurship. It also led Stromberg to reevaluate our society’s beliefs about work and parenthood.
Stromberg’s book confronts and challenges the “ideal worker” stereotype that places unrealistic expectations on working parents. These expectations, supported by policy and workplace culture, force parents to split their professional and family lives. “Work Pause Thrive” argues that you shouldn’t have to. The book offers recommendations for business and policies to foster a more family-friendly work culture. While our society makes that transition towards a family-friendly work culture, Stromberg also provides recommendations and resources for parents that they can take advantage of now.
The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe for Success and Satisfaction
by Samantha Ettus
In “The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe for Success and Satisfaction”, Samantha Ettus offers a unique way for readers to break up with hangups some static fantasy of work-life balance with pie. The “pie” in “The Pie Life” is a representation of the priorities a reader places on their different lives: parent, employee, occasional gym rat, community volunteer, etc.
Ettus’ point is that work-life balance, as it is traditionally understood, doesn’t work for most people. Most of us try to fit our lives into a pre-determined, fixed mode of work and personal lives. This model eventually falls flat on its face when our personal lives interrupt our work lives or vice versa. This leads to guilt and shame.
Breaking out of this guilt and shame involves reassessing how we prioritize our time. Instead of establishing fixed limits based on someone else’s assumption about our time, we need to take charge and prioritize which of the lives is most important at that time. In other words, create our own pie. “The Pie Life” is a guide to optimizing that so you actively create and adapt balance between all of your different “lives”.
Off Balance: Getting Beyond the Work-Life Balance Myth to Personal and Professional Satisfaction
by Matthew Kelly
Perhaps the whole concept of work-life balance is wrong in the first place. Perhaps the goal in work-life balance (happiness) is an elusive goal because we can never fully reach it. In “Off Balance: Getting Beyond the Work-Life Balance Myth to Personal and Professional Satisfaction” Matthew Kelly explores these questions and comes to a simple conclusion: We strive for work-life balance because we believe it will make us happy. Even if we don’t achieve that balance, we feel compelled to do it anyway because we have been mentally and socially programmed to believe we should.
Matthew Kelly believes we need to let this impossible dream go instead of trying harder. His book recognizes the reality of work and life and offers a different perspective on how to achieve the real goal of work-life balance. In Kelly’s view, the goal is not happiness, but meaning. “Off Balance” is a guide to finding that meaning in everything you do rather than limited areas of “work” and “personal” lives.
The Future of Happiness: 5 Modern Strategies for Balancing Productivity and Well-Being in the Digital Era
by Amy Blankson
One area that isn’t often mentioned in the same sentence as work-life balance is technology. We all know, however, that technology has and will continue to have a major impact on our lives. “The Future of Happiness: 5 Modern Strategies for Balancing Productivity and Well-Being in the Digital Era” explores that impact.
In the book, Blankson explores how technology will impact our pursuit of happiness. She explores the current weird role that technology plays in our happiness. On one hand, technology provides entertainment, saves us time, allow us to connect with people wherever they are, and express ourselves. (Think about YouTube videos!). On the other hand, technology also gets in the way of our happiness. We are becoming more addicted to technology while getting frustrated about the alarmingly fast evolution of technology at the same time.
“The Future of Happiness” explores this weird situation and investigates how this situation might play out in the future. Based on those trends, the book identifies five principles for happiness that readers can adapt no matter what technology develops in the future.
Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure for Anxiety
by Charlie Hoehn
Adults need fun too. Unfortunately, fun often gets pushed to the wayside, especially when the word “work” appears. Charlie Hoehn bought into the hype big time. He was a successful and big-time entrepreneur but he was burnt out. He regularly experienced anxiety and panic even as he kept climbing the ladder of success.
Then he stumbled upon the power of play.
When he rekindled this power, his approach toward work and life changed. He slowly began to take his professional self a little less seriously and the world didn’t end. Instead, adding the element of play improved his life. His health improved and he was able to attack projects with a new sense of creativity and meaning.
In “Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure for Anxiety” Charlie Hoehn shares his personal journey as a former workaholic and provides a 4-step plan for saving workaholics from themselves.
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
by Brene Brown
Unlike the other books on this list, “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” isn’t focused solely on work-life balance. Instead, it takes a look at our entire lives and the impact that shame and freedom can have on that life.
As Brene Brown shares, many of us appear fine on the outside, but have a nagging sense of guilt or doubt inside. We are afraid that we won’t measure up to some standard, that others are doing better than we are. As a result, we chase things that make us happy instead of living the happiness that we already have in our lives.
That’s where this book comes in.
Brene Brown, a researcher and highly sought-after spent years studying the damage this inner shame and guilt. Her book, “The Gifts of Imperfection”, is a guide to a philosophy she embraces known as Wholehearted Living. Wholehearted Living begins with embracing our full lives (the parts we like and the parts we may not like so much) with authenticity, boldness, and care. The book breaks down the principles behind Wholehearted Living so that readers can begin taking charge of their lives, warts and all.
Morale of the Story: Balance Your Work, Live Your Life to the Fullest
As the books on this list demonstrate, there is a lot more to the work-life balance issue than delegating a number of hours to all of your activities. While it is important to plan your time, it’s also more important to remain flexible. Life unfolds in unexpected ways that you can’t plan for. Children and family members get sick. Time commitments at jobs change. Circumstances change. You need to mentally prepared to make these changes when they occur in your life.
Working professionals can do that by expanding the concept of work-life balance. Instead of looking only at the “work” side of the work-life balance. That’s the easy part because work hours are usually consistent from week to week. The harder part is figuring out the other half of work-life balance, the “everything that isn’t work” part. The above six books can offer insight on that issue. These books won’t address every issue in work-life balance but they can the offer the key principles to look out for. With those principles, readers can proactively design their work-life balance in a way that is authentic and empowering to them.