179 2 Reasons Why "Work+Life Balance" Causes Stress


While watching a news segment about the stress and overwhelm many working women face, I cringed at the phrase "work-life balance". What was being sold as a solution to this problem of overwhelm was actually just teaching people to multitask and leading to MORE stress.

In this episode, I focus on shifting you away from work-life balance and talk about how you can create Work + Life Harmony instead. By shifting away from the quest for balance and towards harmony, you will be able to live a life that is more productive and free from so much stress and overwhelm.

In this episode, you will learn:
1. Uncovering why the phrase "work-life balance" is actually doing more harm than good.
2. Understanding why multitasking is not the answer to overwhelm and stress.
3. Exploring how to create a life of harmony, rather than balance, to reduce stress and overwhelm.

If you're ready to claim Work+Life Harmony, grab my free training at www.megansumrell.com/freetraining. Learn how to gain control of your time no matter what life throws at you!


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Hey there, welcome back to Work + Life Harmony. So I was watching a news segment over the weekend and the purpose of it was just showing the levels of stress, overwhelm, etc. That a lot of working women and working moms in particular are experiencing right now. And as I was watching this, the commentator kept saying over and over again, Work Life Balance. And I was cringing and I was cringing because of the images that they continued to show during this news segment.

So I thought this would be a great opportunity to really have the conversation around why this podcast is not called Work Life Balance and it's called Work Life Harmony and why this Work Life Balance movement and this quest for finding Work Life Balance is actually doing more harm than good.

Now, the fact is, when we kind of take a step back and look at where this phrase Work life Balance came from, it's been around for quite a few years. It's growing in popularity. And at the heart of it, the underlying planning and productivity community of which I consider myself an active member in has recognized that over the last in particular ten to 15 years, there is a growing population of women who are just starting to get louder and louder and louder around I'm overwhelmed, I'm overwhelmed, I'm struggling to get it all done, I am having a hard time juggling everything, I'm exhausted, et cetera.

And so the response from the planning and productivity community has been the solution is, oh well, we just need to find work life balance. That is the key. But here's what's interesting. When you dig into what they advertise as work life balance and what it looks like, I want you guys to do this pop out, open up your favorite browser and type in images of Work Life balance. You know what you see, what you see is multitasking. What you will see is image after image of women who are doing multiple things at once.

And I cover this in kind of an intro of a free training that I have available. If you haven't checked it out, go to megansumrell.com/freetraining or just shoot me a dm with the word training and I'll shoot the link over to you. But in that training I show you some of the images that you see out there and the reason why we are or not we. But they are showing this as what work life balance is, is when you think about what balance really means, right? And the best way I describe this, and I've shared this often, is the idea of these two scales or the scale with the two bowls, right? And the way you balance that is by putting an equal amount of stuff into each dish.

Well, that means everything is balanced and that means more than one thing is happening at once. So what people are promoting as the solution to your overwhelm is to start multitasking. Hey, while you're holding your baby or feeding your baby, answer those emails. While you're cooking dinner, go ahead and help with homework. While you are grocery shopping, be on a conference call or maybe a caregiver for your parents. And while you're doing that, then you could catch up on personal stuff or work in the evening simultaneously. And so the solution that's being offered is to just figure out how to do multiple things at once. And that's how you stay balanced.

Now, think about this. That's reason number one. Why this quest for balance is actually causing more stress is because what we're actually being taught is multitask. And we know, we all know in our heart of hearts, that if our brain is doing multiple things at once, it's not doing either well and we are going to get stressed.

Now, in previous podcast episodes, I do cover, there is a time and a place for multitasking. I do it often, but never when it requires my brain to be split into two different places. So, for example, I might be listening to a podcast while I'm folding my laundry, I might be listening to an audio book while I'm walking my dog. Like my brain is able to be fully present on just one thing.

But there are very few pockets of time in our life where we're multitasking, where we can truly be autopilot in one task so that our brains only focused on another. Right? Now, the second very subtle thing that is being promoted here, when we see images of work life balance or articles about how to achieve work life balance, what they're ultimately the problem they're ultimately trying to solve is how do we teach you how to get more done in less time or be more efficient with your time? Never, or rarely, unless you're listening to me. Do you see the solution being offered?

That we may need to hang on, stop for a minute, and instead of just continuing to add stuff to our plates and saying, now, let me figure out how to balance it, now let me figure out how to balance it, we might need to stop and say, hang on. Maybe the solution isn't figuring out how to continue to do more, but maybe part of the solution needs to be any time I add something to my plate, something's got to come off of it to make room for this, right? Instead of showing images of women who are multitasking as what work life balance is, how about show an image of a woman who's only doing one thing and then maybe stuff she used to do is now being done by someone else or not being done at all. All right, so this is why I very intentionally do not ever use the phrase work life balance as something that we are striving for.

I very much want to open everyone's eyes to saying, no, multitasking is not the answer. And no, you will not find happiness or balance in continuing to put more roles and responsibilities onto your plate and just figuring out how to get more done. That is not the solution to the underlying overwhelm and stress that you have. And this is why I love and embrace the phrase work life harmony. And one definition of harmony, I've shared it before that I absolutely love is a pleasing arrangement of parts.

Every time I say that, it just makes me feel like on the inside. And this is what we want in our lives. We want our life to be a pleasing arrangement of part. Not everything being equal, not doing everything all at once, right? We need to have systems and solutions in place that takes all the parts of our lives, all the rolls that we wear, all the hats that we wear, all the different responsibilities that we have, and teaches us a way to arrange those in such a way that is pleasing and therefore harmonious. Now, let me ask you this. When I say the word balance, I'm curious to know how does your body feel? Like, when I think of the word balance, I get a little rigid or I hate to say the word tense. I think rigid is just a better word.

So when I think of balance, I'm like, oh, let me stand a balance on 1ft, right? I'm activating muscles, it's very tense, right? However, when I just say the word harmony, even just saying it sounds very soft, relaxed. That is what we're after and that's what everybody deserves to have. We deserve to have a life that doesn't feel tense and rigid in order to stay balanced.

We deserve to have a life that feels soft, that feels quiet, that feels relaxed, that feels harmonious. That is that pleasing arrangement of parts, right? So what does that look like in our day to day living? All right, so let's look at a couple of different scenarios here. So maybe you are in a stage of life where you are juggling work and young children, all right? Work life balance might look like you hopping on a work call for 2030 minutes and jumping over to do something.

Help your kid with homework for 15 minutes and jumping back over and answering an email and you're kind of ping pong back and forth, giving that equal distribution of time, right? It's balanced. I spend 30 minutes on work, I spent 30 minutes with my kids. We're keeping everything balanced, right? Well, that's the work life balance. Now, the harmony side of that might look very different. It might be that you have two and a half hours set aside solely for work. And then when that's over, now you are shifting gears for whatever that time frame is. Maybe it's 1 hour, maybe it's four, where you are fully engaged in time with your children and you're not trying to sneak in and do both things at once all the time, right?

Another way to think about this is maybe you are in a stage of life where a lot of your roles and responsibilities are in service to others. Whether it's work, whether it's caregiving, whether it's parenting, whatever that looks like. Well, the work life balance solution would have you rigidly making sure that you are spending equal amounts of time serving each person the same. Right now, Work life harmony would look very different. What that's going to look like in your calendar is that your calendar isn't completely full and equally distributed in service of others. It's going to mean that you have intentional large chunks of time in your days and weeks that are in service solely for you. And this is where that the work life balance movement is missing. Is it's missing the prioritization of self inside of your life?

And if we are not prioritizing ourselves, then we are 100% going to stay overwhelmed, stressed out and frazzled right now. I will be the first to admit I am a recovered work life balanced person. Years ago, I was literally the walking billboard for Work life Balance in terms of how I was juggling all my roles and responsibilities. Well, thankfully, due to scrapping that old lifestyle and now building this foundational framework for planning, management, running and organizing my time, now I feel like I am actually more productive than ever.

But my life is one where I am not trying to stay balanced, it's not tense, and I have large pockets of my life that are very quiet, calm and harmonious while still getting the most important things done, but without the stress and the overwhelm. So I really just wanted to share this thought process around why I want you all to very carefully remove this idea of I need work life balance from your thought and your vocabulary and really embrace the understanding of what work life harmony looks and feels like instead.

Now, if you want to learn more about this and if you are interested in really seeing kind of behind the scenes around what this The Pink Bee framework looks like, it's called the Top framework stands for The Pink Bee, Organization and Productivity.

Again, I've got a great free training that goes far more in depth than this podcast episode does. You can just find me out on Instagram dma, the word training, I'll get it to you. Or just head over to megansumrell.com/freetraining and you can go check that out as well. And I would love to hear from you how your life changes when you shift away from this quest for balance and instead lean into Harmony and have this true using arrangement of parts. Let's all go have an incredibly harmonious week. 

Overwhelmed? Frazzled? Tired of your calendar controlling you?

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