Nigel Marsh’s entertaining TED talk on work/life balance caught my interest due to one concept in particular. About halfway through his talk he shares his ideal day. His day includes time with his dog, his wife, his work, his kids, and his friends, all broken up into neat little segments. After describing this day (which only includes six hours of work), he deadpans to the audience, “How often do you think I’ve lived this day?” The implication is never.
Marsh continues by arguing that the time horizon by which we gauge our life’s balance needs to be longer than one single day. This concept really resonated with me. One of the coaching exercises I utilize is to have people imagine an ideal work day. The exercise has always felt a bit constrained and forced to me. Life is just too varied to cram into one day.
Marsh also cautions against devoting decades of life to a single minded pursuit, such as career, without regard to other important aspects of life such as relationships, relaxation, and hobbies. Waiting until retirement to attend to these matters is too long of a time horizon for work/ life balance.
What time horizon do you think makes sense for gauging your effectiveness at tending to work, play, and relationships? I’m thinking of changing my ideal day exercise to an ideal month. Try it for yourself. What would an ideal month be in your life? Consider a regular working month instead of a vacation month when you do this exercise.