When the realisation comes that you just don't want to continue all the multitasking, rushing, and chaos of juggling a full work and personal life (that is, if you're lucky enough to have time to realise this), most people see this as an opportunity to finally take the problem in hand.

With YouTube videos, self-help books, or simply a pad of paper, they strategise on how to cut their time here, or move their schedule around there. Soon they become pros at “time-efficiency”, prioritising, and other skills advertised to facilitate a better work-life balance.

However, with busy schedules, those with a family, job, and other important time-rich commitments can find their efficiency techniques impacting unintended parts of their lives. In her article on work-life balance, "Work/Life Balance: You Can't Get There From Here", Paula Caproni describes how she "became very effective at keeping people who were not absolutely central to [her] important work tasks or immediate family and friends at bay. In [her] efforts to take control of [her] life, [she] minimized the serendipity from which new friendships and little miracles occur."

When people are trying to cope with chaos in their lives, they often look for ways in which to introduce more order. It is difficult to catch when this means things become overly ordered or efficient. Soon you are adopting rules that are slightly too rigid. You may have restrictions on what you do or do not take on, or you ma become quite firm about where you should or should not spend your time. This approach can affect not only the person who has chosen it, but those who live with and around them.

An example of this is what we could call a “transfer of expectations”. You've learned that if you take a very direct and brief approach with your assistant, then it means that they are clearer about the tasks they've been assigned, saving time for all involved. You practise this so much with your assistant that it has become natural to you. After a time, the same technique creeps into your marital relationship. Inadvertently, you fail to acknowledge the changed environment and individual, and start to apply work behaviours to your marriage or family life. Such instances of blurred boundaries, or "spillover", range from very noticeable to hardly perceptible.

Caproni makes the point that "even if life were predictable and significant life events announced their coming long before they arrived, it is highly unlikely that we, as human beings, would be capable of the systemic, rational planning that the work/life literature advocates". A problem-solving approach to work-life balance may work to some extent, but it has its limitations. The techniques you integrate into how you work inform the behaviours you develop. Be mindful of becoming so efficient that it risks undermining the quality of the time you do get to spend with your loved ones.

Caproni, P. J., (2004). Work/Life balance: You can't get there from here. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, Arlington 208-218.

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