Balancing Work

Man Balancing on Chair

Image courtesy of Pixnio

Ever met anyone who doesn’t want work-life balance?  Ever met anyone who says they have it?

Work-life balance is complex.  If it weren’t, we’d all have mastered it already.  There are several ways of approaching it, though, and we’ll look at some of those in upcoming blog posts.

This month’s post will focus on looking at balance within the tasks you do at work.  Part of the reason for focusing exclusively on the “work” part of “work-life balance” is because there are popular misconceptions about what causes stress at work.

Sometimes work is just plain hard, and that can cause stress.  However, not all challenging work is bad.  In fact, positive psychology tells us that “flow” experiences – when you are so absorbed in what you’re doing that you lose track of time – require an appropriate level of challenge.  If we have too little challenge, we might not be relaxed – we might just be bored, which is itself an uncomfortable state.

Try sorting your work tasks into these quadrants:


Low Challenge High Challenge
Low Reward
High Reward


The goal isn’t necessarily to have an even distribution across all quadrants.  After all, if you can avoid having a lot of low-reward tasks, why not?

That said, your distribution can tell you something about how you spend your time.  Maybe you’ve been feeling stuck at work – and it turns out that a lot of your tasks are in the low-challenge column.  Offering to take on a more challenging project or task, or taking on some professional development might help steer your career in a more rewarding direction.  Similarly, maybe you’ve been feeling stressed, but your stress seems unjustified to you because your job is such a good fit for you.  If everything is high-challenge, however, you might seek ways to bring more low-challenge, high-reward activities into your work week.

While there’s no one right way for everyone to seek work-life balance, taking a closer look at your work tasks can provide one way to making progress.

People work better when they know what the goal is and why. It is important that people look forward to coming to work in the morning and enjoy working.

Elon Musk