Why ‘work/life balance’ is a myth

I think the most overused and misunderstood maxim is “work-life balance”.

Work-life balance became trendy throughout the 1970s and ’80s in the US and UK and emigrated across the globe. It’s a catchy idea that you should learn to equally share your time between your professional and private life in order to establish a form of balanced sanity.

To me, it suggests that work and home life are at separate ends of the seesaw – totally unrelated except for the fact that what time and energy you devote to one, takes away equally from the other.

But what I’ve discovered through painful experience is they aren’t mutually exclusive ends of the scale, but intrinsically linked, and striving to split your efforts evenly between each is unrealistic.

The correct time ratio
Let’s be bald-faced about it right up front.

To be successful in our role as agents, around 80 per cent of our work week’s waking hours will be devoted to our job.

That doesn’t just refer to ‘office time’. What I’m saying is whether you’re doing the grunt work of chasing leads, securing listings, running opens and closing sales, or at your local school fete sponsoring a race and running a stall, you’re working on your business.

You are always out there building a brand, making connections and being the best agent you can. You work hard for your money and deserve every cent.

But you WILL find 80 per cent of waking hours devoted to the task, so deciding to actively split your time evenly between professional and personal obligations is ridiculous.

You will simply end up with a half-arsed result for both.

So, if I think work-life balance is a mistake, what’s the recipe for happiness?

The secret solution
I believe we need work-life priorities – not balance.

My life list is made up of four priorities in order of importance, and work comes in at the tail end of that inventory.

First up is self. This is a conscious decision to prioritise your own holistic well-being above all else.

Sound selfish? Not really. Unless you are functioning at your peak physically, mentally and emotionally, you will have little ability to bring benefit to others around you in both your personal and business lives.

I use a number of rituals to help achieve my best self and stay at the top of my game.

I have a daily routine of exercise (one hour/day) and meditation (20 mins/day) that allows me to feel great and think clearly.

I also have rules around switching off from social media and mainstream news as these can damage self-esteem and positivity. I consider adequate reading (one hour/day) and sleep (seven hours/day) crucial as well. I also use goals and rewards to celebrate achievements and, finally, I ensure I take regular holidays every 12 weeks to refresh and re-energise.

Your second priority should always be your life partner.

In this high-performance field of real estate, the support of your significant other is essential – and it is a two-way street. You must ensure that you are emotionally available for your partner – trustworthy, reliable and gracious. Do not take them for granted and never prioritise work over their urgent needs.

The third priority is kids and family. I’ve seen families fall apart because children’s needs are prioritised above parents – and work gets prioritised above everything else!

Strong families are built on the foundation of a couple’s relationship. Ensure your partnership is strong, then make sure you are both available to tend the needs of your children and your wider family. Kids thrive when they know they can rely on parents who are taking care of each other and operate as a united front.

Finally, work is the fourth priority.

Yes – I believe in working hard and achieving much, but you cannot possibly hope to enjoy your best life if all you do is place work and business ahead of the other things that matter most.

In fact, by prioritising work last and concentrating on more important priorities first, you will be a far more effective agent. Clear headed, high functioning and undistracted when it’s time to be productive.

I tell you all this based on bitter experience.

At one time I was operating a hugely successful agency in Brisbane’s inner-west. I became the number one agent for my area and was achieving extraordinarily good numbers. It all looked rosy… until I came home one day, and my wife asked for a divorce. It was around this time I took a good look at myself – overweight, unwell and constantly exhausted.

I’d failed to prioritise life correctly and was paying the price.

So, let’s stop kidding ourselves – aiming for ‘work-life balance’ is pointless. Instead, accept you are going to devote most of your time to your business, but prioritise the importance of other elements correctly and the result will be you operating at your peak for all of them.

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Dan Argent

Dan has drawn on almost 20-years of real estate experience to re-imagine the purpose of real estate agencies in the modern era, with intentions of turning the old model on its head. To facilitate this real estate revolution, Dan has taken on the visionary role of Chief Energy Officer at UrbanX.