It’s Not Balance You Need; It’s Productive Balance

DarrylBrooks by Gustavo Torres on Unsplash

You hear a lot about balance. We need balance in our lives. You need to balance work and play. But this whole balance thing is based on the metaphor of scales, so it depends on what you put on each side. Not enough on both sides is balanced but insufficient to sustain either. Too much on either side stresses both, and 43% of people with high stress become an early death statistic.

First, let’s clarify what we are trying to balance. In this case, I am talking about the balance between your work life and your personal life, whatever that means. Work may involve a job you go to every day, your own business, keeping a home, or the hobbies you pursue in retirement.

Personal life usually means family life, because that is the part that generally gets shorted in the balance equation. But maybe you don’t have a family, or at least not a close one. So does that mean it’s okay to become a workaholic? No. You still need balance. You need to balance your work life with your personal life. Otherwise, what’s the point?

We should get one thing out of the way up front. There are actually three components to our daily lives; the third being sleep. But I’m not going to include sleep in this article for two simple reasons.

  • If you aren’t getting enough sleep, then balance is out the window before you even start your day. You can’t think about balancing work and play until you solve that problem. Go take a nap.
  • More importantly, if I tried to include a third component, then the whole metaphor is broken and I’ll have to think up something else to write about. Sleep would throw this article, well, out of balance.

The problem with thinking about balance is, it’s a matter of scale, pun intended. Balance simply means both sides are equal, right? So, an empty scale is always balanced. So, if balance is the only goal, just goof off all day and then ignore your family. Both sides are empty and, therefore, balanced.

You have balance, but it will become a race to see which comes first, you’re fired, or you’re divorced. Balance should mean being equally productive at both work and in personal lives. Some people feel some sort of heroic feeling when they ‘give all,’ at work. If you give all at work, you’re not a hero, you’re a sucker. Save energy for yourself and your family — that should be the only reason for the work to begin with.

Balance and that vision of a scale also imply that every day is the same; both sides can be made equal all the time. We all know that is not true. If you have a particularly hard day at work, it’s likely the personal side will get the short end of the stick. And as long as that is a temporary state and you make up for it, there is still balance in the long run.

But even on those days, there needs to be some balance. Because on the days when you leave work feeling like you’ve been run through a ringer, your home, family, and personal life are more important, not less. Maybe you don’t have the energy to go out to dinner and a show and spend the evening gathered around a family game. Perhaps you only have the energy for one thing.

A hug.

And sometimes, that’s enough. Coming home tired and grumpy, then ignoring your family will just mean you start the next day further in the hole. Balance becomes difficult and finally, unattainable. But if you devote what little energy you have to your family, your pet, or your hobby, it will reenergize you. Then you are ready to fight another day.

And balance is a constant thing. You can’t just keep piling things up on one side and hope to balance it out at some point in the future. All that will do is break the scales. Perhaps permanently. You can’t work sixteen-hour days, seven days a week, and then make up for it with some fantastic family vacation once a year. It’s too late. Things are too far gone.

As my regular readers will know, I recently took up guitar. And one thing I learned early on was the power of daily practice. Giving balance to the guitar part of my life. Practicing an hour a day, keeps that part of my life in balance and moves me forward as a guitarist. Trying to practice for seven hours once a week would do more harm than good.

And balance is something that should be looked at in more than a daily view. Your life needs balancing. How many people have you known that think they need to work their asses off every day for forty years, so they can relax when they retire. Maybe that’s you. If it is, I have one piece of advice from someone who has come out the other end.


All you are doing is wrecking one large portion of your life, hoping you can make up for it later. You can’t. It’s too late. Best case, you get yourself stuck in a cycle you can never get out of. Worst case, you kill yourself before you reap your rewards.

Just stop.

Create balance now.

Let’s talk for a minute about the other side of the scales. We all know people that could never be accused of working too hard. They don’t have balance either unless they are just as lazy at home, and that goes back to my empty scale analogy.

For this whole life balance thing to work, there needs to be enough stuff on both sides of the scale. You can’t waste time all day, telling yourself that you are saving yourself for your family. You’re just kidding yourself. If this is you, I bet you drag home tired every day.


Because doing nothing saps the energy right out of you. Accomplishing things is energizing. A good, hard, honest day’s work is gratifying. If you put in the right amount of effort, not too little and not too much, you come home full of energy and not depleted.

Only you can determine the right amount of stuff to pile on both sides of your scale. But if you make an effort to keep them even while still being productive, then you truly have a balanced life.

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I am a writer with over 16 years of experience and hundreds of articles. I write about photography, productivity, life skills, money management and much more.

Alpharetta, GA

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