Work-life balance in three buckets

Work-life balance is a concept that came out of the women’s movement in the early 1980s. At the time, it was a term associated with advocating for flex hours and maternity leave for women. By that time, of course, women were in the workforce in droves, but were still expected to be the primary managers of the household. Fast-forward a couple of decades and technology made it possible to work anytime, anywhere, increasing the pressure on men to be available 24/7. Companies have customers and offices all over the globe. Then our pal, COVID-19 threw people into all manners of work-at-home setups. Companies that insisted they would never have remote workers were forced to have them and get on the work-at-home train in a matter of days.

Post-secondary studies can be quite overwhelming for students in a regular year. They move into a lot of independent work outside of class time, and often have to exercise much more self-discipline than they were used to in high school. Now, most course delivery is online, blurring the lines between school and home. The format is expected to continue for the Winter semester for most institutions. Add in our elementary and secondary schools, and you have kids right down to junior kindergarten engaged in online learning.

While younger kids likely have guidance from a grown-up on breaks, there is still no physical separation from home and school, which may present some challenges. In any case, it’s not a bad idea to start setting healthy habits for managing work-life balance while it’s top of mind.

3 Buckets

It’s not unusual for me to meet with clients who have multiple career ideas. Sometimes they overlap, sometimes they are as different as winter and summer. That’s when I pull out the 3 buckets formula. It is outlined by Neil Pasricha in his book The Happiness Equation.

Here’s the formula.

The week has 168 hours in it.

168 divides into three sections of 56 hours each – the 3 buckets.

Bucket 1 is sleep. Adults are supposed to sleep approximately 8 hours a night (averaging out for the times when you’re awake at 3 am and the times you sleep until 10 on Sundays). 8 hours x 7 days = 56.

Bucket 2 is work. This includes the standard 40 hours, plus time for commuting, after-hours meetings, evening email checks, travel, anything else that might be incorporated into your job.

Bucket 3 is…everything else. Literally, stuff like cooking and cleaning, personal hygiene, walking the dog, playing with your kids, scrolling though social media, watching TV, getting coffees or beers with your buddies, all fit in this bucket. This is also where you can fit side hustles, courses, hobbies and any other personally or professionally enriching activities.

Simpler than you think

I love this formula for two main reasons.

1. It makes it quite clear that we have a lot more time than we think we do.

2. Doing all the things you want does not automatically mean sacrificing your sleep or self care.

Ultimately, work-life balance comes down to setting your priorities in a way that serve your goals. Some weeks, you need a couple of hours of Tik Tok videos to boost your mood. Other times, you channel your stress into art or time with friends or a great trashy novel.

Over the next week, track your time. If you are trying to change jobs, start freelancing or even improve your relationship with your spouse, you need to know how you’re using your time now so you can make changes. What can you remove from your third bucket to make space?

Drop me a line and let me know how it goes!

Could you use an objective ear to talk out your career goals or side hustle ideas? Book a coaching hour today!

Photo credit: Devon Turcotte, page 116 of The Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha.

Leave a Reply