Anyone caught in a rip-tide should know that you can’t fight the current.
You can swim across it until the current weakens, allowing you to swim back to shore, but the best advice is to relax, float and calmly signal to be rescued. At the time it feels like you should struggle and that you are no longer in charge of your fate, but struggling is the worst thing that you can do. It is very sad, but that is how people drown.
The circumstances of life and work are always pulling us this way and that. In my view, the phrase “work/life balance” is only true in the sense that over the course of our lives the two will average out, but on a day-by-day basis, there is little hope of finding ourselves in the middle.
For anyone working for themselves, the school holidays are a typical example. The pull of the kids (and the desire to spend time with them) is just too great to be denied. You might not get as much done as in the term time, but you should not allow yourself to feel like a failure. Also, it is all too easy to pull out the guilt-trip “daddy should be working” line. Kids are a gift, so shut off any thoughts about work when you are with them in the hols. Let them pull you back into family life for a few hours every day. You will be all the more energised when you do seize those odd hours to do some work.
Likewise, many of us work in cyclical markets. Recruitment is closely tied to economic fortunes, and when times are a little softer, it is all too easy to try that little bit too hard hassling old clients and alienating potential new ones in the search for new business. There are quiet times in many industries, but if you budget for them and plan for them, you can use the time far more productively. Invest in your own development, or take a step back and look at what you might change in your business. If you embrace the ebbs, then you will have that little bit more energy for when the tide turns. If you fight the tide too hard, then burnout is only a few strokes away.
That is the sort of experience that is hard to recover from.
Of course, the ebbs and flows of life are not as easy to predict as the ocean tides. You never know when things might turn, but you can certainly keep a look out for the signs and be flexible with your behaviour when the turning point arrives.
For me, the key to productivity lies in adapting our behaviour according to the situation around us. Even at high and low tide, the moon is still pulling the water this way and that, so there is never a moment of stillness. If we are happy that we will never find this balance at any given moment, it is so much easier to reconcile ourselves with the fact that things will average themselves out in the end.
Making the most of life means making the most of the flow.