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Work-Life | It’s Not a Balance, It’s Synergy.

Dr. Waajida L. Small

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A man with a backpack leaves work for the day.

Finding balance between life and work is something we all strive for, but often find difficult to attain. It can feel like certain aspects of our lives are in competition with each other; taking time from one to support another can cause stress and anxiety, as well as impact our ability to be fully present for either. 

In this article, I challenge you to shift the way you think about work-life balance and instead focus more on synergy. Read on for tips and strategies for how to get what you need out of work and life without compromising either.

Unachievable balance

When we think about balance, we often think of things being equal. The same amount of weight distributed on both sides of the scale. What we don’t often remember is that life happens and our personal lives or work lives can spill over, throwing things off balance.

The idea of having to constantly take from one bucket to put into another is frustrating. Instead of balance, we should be striving for work-life effectiveness.

Efforts to become more effective in our life and work are not without their challenges, but this is a struggle we all face. Here is some advice that leaders in the nursing field offer to help us work toward an effective work-life relationship:

  • Create mental boundaries for the various people, events, activities, and areas of your life.
  • Find ways to ground yourself, including by practicing self-care and self-compassion, and mindfulness, especially during moments of high stress and anxiety.
  • Take time to practice self-affirmation and reflect on your self-worth. 
  • Understand how your behavior contributes to your ability to be effective. Identify what behaviors add and detract from your joy and engagement.

Synergy and alignment

So, what is work-life synergy? According to a recent Medium article, “work-life synergy focuses on finding ways work and personal life can interact and cooperate, creating harmony out of their combined existence.” Here are three ways you can start to shift your life to achieve synergy. 

  1. Accept the complexity. Don’t believe that you have to choose one aspect of your life over the other. Take the time to do an inventory of what is important to you and why.
  2. Find common ground. Identify how the different aspects of your life are connected. Figure out how one area of your life can be helped by the other.
  3. Recognize that life is not a division between work and personal time. Understand that there is more to you than just your personal life and work, and discover where there is harmony.

Find the points of synergy

With many organizations moving toward a hybrid model or even a fully-remote workforce, finding common ground between all aspects of our lives is critical to achieve work-life synergy. Work and home are now a shared space, which makes spillover a more frequent occurrence and a greater challenge to overcome.

One of the best ways to find common ground and achieve synergy is to create clear boundaries. Here’s how:

To establish clear boundaries, ask yourself:

 To reset expectations, ask yourself:

  • How can I reclaim my time and show others how to value it?

 To prioritize your well-being, ask yourself:

  • When is the right time to shut down?
  • How can I communicate what is important to me?
  • How can I prioritize my work time so that it does not spill over into my down time?


Because we have so often seen our lives as bifurcated, making the shift from balance to alignment may be easier said than done, but it is not impossible.

Remember that we are more than just our individual selves and the roles we have within our organizations, and that our lives don’t only exist in those two planes. When we can recognize this, and see how different parts of our lives complement each other, we will find ourselves more fulfilled overall and living more harmonious lives.

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Striving for alignment? Check out our post on Finding Your Work Style to learn how you can be more productive to achieve work-life effectiveness.

Dr. Waajida L. Small

Dr. Waajida L. Small is a human resources executive who has worked in the public and non-profit sectors for over 15 years. She is a certified leadership and executive coach, human capital strategist and certified purpose leader. Dr. Small is the author of "Our Leadership Journey: Shared Stories, Lessons and Advice for Women of Color", a book for women of color on the rise into positions of leadership and influence in their organizations, industries and communities.

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