While work-life balance is something everyone struggles with (single, married, male, female, young, old), the conversation has certainly been dominated by moms in recent years. But when other groups start to share their thoughts about how they manage their own work-life balance, they have some refreshing perspectives. For example, I’ve seen two instances lately of men “gamifying” their lives — awarding points to various aspects of their life as a way to quantify and measure work-life balance. It’s an intriguing idea, and one I haven’t seen too many places before, so I thought we’d discuss.
The most recent example comes from the Wall Street Journal’s excellent story, “Male CEOs Tell Us Their Work-Life Rules” (read the whole thing!):
VMware Inc. chief Pat Gelsinger said he has built ‘trip wires’ into his life to ensure he is not overworking. He designed a chart, maintained by his secretary, that tallies points based on how much time he spends with family. Arriving home by 6:15 p.m. earns a point, for example, while getting home by 5 p.m. earns two.
Meanwhile, in a recent podcast from Tim Ferriss, he described an anonymous friend with a similar system to measure work-life balance. (I can’t find a link to the podcast, just a quote in a listener discussion about it on someone else’s site — that discussion is a little rage-inducing, so I won’t link to it.) As Ferriss described his friend’s system:
I have a friend in his 60s. Very good marriage. Every quarter, his wife grades him on a 10 point scale in 4 categories: father, husband, provider, and lover. What was so fascinating, and what I thought smart about how they did this, is that he doesn’t have to maintain a certain ranking in each category. He has to maintain a certain total. So let’s just say for the sake of argument that it’s a 30-point scale — he might be traveling a lot for business, and not spending a lot of time on the phone or otherwise communicating with his wife for a given quarter, so he might have a very high provider score: 8, 9, 10. A very low husband score, and a low lover score, but he can make up for that by being a good father. Right, really focusing on the father category. And that would ultimately give him the total number of points necessary to check the I am being, sort of a good version of myself for my wife and my family. So that’s a simple, non-technical way to approach something like that, for instance.
These systems both seem very … male to me, but I love to hear different ideas for work-life balance, and I even love things about both systems. The first one recognizes concrete actions that can help maintain work-life balance — although my own system would involve time actually spent with family (books read, games played, etc) versus just walking through the door — but everyone has to start somewhere. The thing I like the most about the second system is that it recognizes all the different hats we wear. Businesswoman, wife, mother, provider, woman. It might even make an interesting way to share duties with a spouse because it could recognize (and reallocate) the many additional hats that otherwise fall on the default parent: financial manager, house manager, grocery shopper/food planner, summer camp/activities scheduler, etc, etc.
Ladies, what are your thoughts? Have you ever tried a system like this to manage and measure work-life balance — or would you? What do you like (or dislike) about the system?
Updated stock photo via Stencil.
Nice how in both examples, the men came up with complicated, subjective, time-intensive processes and then have women maintain it for them.
It seems silly to have other people do non-value-added-to-them work just so you can (try to) do less.
CPA Lady says
It’s like that article I read somewhere that said when men say they have it all, they mean they HAVE it all, and when women say they have it all it means they DO it all.
Yeah. The wife doing the rankings kind of makes sense, because really it’s not whether the man thinks he’s doing everything up to par, it’s whether his wife is happy. But if my husband expected me to give him a scorecard on the regular, or worse, to give him status reports and a strategy to make his benchmarks, I’d just laugh at him.
Kind of makes sense in theory, but not in reality. How does that conversation go? Does she give him a performance review, with reasoning behind each score? Does he argue her rankings? “Well you were an awful husband and lover, but at least you took the kids to the park that one time.” “Yeah but I took them to the park so you could sleep in, that’s good for another husband point, right??” “Yes but this is your 5th quarter in a row with a husband score under 2. I feel like maybe you should put some more effort in there.” “Ok but then I’ll need you to pick up the slack with Kid. Or maybe I can skip that work trip, but then I might not get that promotion. Which one do you want?”
I just don’t see how that’s a productive discussion in any sort of healthy relationship.
I hate this. I don’t hate that Kat brought it up, I just hate that this is the world in which we live. Where we’re constantly grinding ourselves down, for what? Because when I hear “work life balance” what I really hear is “how to pretend you have a life when you’re working 50-60 hours a week and trying not to have a nervous breakdown” Maybe I’m just burned out and grumpy. But I am SO over it.
I read that book “I Know How She Does It”, which is supposed to be this empowering book about how you CAN have it all/do it all! Just cram it all in there! Make it happen! Reading that book was one of the things that led me to quitting my ladder climbing high-overtime job. I just felt like I was lying to myself and trying to convince myself of something that’s not true when I was reading it. That somehow constantly trying to cram everything in does no harm because it all balances out in the end. And that’s probably true for some people, but it’s not true for me.
So instead of making some game out of my hectic life, I made my life less hectic, I guess is what I’m saying. It felt like failure at the time, but now it feels like sweet, glorious freedom.
It reminds me of the Pounds To Lose! and Pounds Lost! jars on pinterest. I’d feel like I’m moving the same 2 marbles back and forth between the jars and getting nowhere.
I’m in my busy season at work, which collides with summer break for my kids, and no amount of game playing is going to help me feel less guilty when it’s 6:30 and I haven’t seen my kids other than a sleepy drop off at 7:15 that morning.
Grumperpuss, I love this, and high five to you for making a decision for a better life (for you, for now, and not a reflection, of course, on anyone else’s decisions or circumstances, claro). I’m so curious – what did you do, and what do you do now?
To me, this makes their families seem…optional? It comes across as if they are doing stuff with the family because it makes the man feel good about himself and his little game, not because it actually makes his family happy/is critical to his kids’ well-being/keeps his partner from leaving/etc etc. It totally reminds me of Dexter trying to do the social “stuff” to keep people thinking he’s normal, without otherwise understanding the underlying emotions.
Yep. I feel gross about this too. Also, I find it creepy to give your husband “scores.” Comes across as 50s housewife-y to me. And if my husband tried to score me?! Are you kidding?
Meg Murry says
Yeah, I also think this sounds interesting in theory but not so hot in practice. And for me, I feel like it would be another glaring sign of how much I’m *not* excelling at this parenting/family/work life balance thing, and beat myself up for not scoring higher.
That said, I am kind of employing a technique on my self to help me change some habits, that is a little bit of a “gamification”. I downloaded the HabitCal app on my phone, and I’m using it to keep track of how often I hit my little goals like taking my vitamin daily or exercising X times a week, and also using the reminders so I’m not staring at my vitamin bottle going “did I take one today? I think so, but maybe that was yesterday …” . It’s setup like a calendar, so if you do whatever thing you are tracking, that day changes color and you can see how many days in a row you hit that goal. I think of it as a grown up sticker/gold start chart, because it makes me happy to look back at the week or month and see what I’m doing.
One of the items on my list is “be at work by X:00” – because even though we have flexible schedules, I know that if I don’t watch myself, my start time will creep later and later, which means I’ll wind up staying later and later and then either be stressed out by having to frantically rush for daycare pickup, or stressed out either about taking work home or about what I’ve left undone for the next day. So even though it’s technically a work goal, it’s really more of a “get to work so you can get stuff done and get home” goal.