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Out with Work-Life Balance and In with Work:Rest Ratio

A Personal Perspective: 3 ways to change the narrative of work-life "balance."

Key points

  • Balance requires us to do; resting does not.
  • Even resting has a limit.
  • With rush culture still present, sustainable living is the remedy.

After attempting work-life balance and coming up short until I fall flat on my face into "self-love" via a massage twice a year, I’m done with trying to balance work and life. Why? Because in that very verb—balance—is doing. And in the two things I’m required to balance there is doing and doing.


I’m focusing on my work:rest ratio because it implies there’s a percentage of a whole that can’t expand. It’s fixed. Not my mindset but my bandwidth. It also says there is work (life is in that—I do not think driving my kid to soccer and whatever else counts as life; it's work) and there is rest. There is doing and there is not doing.

Pavel Kovacs/Shutterstock
Source: Pavel Kovacs/Shutterstock

Resting might look like actual rest or it might look like playing soccer with my son randomly because we have no agenda. We're not doing things on a timeline. I am resting.

Here are 3 things you can do to start acknowledging your work:rest ratio and help change the narrative of having to balance:

  1. Stop explaining your sick or PTO days. I tell my boss, team, and colleagues that I’ll be out these days, and here’s who to contact in my absence. I let them know I appreciate them. That’s it. With the exception of close colleagues, I try to set an example of “say less” when it comes to why I need to rest from doing labor.
  2. Get to know your pie. Not the delicious-filled pastries, but your bandwidth in all directions. Too many times we focus on our personal and professional bandwidth—but even our rest has a bandwidth. Everything we do has a limit before we burn out. So what are your slices of pie? Mine are work, creating, family, friends, and rest.
  3. Remember how your body feels when you reach the edges of your bandwidth, not when you’ve reached it. You know when you’ve reached your breaking point, but do you know when you’ve reached your ailing point—the point where you have ailments but not sickness? When you’ve done too much or even rested too much, pay attention to what aches, what systems work slower, and what body parts are working harder.

This is likely a societal shift. But with things like sustainable fashion—the antithesis to fast culture—I have hope we can also have sustainable living, the antithesis to rush culture. For me that means recognizing the idea of balance requires action and I’ll count that as work.

What I need more of in my life is rest.

More from Breanna Gentile Ph.D.
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